A Commentary of the Golden Guardians NA Spring Split
I would like to preface this article with the statement that I have watched a lot of eSports in my life and relatively speaking, played not a large amount of League of Legends. I began getting into League of Legends in September 2017, so I am yet to hold a full season under my belt. However, I have spent about 300 hours on the game – which by any stretch is a significant portion of time on any videogame. DOOM 2016 can be bested in 8 hours, Pride and Prejudice polished off in 15, and all extended editions of the Lord of the Rings can be marathoned in 11 and a half. However, League of Legends is of the ilk that can draw you in time and time again by tapping into the burning desire that takes the heart of every human being – competitiveness. On any PvP multiplayer game, even if only playing for fun, the same rule applies for them all. Your CoDs, your Rainbow Sixs, your Fortnites and your SmashBros; somebody must triumph and somebody must be defeated. Competition, the desire to vanquish your fellow men and women of Earth, is something that stretches back to the dawn of civilization and then plenty of thousand of years further than that. Now I’ve established how enthralling these types of games are, I’m going to dispense with the flowery verbiage, and get down to real talk. ESports. In particular, League of Legends eSports.
Despite my playing time being a fraction of most multi-season players, I would hazard a guess I’ve watched more LoL eSports than most. My passion for watching competitive gaming began back when I took Call of Duty rather seriously. I wasn’t making money, but I was an amateur player with a serious desire to be good at the game. And so I watched the best. The time differences made watching it live difficult, but I watched event VODs whenever I could. There is something I find fascinating about it – it could be the fact that I have always been a competitive person and after playing a lot of sports in school and university, I moved and no longer had the means and, after an unfortunate injury, ability to join another gymnastics club. Gaming was the outlet for me and it was an added bonus I could play with my friends, who were miles away. I’ll get to that point in a moment. This enjoyment has carried over to League of Legends with aplomb. After watching the absolutely fantastic Worlds and MSI during 2017, I’ve been drawn into the 2018 Spring Split.
Knowing what to watch can be intimidating to begin with, considering the fourteen different professional leagues streaming simultaneously through each week, not to mention the Challenger series. I settled for the EU LCS, NA LCS and watched the LCK highlights. Now, all that was left was to find a team to support. I found my EU LCS team quickly in Splyce. I carried residual loyalty from my CoD days and the Week 1 Day 2 base race to secure them a win over Unicorns of Love secured my support. It was a absurd back and forth game with a very exciting conclusion. The fact Xerxe made fun of his own team in the post-game interview endeared me to the squad. This is important to my point that watching LoL improves your playing experience. Watching Splyce do that made me want to try base racing when I could. The thrill of watching it happen at the highest levels made me even more excited to try it myself. I tried, I failed, but I had such fun doing it.
I’ve always been a fan who supports a team based on the personality of the players, so I looked for something similar in the NA LCS. It wasn’t until Week 4 Day 2 that I found the team. Without a victory and sitting at the bottom (0-7) the Golden Guardians were becoming a meme. I saw comments such as ‘GGS are freelo’ and ‘I just enjoy seeing GGS lose’ across each video. I think the former comment was an unfair one – the majority of the games they lost were close. Their loss to FlyQuest in Week 2 was primed to be their victory until a thrown fight at Baron Pit. Against Echo Fox the day before they began to show signs of real quality, they were unable to close it out. Then they played 100 Thieves and 100 Thieves got crushed. But I didn’t choose to support Golden Guardians because of they won so convincingly; I chose to support them because of how they took the win.
As you can see, they were genuinely over the moon. It made me happy to see a team go through a rough time, show up and take some real joy from it. In the interview with Hai, his initial reaction was: ‘We’re on the scoreboard dude, finally… if we keep the practice and the mentality that we have, the wins will come.’ He was calm and collected and he spoke good sense. They were extremely happy they had won, yet they were modest and realised this wasn’t the start of some unbelievable run. Modesty is a trait lacking in a lot of professionals across any support, so it was refreshing to see. Upon being asked what GGS can do for the fans, Hai finished the interview with: ‘No one wants to root for the winners always, that’s kind of boring. So root for us and we’ll do our best to get some wins for you guys.’ The next week they lost to Optic Gaming. It was a rough game but, as Hai said, it’s fun rooting for the underdogs. So I waved their flag into their game against Team Liquid.
This game cemented my support for Golden Guardians. The below clip of them winning was one of the most genuine displays I’ve seen in a game. Watching the LCK where so many teams are reserved in their victories, possibly because their wins are less rare, but to see a team get as excited as I do at home over a tough win was fantastic. You can’t help but want to see them win more. The comments on the highlights and the reactions of the casters agree with me. And as with Hai, Lourlo’s interview shared the cautious optimism. In a win against one of the favourites of the League, they still remained modest. Even more refreshing.
I spoke on how they defeated 100 Thieves and Team Liquid, and they eventually beat Echo Fox at the end of the split. All these teams made playoffs, finishing 1st, 4th and 2nd respectively. Yet, Golden Guardians lost to Optic Gaming and FlyQuest, who are arguably worse teams than them, twice! It was almost baffling, they could win against the best teams of the LCS, yet they couldn’t defeat the weakest. If anything, this endeared them to me further. They were inconsistent, they had snatches of greatness and troughs of tragedy. In short, they represented my entire League of Legends experience. After certain tough defeats I found myself thinking of the GGS attitude, and throwing my hands up in the air and saying – we’ll get ‘em next time. Because while GGS didn’t enjoy losing, I don’t think they let it get them down either. They remained positive throughout the split on Twitter, owning their mistakes and their wins with equal dignity.
To me, Golden Guardians are a team that represents what is good about videogames. Trash talking can be great, but all too often this gets copied negatively by casual players. People do not own their mistakes and transform them into unbridled rage that turns a winnable game into a mud-slinging contest. Yesterday, playing as Galio, I was unable to arrive in time to save a teammate. I had pinged my remaining ultimate cooldown and they still engaged. I was promptly told that I should die and that my mother should get cancer while being raped. This person should be more like GGS Deftly.
Golden Guardians’ Jungler Contractz is a big anime fan, so I doubt he would have failed to notice as I had, that Golden Guardians strikes me as the eSports representation of a Season 1 anime protagonist. Their team jerseys for one, have zero sponsorship on show. They even look quite cheap, no disrespect to the designer. Compare this to Team Liquid and Echo Fox whose jerseys brim with logos and company branding. The playercams side by side looked like an high school team attending the Superbowl. Golden Guardians, the new arm of the NBA Golden State Warriors, are a brand new eSports venture and it shows. When Team Liquid and Echo Fox lost, it was David versus Goliath. It was a flashback to the pulse-pounding Misfits vs. SKT T1 Quarterfinal at Worlds 2017. It was the peppy underdog pulling out the clutch win to defy the maniacally laughing villain. All I can hope for is Summer Split jerseys with one or two sponsors – anime protagonists are much stronger in season 2 after all.
In the end, watching Golden Guardians, win or lose, made me want to play League of Legends more. After their games I wanted to play and pull out the stops to triumph. I wanted to leap from my chair, grab my friends by the shoulders and shake them for that clutch gank or ultimate. If I lost, I considered my mistakes and came back with even more fire. Watching the League of Legends Championship Series gives you a wealth of advice on how to become a better player, but watching Golden Guardians showed me how to be a better gamer.
They ended the split in 10th place with a record of 4-13.
GGS vs. TL – Week 5 Day 2 NA LCS Spring Split 2018 VOD
100T vs. GGS – Week 4 Day 2 NA LCS Spring Split 2018 VOD
Golden Guardians Twitter