The Kings of Europe have found themselves struggling to stay afloat in the 2020 Summer Split of the League of Legends European Championship. G2 Esports is now tied for third place with SK Gaming, which brings an interesting throwback: Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago, the founder of Gamers2, now known as G2, has started his career as a Mid Laner, back in 2010, with "Schroet Kommando".
Recently, ocelote talked to Lara Lunardi from Inven Global about the team's current situation, showing support for his players, and the current state of the LEC.
Let's start by talking about Hakuna Matata. It seems like you're very supportive of your players, especially at this time of facing a slump in the league.
The best of most players comes when there's no unnecessary added pressure. I tried my best for them to have an environment that promotes that. We are a high-performance organization and that means that we'll always joke and have fun, but when push comes to shove, if they're not good enough, they will get replaced. Which is, in turn, a great tool to bring very good players on board, because they know that if their teammates let them down, we won't just tank the season, not do our best.
That is intrinsically understood. It is the nature of our organization — that we win. As a result of that, having fun doesn't mean we don't want to win. That allows us in moments like these to just look back and say, "Look, guys, we know this team is built to win Worlds. We know this year has been tough. There's corona, which makes everything weird and teams that were never good are now good. Maybe because they're in the warmth of their hopes, with no added pressure.
I had a conversation with Bwipo last week, and he told me he thinks the best-of-1 format actually plays a lot into the fact that these teams are being able to upset teams they shouldn't be able to beat. What are your thoughts on that?
If you look at the season, and the fact that corona happened and people play from home, there's this underlying feeling that this season, for some reason, doesn't matter as much. There are no crowds, the stakes are lower. On top of that, as Bwipo says, it's best-of-1s. And, honestly, weird stuff happened, in particular to our team. We were not the luckiest ever when it comes to the timing and the actual challenges we had to go through.
We can never plan against an important family member of one of your key players passing away. The best thing you can do is to take the pressure out and say, "OK, guys, we know it's been a tough year. Let's try to have fun with whatever time we have left. If it's up till Worlds or LEC finals — then that's great. Whether it's us missing Worlds, then so be it. But I want us to have as much fun as possible and hopefully, the wins will come."
And to address Bwipo's comment: It is true that there's a lot of things in LEC's structure that I don't agree with. LEC is a great product, and it could be even greater with fewer randomizers. Viewership is highest within the league when playoffs come and you want to have the best teams in it, and have the best teams with the right seeding. Anything that is not that is, inarguably, gonna have a negative effect on the appeal of the league.
Fnatic is the second largest team in terms of fanbase in the LEC and they happen to be, historically, also the second-best team in European League of Legends. If it's not G2 versus Fnatic finals, then it will affect viewership, so you do want that grand final. And the way you get that final, provided both teams are still the best competitively, is by having a slightly more predictable path to getting there. Maybe best-of-1 should be gone, but maybe we should not have two splits, but one split with 36 games total. And then for sure, at the end of the split, you will have a better understanding of how to seed those playoffs. So I do agree with Bwipo in that regard in full.
Also, I do believe that Spring Split’s importance isn’t the highest right now, so we do have to find a way as a group to change that sometime in the future.
Moving from the LEC itself, I wanted to talk about the team environment. How is the mood around the team lately?
Honestly, if you had asked me if I was worried about the team, I'd 100% say no. if you'd asked me if I was worried about the results this year, I'd say that considering everything that happened, we are in a fantastic, insanely good position. And that's a result of the team spirit and how the team's bonded. Literally everybody is doing amazing work. It's an engine that works. As proven right now, we can minimize catastrophic events by being pretty damn good at our jobs.
I haven't felt better about the team before. I believe that hard moments build the true nature of the team. Everybody's happy when there's a gold rush when victories come. But you see the true nature of people when bad things happen. And the true nature of everybody in this organization is that of comradery, respect, and ambition.
Last time we spoke, you mentioned you were always very present in the life of players. How do you guide them in these moments of uncertainty?
When things go great, when everything's perfect, I rarely show up, except to cheer for them, because my job is "done". But when things go a little worse, I think I have the responsibility to share my experience, the macro viewpoint, show them what they've accomplished. If the CEO of the organization tells you, "Look, man, even if you lose your games, do it on your terms", then by nature you react to games differently. When you're 1-7 in kills, you won't have that extra, unneeded pressure. When you have a bad day at scrims and just want to burn a bridge — you just don't, because why would you? It's not the end of the world, there's tomorrow.
That creates a good fit for players, at least for these players.
Let's talk about the teams that are sharing the spotlight now. What are your thoughts on teams like SK Gaming, Rogue and whatnot?
These are all good teams. I just think that: 1) there are not enough data points to see who's really good. I think best-of-1's, in a meta that allows for less creativity and doesn't allow for much outplay potential, is not a good way to determine which are the good teams. And 2), there are a lot of unforeseen things that happened and that arguably helped younger, inexperienced teams deal with the added pressure of the presence of a crowd.
These are all variables that we have to work with, but they benefit teams that have less to lose. Reaching the top and remaining at the top are two different things. The first is definitely much easier.
You don't think how good they are will carry over to the next split?
Although a lot can change between seasons, I do not believe that -should all these teams keep their lineups intact- we would see a lot of the currently successful teams carry over a similar level of success to next year.
Then what is it about G2 that carries over?
It's culture. The culture brings out the best possible line-up, the best way to react to bad scrim results or mistakes, and the best way to react to good moments, like not resting on our laurels. Culture is what determines in the long term who the good teams are.
But I don't hide like a turtle in its shell. I want to win this split, I want to win Worlds That's the goal. It'd be a failure not to, but considering what happened, we're in a good place. And when you come from playing best-of-5's against DAMWON, T1, FPX, with all the crowd cheering, and two months later you have to go back to — no disrespect — playing against some team's rookie and new lineups that nobody knows, it's really hard to remain incredibly competitive and motivated. You have to ramp up the motivation. If we want a second try against FPX in the finals, we have to first go through this. It takes time to realize this. That's why in Spring Split, we started very slow and ended up on a high note. In the Summer, things happened, but we consciously started way slower but the goal has always been to ramp up come playoffs.
Previously, we would've had enough wins to have security, but we didn't and that's the only thing that changes. Instead of 5-7, we'd be 8-4. It's not that much of a difference, but we'd be very chill.
I am curious to see what happens at Worlds, but the LPL plays on stage, same for LCK. LEC and LCS are playing at home and so are the other wild card regions. Do you think that the teams in Asia will have a leg up, because they have been able to maintain their training and playing schedule to certain normality?
Maybe. There will always be discrepancies between regions. I think that discrepancy will be acceptable if we'd be able to get the playoffs to the studio.
Do you have any last words to the fans that have been concerned about the current placement of G2?
Yeah, don't be worried. Whether we go to the playoffs or not, we're doing the very best we can. This company is built on three things: 1) entertaining, 2) ambition and winning, and 3) empathy and heart. Those three pillars have not changed and will not change, whether or not a lot of unfortunate things right now.
We're playing poker right now. We got a 2 and a 7. And we're trying to win the hand. Let's see what comes.
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