Amazing talks the state of LEC talent pool, the Reginald scandal, and how we lost "the innocence of esports"


Though Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider hasn’t had an active role in the League of Legends scene for more than a year, his desire for a better community remains strong. He still provides passionate commentary on events in the esports industry, trying to lend his experience as a player and coach to help.


Given his history with figures involved in some of the biggest discussions in the League of Legends scene, it was the perfect opportunity for Inven Global to talk with Amazing, and find out his thoughts. 

What’d you think of Worlds last year for LEC? Is Europe moving in the wrong direction right now?


We've lost too much talent over the years. They obviously return like with Perkz and Alphari, which elevates it again. But because we keep exporting a lot of good players, our talent pool's been exhausted. We still have a lot of up-and-coming talent, but they still have to be trained to a competitive level, as there's a huge difference between the top two LEC teams and all the ERL teams. So the talent pool at the top is still very thin. And if we then export players like Perkz and Alphari — two top talents — we're obviously going to suffer and have to train other people to that level. I think that by virtue of exporting, and the NA scene importing some of our players, we get closer. 


The other big thing is that I think NA and EU solo queues are really rotten. There are a lot of reasons for it. NA's had the ping issue, and in EU I see so many players literally checking out from solo queue. They don't even try to get high Challenger anymore; they're content with Grandmaster, even though they're LEC. If you're an LEC player, you probably want to be top 50 in your region at least. But a lot of people are just checking out of that. They don't care anymore, because the solo queue is such a bad experience. And it doesn't mirror competitive play at all. 


So it seems to be something that's better regulated in Korea, as well as China, where both regions seem to be a lot more used to having the competitive aspect. Korean solo queue is a lot higher because they have this inner drive to end games quickly potentially due to PC bangs and whatever it is. The structure is a lot more diverse in Korea and China. We're not at that point yet, and NA cannot get to that point because the sister teams that they would have to hire literally would literally have to be players from their own region, or they'd have to import full-Chinese or Korean teams they can utilize within the scene itself, to elevate their play. 

Will Champions Queue make a difference for NA?


It depends on how it's used. A super server can be of great use if one is willing to compete against the same people you compete against in scrims. If you're comfortable sharing your ideas and practicing matchups outside of scrims — confronting other people with your knowledge — I think that it could potentially work and elevate the scene. The issue that I see is if someone's already exposing themselves in scrims, and their team is trying different tactics in scrims, you may want to reserve some of it and some of that potential by playing on a smurf to hide your champions and strategies. 


I think it's a double-edged sword. You get better practice in the super server, but you also exchange a lot of information you may not want to give up given how different strengths the top tier teams and the bottom tier teams are. There were examples when I was playing 100 Thieves where we didn't actually get the top tier scrims that we wanted, because we were too bad in scrims. So that must be something that's still happening with NA — the bottom tier feeders are not getting the scrims that they want. And that solo queue exchange would replace those scrims, in essence. For any bottom tier team, it will be a huge upgrade to have that server and interact with it. But for most of the top tier teams, I don't think it's something that they would want to utilize at all. It's not a net benefit to them.


"Because we [the LEC] keep exporting a lot of good players, our talent pool's been exhausted."


It was reported that Riot and TSM are both investigating Reginald for bullying. You’re someone that has a lot of history with Reginald and unique opinions on him. What’s your reaction to the news?


I obviously feel personally conflicted as I've had a very good and high opinion of Reginald for the time I was there and how he treated me even after I left, but I also very much do not want to invalidate the experience of others within their time in the company. The precedent of an investigation going on about the specific matter of mental abuse/bullying, however, is irrevocably good, independently of what eventually comes out of it — especially in a scene that to me is still very fragile despite the ongoing transformation to a higher standard of being via outside money and investors making it more business-like across the board. Any movement or action that helps more people to be able to work to a higher potential standard while having an increase in their happiness at their work place is good, as long as the process is done fairly to all members across the board. And I do believe that both TSM and Riot will be able to provide such service via the ongoing investigation.


That being said, my experience with him to this day was a positive one, and he shaped me as a person in a lot of ways I to this day appreciate. I don't think I would have lasted as long, nor would have been able to sustain some of the pressures if it hadn't been for him helping me understand how to confront adversity, and to keep trying despite the potential odds against me.




Why do you think there is such a strong reaction to Reginald now compared to the past? Why did these investigations start now?


Well, it probably has to do with multiple factors. For one, he is not as omnipresent in the scene as he used to be due to him taking more of a step back over the course of time, which obviously has left up a good amount of space for interpretation in essence. This applies especially amongst newer fans who only now via the testaments of the likes of Doublelift, for example, have gotten to know him as a person. 


On top of that, there has also been a giant amount of turnover in the fanbase itself. We now have a completely different base of people who are watching and playing the game than we had back then. While there's still some overlap, the reaction to the videos of old gives a glimpse into the difference in information uptake across the board, which to me indicates that there a lot of people who, for the first time, are confronted by the videos and see them as a smoking gun in some sense, which they aren't. 



Contextualizing the experiences at the time is very, very important. For example, the familial structures of old have obviously been replaced by the very business structures we have now, and if your introduction to someone comes through the lens of an almost negative highlight reel, you'll obviously have a somewhat skewed perspective of said person. So we have to be more distinct about the interpretation as a whole. But again, this wouldn't and shouldn't excuse potential negative behaviour patterns that are still potentially ongoing. 


And this is especially in regards to the different personality types across the board. Some people can take up the same style of communication as a very different experience to others, and while I personally can do well under tougher circumstances, others might not. The scene as a whole has changed in a direction that it is a lot more focused on holistic approaches than back in the past, where the work-life balance was organized completely differently to how it is now. Managers, coaches, CEOs, players — they all basically existed under the same roof year-round, and the very interaction we used to have is so completely different to the average interaction the same parties would have now, so again, contextualizing while not excusing is very important here. 


And furthermore, I suppose — bringing in Reginald's upbringing and start to the company has to be accounted for. The way he became the owner and built up TSM to the company it is now has obviously come via personal hardships and has tied him to the project that is TSM forever, which is a discussion that MonteCristo, Thorin, and Richard Lewis have brought up already. And again, understanding, contextualizing while not necessarily redeeming personal faults has to be something we have to do.


"If Reginald did overstep those boundaries continuously until now, then he and TSM ought to suffer the consequences."


Do you think this will mark the end for TSM’s "untouchable" status?


Yeah, it does. TSM, because of their history — with CLG they're the two teams (maybe Epik Gamer) that brought up the NA scene. Without TSM and CLG, the NA scene wouldn't exist in the same form that it is now. I wouldn't say they're directly responsible for it, but I think they had a lot to do with LoL esports as a global phenomenon. Even in Korea and in other countries. They know TSM and CLG. They know Blue Card memes. They obviously had a very privileged standpoint within the NA scene. 


And I do think that it's time to see every team as a business entity. And the negotiations between Riot and those business entities have to be done without any privilege or unspoken prior privileges. 


And if Reginald did overstep those boundaries continuously until now, then he and TSM ought to suffer the consequences. That's just how it is, there's no way around it. There's behavior of the past you can excuse, and I've been very vocal about saying that I don't think in my time and before that it was to be classified as mental abuse. But now if it's still happening to a worse degree, and maybe even to the same degree — amongst multiple employees — then I do think that they need to suffer the consequences, and Riot has to investigate it properly, to the point that it actually yields any kind of result whether it's positive or negative for TSM. 



One of the areas in esports you're most passionate about is the treatment of players. In Amazing's ideal world, what does an average player's career look like? How is it different from now?


People start later than they do now, first of all. We should wait until they're really out of high school to actually recruit them towards pro teams. But what I would really like to see is have them experience the competition. And due to the business aspects of things, I think we've moved away from the true competition. 


In some ways, it's become a business not even in the interest of the CEOs, but just for the venture capitalists and investors. So it seems to me that a lot of the things that are being pushed are not inherently beneficial to the players. So what I would like us to do is to return to some of the roots. Not all of them, because some were bad, but some were good. 



I think downsizing some of the experience around the team would be good to limit the tasks that a lot of players are obligated with. Back in the days, you literally just played, you had your staff around you, but you were an isolated entity with an organization. You weren't asked to do business things. You weren't asked to do too many things around that — maybe some photoshoots, but that was about it. But you were really just a player, and you were really just a competitor. So I would like that to return. Let players live more and play more, and let them work less. 


I also think players should see more fans (obviously it's different with the pandemic). I think the two to three hundred people in the LCS and LEC studios is almost laughable — not to discredit those fans — but I do think we should upsize to one to two thousand people, and maybe change the venues. Create more roadshows, make sure that we travel the globe more, and make sure that players are getting a lot more exposure to different cultures and places. And make it more of an experience and a journey. 



I think we're not doing a great job at that. The player mental health has never been as low — obviously partially due to the pandemic. But it is also that there has been no substantial evolution within the scene besides salaries going up. And some increase in terms of capacities within the organizations that has actually led to players feeling bitter about themselves. They don't get to travel, they only get to sit at home, play video games,  and there's no personal development happening. They're not doing anything, they're not seeing the world. They literally just exist. And I don't think that's a good thing. 


We've definitely lost the innocence of esports. At least we got that right in the beginning. Friends teaming up together, fighting players from around the world. The championships have gone to waste in essence. People don't care about the salary increase you get from a championship. They play, but they get salaries in the millions anyway. Whereas back then, if you wouldn't win a tournament, that was literally your ability to chill for the next six or seven months. Whereas now it has no impact. It's basically a week of salary for the individual, which is insane to me, and potentially deincentivizes people to actually try as hard as they should for the very spirit of competition: make fans happy, have them be entertained, and win that goddamn championship. 


All images via: Riot Games

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