How EG are saving North American Esports

Source: LoL Esports

There is a lot to be excited about with the LCS 2022 Summer Season. Of course, a team that will have many eyes on them is Evil Geniuses. The defending champions — their time in Korea for MSI gives NA fans a lot to be excited about. Their younger players have gotten some needed experience, they didn’t have any embarrassing upsets, and they performed well against top teams like T1 and Royal Never Give Up. Since coming back to domestic competition, they once again are arguably the best team in the region.


Another point to be very excited about occurred off the rift. That moment was when the team’s young midlaner Joseph "Jojopyun" Pyun responded to questions about his trash talk. “I don’t think it’s anything crazy,” Jojopyun stated. “I think League is just really stale with that [trashtalk].” Finally, some honesty about the bland state of North American League of Legends. 


Throughout the past few months, EG have done NA esports a favor — not in the way you might think. While they’ve been praised for their excellent coaching staff and use of local talent, an overlooked aspect is how the team has conducted themselves outside the games. They’re resurrecting the EG spirit of old — the spirit that’s cocky, bellicose, and always eager to talk some trash. 


Between their play came good quality banter. In addition to Jojopyun always being unafraid in claiming he’s one of the best mid laners in the world, he made very bold statements towards G2 Esports in their crowning ceremony. Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme once again did not disappoint those fond of his often tart tongue — offering some very harsh words for Can "Closer" Çelik after their 3-0 against 100 Thieves. Even Head Coach Peter Dun — a man known for his eloquence and intelligence — threw in his own subtle flavor to EG’s spice machine.



On top of overseeing a championship team, one of the most impressive decisions CEO Nicole LaPointe has made with EG is seemingly encouraging this personality — starring in a promotional video where she immediately refers to NA League of Legends as “a dumpster fire”, and goes on to roast many of the other teams in the league.  



An important aspect of this is the fact that they’ve been able to back it up — they’re not empty words that become more meaningless with every lost game. When Inven Global spoke with James “Dash” Patterson about trash talk in NA, he discussed how their younger players are bringing back the qualities that made Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng so special. “You were a fan likely because of his trash talk. Because of his willingness to be the villain, and throw big, bold statements out there. Sometimes he lives up to them, and sometimes he doesn't. You can't just throw around a bunch of trash talk and never live up to it. So it definitely helps that Jojopyun and Danny (Danny only until that interview in the finals) are able to back it up, and I think it’s very healthy for the league.”


It’s one of the most refreshing aspects of this era of EG — one that calls back to the team’s golden age in StarCraft II. During the early 2010s, the organization was one of the definitive NA esports teams — with it’s crown jewel being its StarCraft II. In addition to having top international pros like Lee "Jaedong" Jae-dong and Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri, the team boasted some of the most prominent names in North America:people like Chris "HuK" Loranger, Gregory "IdrA" Fields, and the late-Geoffrey "iNcontroL" Robinson. 


Yes, “boasted” is the proper word choice. Because though the team had many skilled players, they were perhaps just as known for the fire they brought to the scene. Whether in-game, in interviews, or on talk shows — EG brought a level of trash talking that made competitions like the WCS have an energy more like the WWE.


While HuK was one of the best non-Korean players, an article in The Verge states that “Part of HuK’s unique style has nothing to do with micro or macro: he’s just as good at early game trash talk. It’s hard to call it trash talk, really, more like a very special brand of trolling.” While he was willing to be aggressive early, he was just as happy to play cheesy strategies and banter with opponents in chat. Perhaps the most famous example of this was shortly before joining EG when he taunted IdrA in an official match at MLG Dallas 2011. 



iNcontroL wasn’t as known for in-game antics, but instead for his witty and edgy personality on shows like State of the Game and Inside the Game, as well as StarCraft II tournament broadcasts. He rarely pulled punches while engaging in these conversations — whether to achieve a laugh, or defend a point he believed in. His personality could be so strong than when asked about what were unfair criticisms towards him, he stated, “Probably that I am a bully/arrogant guy or something. I've definitely said/done things that can give that impression and people don't necessarily see me ALL THE TIME so for many that is all that I am.” 



Of course, there’s IdrA. We don’t really have competitors like him in esports anymore (probably a good thing). Almost everything he touched turned to a flame war: barrages of insults to players in the in-game chat, frequent callouts of other players and the game’s designers in interviews and podcasts, and propensity to rage that only the likes of Tyler “tyler1” Steinkamp could match (albeit in a more collected and focused way). It got to the point he was actually released from EG for his conduct. 



Now, it’s not as though 2022 EG should return to the fire of IdrA. Far from it. A lot of what EG’s players did and said back then would not fly by today’s standards — a lot of it too harsh and potentially damaging to esports’ reputation. It’s important, though, to recognize what was gained in this maelstrom: personality. The StarCraft II scene would not have been nearly as exciting without the trash talk. It’s aspects like the legendary rivalries and hilarious banter that kept the game interesting to watch. 


This is true of the LCS as well. While many point to the lack of international success and volatility of rosters to explain the lack of interest in the league, one can argue that the lack of drama between players (a former player complaining about the business practices of a team owner doesn’t count) is just as responsible. The league was arguably at its strongest when fans were engaged in beefs like the one between TSM and Counter Logic Gaming — games that could sometimes draw half a million viewers. A lot of the excitement of that rivalry was fueled by great moments like this: 



Of course, it requires a thick skin to accomplish this. As Dash pointed out, it’s challenging for LCS players to be as brazen, stating during the early stages of the event that “it was a risk — and I'm sure Jojopyun's already gonna get memed for it (I haven't been on social media much) — for him to say that they're going to shit on EU at MSI. If they lose all four of their games against G2, you better believe that interview clip is going to get put into every single meme. And he's probably going to get berated by EU fans and maybe even NA fans alike for the under delivering of that promise.” 


However, Jojopyun kept strong. The exact situation occurred — with a storm of violent memes rained down upon him. And yet, when asked about dealing with those verbal attacks in the same interview mentioned earlier, Jojopyun shrugged and stated, “Man, I just don’t care about that – it doesn’t matter”. That’s the right attitude to keep that fire. 


The new EG is bringing the old inflammatory spice back into the league. It doesn’t have to be as vitriolic as EG’s StarCraft II days — but without any banter or trash talk, the league will continue on its course of becoming sanitized, and therefore boring. By living up to one of the organization’s slogans — to live evil — EG are one of the teams that are changing that. 

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