Shortly after the grand finals of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, Inven had the chance to sit down for an interview with Eefje "sjokz" Depoortere, longtime interviewer and current host of the EU LCS. She offered much insight into both her job and the EU LCS.
Despite your passion for your job, there must be times when things get very stressful. What part of your job do you find the most challenging?
I would say my biggest concern is that it is very hard to please everyone on the Internet. People on the Internet have very big opinions, and give you a lot of criticism, but they don't necessarily know what's happening behind the scenes. Taking it is important to grow, but sometimes it is hard because everyone on the internet has a voice that is often hard to deal with.
Many have predicted G2 to go further than H2K this year, but that is not what happened. What do you think H2K's strengths are?
I think H2K is a team that was always considered very strong, but never did it when it really mattered. Maybe it helped them this time that everybody was looking at G2 and nobody was really expecting anything from them. People were even looking at Splyce as the underdog that was learning while letting H2K fly under the radar.
I feel they really found their synergy in the 2nd week when they went 4-0 in a day to advance in first place. Teamwork is something they had struggled with because FORG1VEN was on and off the roster; FORG1VEN is a very passionate player, but maybe not always the easiest to play with. They found each other in the second week, but it wasn't enough to beat Samsung.
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of EU LCS?
Ooh, that's difficult. I think the strengths of EU in the past have been macro and laneswaps. They like to play the game that way in the macro sense and get ahead by gleaning strategic advantages rather than fighing too much. That has helped in the past. I think that is something that helped Fnatic a lot last year in their deep run at Worlds.
As for weaknesses. Somehow, it seems EU now lacks the ability to properly deal with pressure. G2 is a team that I think is absolutely fantastic, and that on paper, should have made it at least to the semifinals. I don't know if that is because they don't feel the pressure enough, or they are not able to focus enough for a long amount of time, or they get too nervous, but I feel like that's a step the team will have to take.
In one of our interviews, Trick and Zven have said EU is held back by rebuilding too frequently, leaving no time for players to develop teamwork. What are your thoughts on that topic?
I think it is actually an issue with the fact that EU LCS had been very successful in the past. For instance, Fnatic has always been very strong at Worlds except for Season 4. They put on really good performances, which is why other regions looked at players from the EU region and had them transfer. Bjersen is one example. Yellowstar is another.
The success EU had in the beginning became a downside in a way - they do have to rebuild every year, and that is difficult to deal with, not only for players but also for analysts. G2 recently have said they will keep fighting together as a team, and that is something really good to hear. Look at Samsung. They came together all of a sudden and worked really hard to show a great performance. I think for a team like G2, they just need a year and a half, maybe two years.
Most believe EU is no longer a strong region. Would you say EU LCS is being underrated?
Hmm. I don't think Europe is being underrated because if you look at spring and summer, the games weren't as high quality as they were last year. If you think of the finals between Origin and Fnatic, they went over what you'd usually expect from regional finals and showed really intense good games, but I don't think we hit the same level this year.
A lot of this could be due to the fact that we've seen an evolution. We've seen teams like G2 coming out of Challenger and getting first place in their debut split. We've seen Splyce coming out of Challenger and making it right away to the World Championship. And that's really healthy, because if the same teams keep winning all the time, other teams feel more like giving up, and the ones winning don't really aspire to get better because they're already on the top anyway.
I think next year should be better. Teams have gotten a wake-up call: "We need to step up."
Most Korean experts attribute LCK's international success to the players' mindset and effort. What is your point of view regarding Korean dominance?
Four years back, we all said it was Korea having much more professional eSports experience, management, and infrastructure that were there all the way back from SC:BW. But I don't think any other region can use that as an excuse anymore. They have all been able to catch up and have the same infrastructure for the most part. It does seem that work ethic, ability to focus over a long period of time, and people capable of making players put in work, are things hard to find.
I think a lot of that comes down to finding the right managers and coaches to keep the players going, because I think our players have a harder time keeping their eyes on the prize. If you look at teams like SKT and Samsung, the coaches step in and seem to have a lot of control over the team, not just in picks and bans or strategy, but also in overall mindset and helping them grow. I think that's a very important thing that other teams lack.
You conduct a lot of interviews with players. Which was the one you felt most comfortable doing, and which was the most challenging?
This year, I really enjoyed my interview with Wolf during the Mid-Season Invitational. Translated interviews are usually quite difficult - you can ask complicated questions, but that's not good for the players because speaking through translation can be quite uncomfortable. So we try to ask something that they would want to talk about. Open questions.
I thought my interview with Wolf was nice in that we had a lot of fun in the interview, so Wolf felt comfortable enough to ask for a picture with me. It was really nice to see his more relaxed side, because we often catch players when they are super stressed and they still have to perform in another game. So that was a great moment for me.
Hard interview. Well, I guess I'd choose the Dyrus interview from last year, because although the interview turned out really well, it was hard because I almost wanted to cry and got very emotional. But you don't want to do that, because it's not about me, it's about him. You don't want to take the attention away from the player that should be getting the spotlight.
Any last words for your fans in Korea?
Well, I have to say I really miss Korea! When we were there for the 2014 World Championship, we stayed in Busan and Seoul, and those were some of the happiest times in my life. I really hope we can go back soon, and I also hope to meet fans in Korea.