What makes someone want to watch others play video games?
To some, it’s the level of play demonstrated such as a ridiculous no-scope headshot from in an FPS. To others, it’s something they can relate to since they don’t really play or care about traditional sports. In the future, fans might even care solely due to culture, which is what Dreamhack has achieved. Pretty much everyone around that part of Sweden goes to the Elmia because it is one of the most fun and epic social events of the year.
Today, the vast majority of fans are drawn by one thing: the story lines of the players/teams and the rivalries behind them.
That’s Why We Call It Competition
One of the classic rivalries that has been around for decades has been the Los Angeles Lakers vs the Boston Celtics. I won’t go too much into it since I don’t know many people care about basketball (shame on you…ball is lyfe!), but the general idea you need to understand is that the players loathed each other since the emergence of the modern basketball era. No two teams has more championships. The Celtics have 17, the Lakers have 16. The third highest was 6 trophies from the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan, whom many know as the greatest player to ever touch a basketball.
Take a look back from one of the peaks of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry: Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson. Bird was so competitive that he said that he hoped the defeat would kill Magic. That knowing that the Lakers were suffering from a loss made him feel better than winning itself. Talk about intense….and over the top LOL. What the hell, Larry? It’s just a damn game, right?
Not really. Not by their standards. It happens all the time. People don’t like each other for some of the most incomprehensible reasons such as the color of their skin, where they were born, or even the type of music they listen to. In an adrenaline and emotion-filled scene like competitive gaming, it’s no wonder so many take things personally.
The fans will blindly follow the sentiments of their favorite players to the point where it causes conflict. Isn’t it bewildering how you can have heated arguments or even violent fights break out over who is the best at putting a ball in a net?
TSM vs CLG, A Seemingly Scripted Finals
Let’s take another example, but this time much closer to home.
This past weekend, Riot held the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) Summer Split Finals in Madison Square Garden (MSG). That’s a pretty huge deal. League of Legends is already the most well known eSport in the entire scene and they decided to go the biggest they possibly could for the end of this year’s LCS. MSG is one of the most iconic stages to perform in the entire world, hosting the likes of John Lennon’s last concert to the modern day clown show that is the struggling New York Knicks. I’m a Nets fan so I couldn’t be happier about that last part.
We saw Team SoloMid (TSM), a team that has been to the finals of every LCS since its inception, go up against a long-time rival, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). Once upon a time at the beginning of the LoL competitive scene, CLG dominated under the helm of HotShotGG as they won MLGs, IEMs, WCGs, etc. Then TSM started going all-out, being the first team to secure a training house and build a star-studded roster. These days, CLG had been more of the butt-end of jokes of having “potential” or needing “faith” as a fan. I didn’t follow too closely so I don’t know the particular reason they failed, but it was clear that CLG were still a rather popular team. For some reason, they could never put it together.
This Summer Split Finals, however, everything changed.
CLG played like a “Top 4 in the world” team with amazing coordination and fantastic playmaking. Their execution looked clean and they made good decisions overall. What is particularly impressive is how CLG did it with no imports either. TSM, in contrast, has non-native European and Asian players who joined the team for the sole purpose of winning LCS! It’s unreal to think that a home-grown NA team managed to go home as champions.
What really got me going with my tears fully stacked was seeing Hotshot’s speech at the end. He called them brothers and barely squeezed out words about how much the victory meant to him.
The gratitude and humility displayed was incredible. It’s a moment that still chokes me up as I type it. Now, we can’t really make CLG potential jokes, but we were gifted with a breath of fresh air in the TSM-CLG clash.
Tempo Storm vs Archon
The beef that started it all was Reynad felt Amaz was imitating all his hard work when Archon was formed and started announcing things. To Reynad, Archon will simply crowd whatever market Tempo Storm ventures upon such as deck techs on a website or creating an arena tournament. I recall Amaz one time told me he felt that not only was forming Archon a good business decision, but that he could do a better job than Reynad did.
It’s a fair assessment. I’ll take this opportunity to pre-emptively say here that Reynad has matured greatly since my time on the team and I could not be more proud of him. However, I would be lying if Reynad hasn’t made the best decisions consistently whether it’s team decisions like his spat with TidesofTime, putting Blizzard/Hearthstone/his fans on blast too often, or his personal antics in Amsterdam. The team has put out lots of great things like the Meta Snapshot and the Challengestone series, but we also had rocky moments in terms of things like website promises, Reckful casting shenanigans, and abysmal tournament performances.
Reynad won a tournament AND beat an Archon member? Someone pinch me.
Nonetheless, Amaz quickly realized, as any rational person can conclude, it’s much easier to observe with hindsight than to be in that position in the first place. Archon received lots of hype due to Firebat winning BlizzCon 2014 and continued picking up members to build their roster. Then the Pinnacle 2 happened with the Hosty situation where Archon ended up kicking Hosty during the tournament. Admittedly, my response wasn’t the most professional, but I was sincerely shocked at how knee-jerky the entire ordeal felt. Why not at least wait until everyone calms down and do some investigation while weighing your options? Archon continued this trend when they got further called out in the Pinnacle 4 when it was discovered they were re-inviting eliminated players and defend it.
But they’re learning. Everyone is learning. Archon has cleaned up their tournament organizational abilities and have ran a near flawless and highly successful $250,000 team league event in a scene where no one really thought was possible post-Fight Night. Tempo Storm continues doing fun and ridiculous things like the animated series as well as hosting their own Fireside Gathering.
In fact, what is really fascinating about both teams is that they are the ones rising to prominence with Hearthstone being their core game. It’s a true sign of health of the scene when multiple organizations can arise and become a presence in the entire industry. Tempo Storm now has a successful Heroes team as well as their hands in several games. Archon recently expanded into DOTA2 and competed in The International 5 Wildcards. Many teams nowadays get a huge jump-start from LCS salaries or are cashing in big time with huge revenue shares from the Valve microtransaction systems. Tempo Storm and Archon (as well as Nihilum) started from our own grassroots. That is a huge accomplishment and the fact that TS/Archon are competing against each other for attention, prestige, and eyeballs forces them to create a better quality product and step up their game. Such a cool narrative!
What sucks is the rivalry is starting to become forgotten.
A couple hours ago, I joined 80,000 viewers to watch Game 11 of the playoffs of the Archon Team League with the reserved commentary. Tempo Storm started up 2-0, but Archon came back strong with 4 straight wins. This ended up becoming a nailbiter leading up to Game 11 leading up to both players putting forth their new and creative TGT Paladin decks. I felt like the commentary was too afraid to show any true emotion in the outcome of the series. As such, the actual conclusion felt…weak. Like it didn’t matter. Like “Oh well, i guess that’s the end of the series.” That’s a waste in my opinion.
Maybe it’s because its double elimination and there’s still a series Archon can play. Maybe they were fatigued.
But one thing that kept popping in my head: Where was the story? Did you know Archon was the #3 seed and chose Tempo Storm as their opponent? Why should I care about this series? Is it to cheer for the best player? To see the great plays? Copy the coolest decks?
Yes, those all play a part, but there can be sooooooooooooooooo much more to all of this. I’m all about that raw, organic, locally grown and fair wage HYPE with electrolytes, chia seeds and whatever hipster trends that happens these days.
They Respect, But Don’t Like Each Other. That’s Okay.
It’s easy to dismiss the rivalry currently as nothing. Tempo Storm in 2015 don’t win as often as their fans expect (CLG-like even) so there are less times you see them clash and also because most players on both teams try to avoid any drama. Furthermore, after spending time with the players at events, it’s clear they are afraid to show their true emotions for fear of the vocal minority backlash.
However, this could not be further from the truth. There is so much history with Tempo Storm and Archon bumping heads. Reynad hates how Amaz copies him. Xixo won his grudgematch vs Reynad who infamously put a Kezan Mystic in his Rogue deck for that series. After a breakout performance, Zalae originally was in talks with Tempo Storm, but ended up joining Archon instead. MagicAmy and Nadia had a spat. Gaara and Xixo regularly compete for being the best German player. Hyped resents that he lost to Firebat (both were #1 and #2 seed) last year in the final round of Americas BlizzCon qualifier.
I’m not encouraging manufactured drama where I want the players to hate on each other with unnecessary words. I don’t want them to become jerks and humiliate themselves when they are attempting to humiliate their opponent.
I’m talking about when the two team collide, there needs to be forum flairs popping out, social media burns, and some good ol’ fashion pride of what team you rep.
The truth is the individual members of the two organizations most likely are cordial or indifferent towards the opposing organization. I can’t imagine two genuinely kind people like Orange and Eloise hating each other with a deep passion. Nor can I picture Hyped doing anything other than blink twice fast if Purple enters the room.
But just because they get along doesn’t mean everyone has to always be all smiles. There is more on the line than money. RDU once told me that he’d still play in big tournaments even if they gave out zero money because he only wants to prove that he is the best. That’s the fire that is missing.
You might argue we’re stretching Hearthstone too much. It’s a digital card game and we should have focus on things that make it fun like the whacky moments or cool synergies. But I challenge you right back — If we remove the webcams, the player handles, and the team names, we merely get lifeless pixels changing colors on a screen. To me, that’s no fun at all.
We all love the ecstatic reactions, the soul-crushing Ragnaros misses, and the wild commentary that ensues thereafter. This is what makes Hearthstone compelling. It’s the people behind the cards that makes it fun. If you don’t believe me, just look at how 50,000 of us nerds gathered to watch Kripp hit legend for the first time last night.
There are only a few rivalries that come to mind in Hearthstone. Take a look at what GosuGamers nominated in 2014. RDU vs Amaz was always an epic clash, full of crazy moments and some of my favorite memories in HS to date. Where has that gone? Reynad has many rivalries he takes upon himself, but he’s even toned that down in attempts to legitimize his own business. What other true heavy match ups do we have these days? Maybe Kolento vs Lifecoach and Trump vs Explosive Trap. We used to have so much more.
Let’s not spend our energy focusing on what this person said or gestured that offended us. I want us to carve our own stories that other communities want and repeat among themselves.
TL;DR: I think it’s awesome that there is bad blood between these two organizations.
Embrace the stories. Embrace the rivalries.
Go Tempo Storm.