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IEM Oakland’s problem wasn’t bad teams, it was bad fans

Flashbacks to 2015, flashbacks to 1915.

The casters in shock as TSM begins to lose control of the game.

A Kalista-Thresh bot lane just won the Intel Extreme Masters in Oakland.

Let that sink in for a second.

No, it’s not Summer Split 2015. In terms of Solo Queue vs Competitive, this IEM probably had the biggest disparity of gameplay from what we experience at home than we’ve seen in a long time.

Played on 6.21, IEM lived in a period of time after lane swaps but before the assassin rework and the living jungle. Which is to say, a time when nothing really interesting happened. So people did what they do best when faced with no clear course of action; — resorted to what they’re comfortable with.

Kalista has the lowest winrate in ranked, and is the second-least-picked. Ahead of Urgot. But Veritas and Hylissang utilized that to their advantage, making the lack of comfort playing against her their weapon and styling their mechanics all over the Flash Wolves replacement AD Carry DoubleRed and legendary support SwordArt. Veritas hoisted the team on his back, monstering the LMS team in fights that consistently left the carry alive, letting him get his team fed.

A single Death Sentence ended the game and the series with a heroic shredding of FW Maple, removing the last threat between the Unicorns and the championship.

Incoming Kalista picks in Solo Queue in 3 ... 2 ...

It was a very different tournament, populated by very different teams, who made very different picks than we’re used to, and it wasn’t part of a larger regular season. People were unhappy about these things. Meanwhile, 60 feet away, CS:GO raged on, their half of the stadium screaming round after round. The last North American team was eliminated from the tournament at the same time that TSM got knocked out. The League stadium was purged of people; no-one left the CS:GO side.

What’s wrong with us?

We, as a community, don’t react well to things that are different than what we’re used to. We’re so used to Summoners Rift, there were tens of thousands of complaint threads and petitions to remove Plants from the game before they were even released.

It’s 2016 and the only professional on-air female analyst & color caster in League of Legends is still repeatedly harassed and insulted to levels and on topics that no male caster would ever receive criticism for, despite being one of the best analytical minds in the entire industry.

I witnessed attendees telling Indiana “Froskurinn” Black that ‘I normally hate you but you were really good today!’ Twice. That is, two separate people. There was also a front-page Reddit thread expressing a similar line of thought. We are so threatened, so scared of things that are different to what we’re used to, that we think it’s just fine to tell a stranger you normally hate them.

Sjokz, ProphetCrumbz, Papasmithy and Froskurinn.

The people who say these things often defend themselves by saying “I can’t be sexist, I like Sjokz!” Compare the presentation and role of Sjokz and Froskurinn in the picture above. On the left, a traditionally-dressed woman in a traditionally female role of host; on the right, a deep-dive analyst who wears non-feminine clothing. Sjokz’ job is to know the people; Frosk’s job is to know the game. And some viewers are incredibly threatened by a woman who knows more than them.

This needs restating because it’s easy to ignore it or write it off if you don’t see it. We’re living in a world where people have said very little about male casters that have:

-not known about champion passives/abilities
-forgotten what teams people were on
-been unaware of item/champion changes
-literally gotten their own names wrong

Fans cheer enthusiastically, and pause for a photo.

Someone looking analytically at the LoL part of IEM might think League was irrelevant, with petulant, sexist fans who take any opportunity to criticize instead of helping create. A minute percentage of the fans stuck around for the grand final. If we cannot adapt and change, as the game does, and embrace different tournaments, different formats, different casters, we risk making ourselves Starcraft 2.

Static. Unchanging. Forgotten.

I enjoyed IEM immensely. The venue, the exhibitors, the Pizza Rolls. ESL did a spectacular job, and iBuyPower/Acer’s display equipment was stunning. I just hope the League of Legends fans are willing to step their game up, too.