Cloud9’s owner and CEO Jack Etienne took to twitter Sunday night after the games and filed a complaint. He writes “I’m convinced the Player of the Week awards is some sort of participation award vs actually being awarded to the best players in the league”. This tweet came after Flyquest’s jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen received the award.
Jack goes on to argue that “for context Cloud9 players have won 4 times out of a total of 11 awards but have a record of 30-2 so far this season.” He had claimed earlier that “it would be unbearable if Licorice does not get Player of the Week even though Golden Guardians nearly clawed their way back to victory.”
Isaac “Azael” Cummings Bentley pointed out in a response that the “Player of the Week is meant to be the best player over that 2 game stretch, and even though C9 is clearly the #1 atm the individual players don’t always put 2 incredible games back to back!” This applies to Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, having had just a decent first game to match his great play in their second game.
The Black Box
Herein lies the problem. The criteria players need to me to receive the Player of the Week is opaque. The official press statement from Riot claims that “the player who performed best over the weekend, as judged by LCS casters and other Riot staff” will be the winner.
Leaving fans clueless on how to choose the Player of the Week leads to confusion. Confusion not just from fans, but also from players and owners. A lack of clarity for what the player receives the award for reduces the importance of the award. It might as well be just a participation award.
All Riot has to do would be to give a small statement defining what it means to be Player of the Week. It feels like some are under the impression that it means most consistent play over the two days. Others feel it should be a best player award, like a weekly MVP. Others think that circumstance has a factor. This includes Jack, who finished off his thread with “maybe you only win if you’re out there shoving IMT and TSM into lockers.”
This is not to say that Santorin, or any of the previous winners, do not deserve the award. The criteria to be the Player of the Week is unknown, so no one can say who deserves it. This is also an issue that extends to the split long MVP award. As a result, the award is rife with controversy every split. Even last spilt when most everyone agreed it should be a Cloud9 player there was no consensus as to which one. Players are measured by their relative value, but value is measured by the beholder. Judge A might value Gold Diff and Forward Percentages while Judge B might value KDA and CSD@15. Judge C might not value stats at all.
The impact on the league is minimal, but speaks to a larger issue surrounding the LCS. Their inability to communicate with fans, players, and orgs often leaves those very fans frustrated. The issue has cropped up similarly with the broadcast production. Everything from the analyst desk to the new overlay has felt lacking. It’s hard not to pin some blame on Riot’s lack of communication. They released a statement on twitter following week one claiming they are “working as hard as possible to deliver the broadcast experience that you expect of us, and we’ll continue to implement changes to ensure the best possible broadcast across the summer split”. While a great PR statement, those words are near meaningless.
First, they have made it clear that they are less than aware of what fans “expect”. Secondly, they make no specific mention of the changes they are planning on implementing. If Riot released a statement prior to the beginning of the season on the nature of the broadcast much of the backlash would have been avoided. Something simple, detailing that they will be experimenting with some new production segments and that production will likely suffer due to COVID-19. Getting ahead of the problem may not have solved everything, but many fans would have been much more understanding.
The larger statement did go into details stating the engineering team was working to fix technical issues and that they were going to make the HUD easier to digest. The issue still remains that it came after the fact and not before the broadcast.
The LCS’s inability to communicate effectively with the community that it has created has made that community suffer. These effects range from the small details to the bigger picture. Having a black box from everything from production and the Player of the Week award is damaging to the LCS. Riot Games needs to be more willing to give information and be more transparent with their operations.
Beyond The LCS
The problem extends beyond just the Player of the Week or even just the LCS. The problem comes from Riot themselves. The company has long been notorious for arriving at sub-optimal conclusions while ignoring teams, players, and fans alike. Issues like Worlds format, league formats, lower leagues, etc. still abound. Riot finally turned the corner and gave the LCS a double elimination bracket, but refused to do so for Worlds. These decisions are seemingly arbitrary, as Riot gives little insight as to how it arrived here. The onus isn’t entirely on Riot however. The teams, players, press, and fans all need to demand more of the company that is at the center of the community. Riot needs transparency for the good of the fans, for the good of the leagues, and for the good of the esport.