On the cusp of something big: But Jamie (far right) is hitting a glass ceiling
Jamie Duthie, a Master/Challenger League of Legends player from the UK, has put up a frustrated post on his Facebook page that pains me to read.
It’s painful because to me it illustrates perfectly what is currently wrong with the UK eSports scene and how it is holding players with the strongest potential – like him – back.
Jamie, known in-game as Tundra (and more recently KoMei emiK, as he has moved from a top-laner to play support in League of Legends), deferred from his final year at university last year, to pursue League of Legends professionally.
He has already done what most of us will never have the guts to do – he’s taken a shot at the big leagues, put his money where his mouth is and placed eSports ahead of another career.
He puts eight to 14 hours of practice in every single day, plays in regular tournaments (including the weekly ESL UK Premiership, where he plays in FM-eSports – who are currently top of the league) and believe me when I say he is one of the best UK players I have witnessed in that league. I watch it, week-in, week-out, just as I watch other teams from around the world, from former pros’ streams to eccentric non-pros like Gross Gore, Korean pros, US pros, lower tier players, all-female teams, you name it. In my opinion he could slot into a top LCS side easily.
But, and it really saddens me to write this, he’s become frustrated with his position, disillusioned by the UK eSports scene, and this is starting to impact on his self-belief.
“A year down the line I’m still this no-name who’s barely relevant in the sub-challenger scene and just a sponge for UK players to flame and ridicule,” he says.
“One of the things that knocks me down the most is seeing so many close friends and former team-mates go onto achieve their dreams, going to Worlds multiple times, LCS teams, Riot, and then there’s me, the running joke of the UK scene.
“So what now. This is the part where I’m stuck on, everything I’ve ever done I’ve always been good, infact usually very very good but always NOT good enough. StarCraft 2, I reached high masters but was never good enough to warrant going pro. League of Legends, I’ve been ‘High Elo’ for 4 seasons now (Starting with 2.4k ELO S2) and yet still have nothing worth noting to my name.
“I’ve put everything I’ve got into this game as it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve got going for me career-wise right now, as I strongly disagree with returning to university yet, so I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to play in the UK scene and fuel the fire of me being this running joke but it’s basically what mostly contributes to my income at the moment (Side note: No I do not think solely relying on eSports for income is a wise decision but in my current circumstances over the last few years I cannot work a normal job) so I need to continue it.”
So not only is Jamie being held back by the lack of growth potential in the UK, the lack of eSports funding here (something I’ve been banging on about time and time again) is holding him back from being able to really pursue this full-time.
Just this week Acer said it’s too expensive for players to become full-time eSports pros in the UK.
Streaming or making YouTube videos isn’t something he feels he can make money from either, as he feels he’s “not funny/entertaining enough”.
This leaves him to making it as a pro League of Legends player.
“But what CS+ team would be willing to give me a shot when I’m still so young to the role, despite making good progress?” he adds.
“So I feel pretty low right now, I feel like I’m just being delusional in still chasing my dream and putting in countless hours to achieve it, but it just reminds me of my childhood where all my friends were the ones succeeding and then there was just me left behind on my own.
“I’m still putting in 10 hours+ per day trying to learn and improve and make myself relevant but right now I can’t shake the feeling of just being a failure, somebody who just let themselves down, their friends down and anybody who spent time trying to help me improve/coach me.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen with me, I just want to make it, to finally be something my friends and family can be proud of, instead of just this repetitive joke and failure. I’m sorry.”
While it is often common (or so I hear) for people to compare themselves to others (and sometimes focus on others’ successes rather than their failures), I’m going to give Jamie the benefit of the doubt here.
If he was a League of Legends player in Korea, with the same potential, the same ability, but in the surroundings within a country that has a solid eSports infrastructure to nurture his talent, fund his gaming professionally and give him greater and quicker exposure to the global League of Legends scene, I promise you, he wouldn’t be in the situation he is right now, I’m sure of it.
I can’t help but feel the UK eSports scene, its lack of infrastructure, support, funding, prize pots and level of organisation, is holding him back.
Riot has told me it’s going to do more to support the UK eSports League of Legends scene, but it needs to happen fast, because right now our players are getting left behind.
Something needs to change. UK pros aren’t getting a look-in by some of the world’s top teams, and our best players are often looking further afield, away from the UK to progress (an example being numlocked from Choke Gaming who previously joined a team abroad but it unfortunately didn’t work out).
I don’t want to criticize organisers like ESL UK and Gfinity, as they help put UK eSports on the map, but the fact is the prize pots just aren’t at the level they need to be to make UK eSports truly sustainable.
I also want to touch on the point Jamie makes about feeling like he is becoming a joke, a player for people to flame and ridicule. This, in my opinion, comes down partly to the trollish nature of some League of Legends players and its somewhat toxic gaming community, but also to that stupid part of UK culture. Banter, flaming, spiteful name-calling, however you want to label it, I’m getting sick of it. Gross Gore has recently been seriously trolled by other players in-game in his Masters promos, just so he loses.
I know Gross Gore is very different to Jamie (Gore is an eccentric streamer, while Jamie a more professional team-player), but the point stands.
We must support British League of Legends players, not flame them without reason. Each UK player only gets one shot at making it big, so let’s get behind them, and help them show the world what they can do.
The UK eSports scene reacted in droves to this article: Check out our roundup of comments here, and the thoughts from Choke Gaming’s owner.
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Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League player and WoW RPer, he has written for a range of publications including Games TM, Nintendo Official Magazine, games industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games. He currently works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association.