Could the Square One League of Legends amateur league be the starting block for future stars?
For many industry outsiders, esports’ meteoric rise in terms of prolificacy, popularity, and capital flow to what is now a billion dollar industry has seemingly come out of nowhere. Despite the international tournaments, skyrocketing prize pools, and the entrance of some of the world’s biggest brands, the industry wouldn’t be what it is without the players.
The path to pro in any game isn’t always clear, and in the case of League of Legends, grinding out solo queue games often can only get you so far. Before any player gets signed by the likes of Fnatic, Team Liquid, or Invictus Gaming, they have to practice, and in many cases find a couple of people to play in a team together.
Even with talent, the quality of local amateur tournaments can often be a game of Russian roulette, muddying the waters for potential pro players. Chris Schackt, one of the Founders of the Square One, aims to change that with a European amateur league that sets higher expectations of behaviour and professionalism. We sat down with Chris to find out more about the Square One League of Legends league and equipping amateur players for the future.
ESI: Thanks for taking the time out for the interview. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Chris Schackt: My name is Chris Schackt, more commonly known as Hench. I am one of the three founders of Square One, as well as being responsible for PR and outwards facing – the other two being Mike “Pixel” van Daal, Head of League Operations, and William “Kaiprioska” Roche, Managing Director. I’m also playing in the Square One: Champions League, where I run my organisation Seadogs Esports – giving me a unique perspective from the player side of things.
ESI: Could you give us a short run through of your background in grassroots esports before getting started with SQ1?
Chris: Of course! After having been introduced to League in late Season Five, it didn’t take long for my competitive side to take over. As of now, I have over three years of experience participating in amateur leagues as both a team owner, player and staff member (moderation, constructive feedback, decision making). I’ve also worked as an analyst and coach in the semi-professional scene with both Wind and Rain (WAR) and Arctic Storm (ARC).
ESI: Noting your past experiences, what sets SQ1 apart from other amateur European leagues?
Chris: Simply put, we aim to offer a professional level experience to the below professional segment of competitive Legends of Legends. From our point of view, there are no reasons why teams and players shouldn’t be both offered and held to the same benefits and expectations that semi-professional and professional teams and players are (with some logistical exceptions).
While most amateur leagues in Europe have had an internal or public stance of existing “for the community”, that’s not what we’re about. We’re here to develop players and staff for the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) and European Regional Leagues (ERLs) of tomorrow.
ESI: What motivated these ideas?
Chris: Well, with the combined experience between us in running and playing in amateur leagues, a list of common thoughts on what shouldn’t be done presented itself more than anything. While we have our thoughts on the failures and lackings of the leagues we’ve previously been a part of, we’ve also learned a lot from them in terms of what we actually want to do.
ESI: Why do you think developing this kind of league matters?
Chris: Right now, there is a somewhat thriving environment for amateur leagues that are more on the community and fun side of things. While that is in no way inherently bad or problematic, there is also a distinct lack of long term platforms for players looking upwards – into ERL, ESL and maybe LEC. A few facts clearly stand as of today:
1) A lot of League of Legends players have the talent, but not the right mentality and attitude to succeed in professional play.
2) While the introduction of ERLs and academy teams do a great job of bridging the transition from solo queue to organised play, getting picked up for an academy team is still a matter of luck and/or connections even if you’re more than good enough.
“We firmly believe that our vision is in the best interest for everyone in the League of Legends scene“
With that in mind, we believe our desire to educate players and team owners in what will be expected of them when entering the semi-professional and professional world is going to be super valuable. We believe that giving talented solo queue players solid experience with long term structured practice, strategy and team play before looking to enter ERLs is going to make a difference.
ESI: How did you go about organising talent for the league, from backend through to casting?
Chris: Staffing is such a tricky thing at this level. We essentially have to find people who are willing to spend their free time taking orders from strangers on the internet – for free! That’s even harder than it sounds! The first things we decided, was that we wanted to hold interviews including standardised questions reflecting our goals and vision, to make sure we got people we could work with comfortably and effectively.
From that, we outlined what roles were needed to fulfil and enact what we wanted. From content creation, broadcasting, back end organising, lobby management, ruleset enforcement, outwards facing, decisionmaking and so on. We structured it in a hierarchical setup, and we defined each individual role’s requirements as well as expected responsibilities. Our staffing isn’t exactly as planned yet, and per expectations, some members of staff have ended up leaving due to IRL commitments or other.
If anyone reading this would be interested in helping out in a growing grassroots league, feel free to reach out – especially people interested in creating content!
“There is a somewhat thriving environment for amateur leagues that are more on the community and fun side of things”
ESI: What are your goals for this competition?
Chris: Short term: Establish and stabilise a core of teams from split to split. While it’s unrealistic to expect the same teams to stay multiple splits in a row, retaining 50-60% of the teams from split to split is a goal. We want to solidify and simplify specific rules and procedures for the sake of clarity and ease of use, as well as streamline some day to day routines.
Long term: Establish Square One as the go-to league for players and teams in the Diamond 3 – High Master bracket looking to develop and earn experience towards a career in esports. We want to establish partnerships with professional orgs, brands and other platforms that can help us towards this goal – we firmly believe that our vision is in the best interest for everyone in the League of Legends scene. We have a list of other long term specifics, but they are somewhat reliant on the above goals, and those interested will have to wait and see.