Some of you know that eSports is something I came into by accident; it was never supposed to be a career, but more a hobby.
Marcus helped pull me in.
I started playing League of Legends casually in 2010, a little bit before Season 1. Garen has just been released, putting my start date around April of that year; I was garbage at it, and to a certain extent, I still am.
Marcus helped me get better.
I picked his stream out of a lineup of the popular players of the time; I started with Chauster, migrated to TreeEskimo, then finally found a chill stream with a monotone guy who wasn’t above the occasional trolling.
Marcus wasn’t (and isn’t) totally emotionless; you just had to grasp the subtleties of his happiness, frustration and triumph. When he did emote, you knew it was something both serious and worth paying attention to.
Like that stoic dad who never needed to raise his voice, it became easy to respect the guy behind the keyboard because a lot of us could empathize with what someone in his position faced.
That’s particularly what draws me to eSports: seeing how young men and women with a very specific skill set deal with a massive amount of attention and expectation. Marcus did as well as anyone could have hoped, but also seemed to hide his struggle behind a barrier that few of us will ever really pass by.
And that’s fine. He’s entitled to.
This weekend we saw Marcus’ tearful goodbye speech at the 2015 League of Legends World Championships, along with an outpouring of gratitude and memories. While his statement was somber — he thought he had let his fans down — it felt like he didn’t need to apologize. He tried his best, stayed true to himself, and that was enough.
While some might argue that he isn’t worthy of the praise that people might heap on him now that he’s done, I think there’s value in someone who’s performed at a consistently high level during his career, represented his generation of players and stayed loyal to his teammates.
When others stepped to criticize TSM, Marcus was one to defend them. When people thought to speak for him, he realized that people could never see the whole picture. Like I said before, he was stoic until he needed to be otherwise, and even if people disagreed, they tended to listen.
Despite never winning a Worlds, Marcus will be remembered by the League community as a unique personality and voice. However, as he retires, a number of his posts seem to point towards a period of rest and reinvention.
After giving so much of his time to this game and seeing competitive League of Legends evolve from fighting about players streaming weekly online cups to competing in a full-year, unified league, I would not blame anyone for wanting that time.
While the Internet tends to reward those who go “all in” on their passions to make a living, there’s a sad problem where it tends to suck the fun out of it. For a little while it’s been more evident that long-time players are tired, burned out, and that can cause negative feelings to seep into something they once loved.
Trust me, that really sucks.
Despite League being such a unique and vibrant phenomenenon, sometimes you just need to step back and find out who you truly are. We might see Marcus step back to the spotlight soon, or we might see him fade away and be more comfortable watching from the outside.
I don’t think anyone should blame him for taking either route.
Thanks, Marcus. You were different, in a good way. I hope you find the peace you deserve with the people who support and love you. You gave me a personality to empathize with and follow as I waded into the shallow end of eSports, and you were still there while I tread water in the deep.