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Varying Degrees of Problems That Affect NA LCS Teams from Achieving International Success

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Over the past decade, a new sport has been on the rise. Although, many may argue and refute the legitimacy on its stance as a sport. There’s no denying the vigorous and intense training put in to become a professional athlete is equivalent to those of traditional sports. This is what is known as eSports.

ESports is an abbreviated term for electronic sports or organized competitive gaming at a professional level. (Dwan, 2017) The concept of eSports can be traced back to 1972 in Stanford University, where 24 students competed in a game known as Space Wars for a yearly subscription of the Rolling Stones magazine. ESports didn’t gain much international traction until 2000 with the launch of the World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World Cup. These two tournaments helped form the base of the eSports world and paved a way for the professional scene to develop. With the surge in technological development, eSports rapidly transformed into something no one could have ever imagined. The case of study for this paper will be focused on the North American league of one of the arguably most popular eSports to date: League of Legends.


In an article entitled What Could Be Holding Back NA LCS Teams From International Success, Watson observes the problems the teams in the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) could be plaquing and hindering them from grasping onto an international title. Watson begins by noting a difference in eSport infrastructure in comparison to Korea could be a possible root to the problem. However, the European league has similar level of infrastructures but continue to perform better than North America in international events. There is not a strong enough correlation between the infrastructure and international success to draw a fine line of conclusion. Other potential problems Watson highlight include North American culture, solo queue environment, and lack of domestic talent. Watson concludes that “[he] would hope to see NA improve and perform consistently well on the international stage but if these problems persist, that won’t happen for many years”. (Watson, 2018)


This paper will explore the published article What Could Be Holding Back NA LCS Teams From International Success and further analyze upon the reasons NA LCS teams could be facing using fundamental organizational behaviour concepts.

Perception and Communication

The NA LCS is fully comprised of Korean and European imports, yet when you look at the teams that have had found the most international success they were entirely English-speaking teams; Cloud 9 and TSM. Koreans for the most part are generally perceived for their high mechanical skills and understanding of the game. Their dominance over the western scene in international events in recent events have made them seem like a highly prized ‘commodity’ compared to domestic talent. However, this dominance does not directly transfer over when they move over to North America. In a heavily team orientated and strategic game like League of Legends, communication is the more integral part to a team’s success than mechanical skills. If the clarity of the message the sender intended to encode is distorted by communication barriers such as cultural difference, it could mean the difference between life and death for the team. A prime example of this is Team Liquid with the signing of two highly coveted LCK players at the time Fenix and Piglet in 2014. There individual prowess outshone the rest of the competition in the 2015 summer regular season, but eventually problems in the communication process became evident. There was no coordination in their plays as they charged in one by one dying to the enemies. Before elaborating more on the topic of imports, a definition of the self-determination theory should be given.

Self-Determination Theory

The self-determination theory proposes that people prefer to have control over their actions, so anything that make a previously enjoyed activity feels more like an obligation will undermine motivation. Much research on organizational behaviour is focused on the cognitive evaluation theory, which hypothesizes that extrinsic rewards will reduce intrinsic interest in a task. (Robbins, Judge, & Breward, 2017)

Most of these imported players were competing at the peak of their career back in their home regions, but the search for fortune overcame the need for fame. With teams funded by major corporations such as The Madison Square Garden Company, GEICO, and HTC offering absurd salaries for them to come to North America to play; the offer was just too hard to pass up. This became more evident when the NA LCS entered franchising. With all the new money entering in world-class European players such as Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen abandoned their teams in the EU LCS and took on offers to compete in the NA LCS. Organization use these high salaries as payoffs for the players previously demonstrated superior performance. However, by doing this the players feel they are doing a good job less on their own intrinsic desire to excel than because that’s what the organization wants. (Robbins, Judge, & Breward, 2017)

Social Loafing

The tendency for individuals to expend less effort when working collectively than working individually is described as social loafing. It is normally caused by the belief that other in the group are not carrying their fair share. Social loafing has appeared to have a Western bias. It occurs more consistently within individualist countries such as United States and Canada where individuals are motivated by self interest. (Robbins, Judge, & Breward, 2017)

The solo queue environment in North America further exemplifies this Western bias. In comparison to Korean and Chinese server, players in North America tend Former coach for challenger team Tempo Storm Nick “LS” De Cesare recently had a podcast with eSports journalist Duncan “Thorin” Shields and discussed that the North American culture is more problematic than infrastructure. There is enough money being funneled into the team and players by major corporation, but North American in general tend to imply that if they

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