uLoL: An Interview with University of Maryland's Martin "White" Kwan
Thu 12th May 2016 - 7:48am
Recently, the University of Maryland's League of Legends team competed in the semi-finals of the uLoL collegiate series at PAX East. Following the collegiate LoL tournament at PAX East, we had the opportunity to speak with their mid-laner, Martin "White" Kwan, who was happy to share his opinions on the uLoL program and his time at the PAX East event in Boston.
University of Maryland's Roster for PAX East from lolesports
Coming in as a Freshman, what was it like when you knew you would be the starting mid-laner for UMD?
White: Well, initially I came in as the starting ADC for the CSL(Collegiate Star League) tournament, but there was some drama with our team dynamic, and after multiple role swaps and player swaps, we decided to go for the Riot-sponsored tournament that offered a better monetary incentive, so I decided to do what we all thought was best for the team and take up the role as as starting mid-laner because I felt as though this would make us more competitive within the collegiate league, but that put even more stress on me because I had to learn a role I wasn’t as familiar with. It ended up working out; however, as it ultimately put me on a more carry-oriented role and gave me a larger voice in our shot calling which I thought was important to our success.
With other teams such as Robert Morris University having a dedicated League of Legends staff, how did it feel knowing that you guys would be at a disadvantage without the same sort of support?
White: It gave us more of a reason to try and beat them. We came into this tournament with four freshman and I’m proud of everyone for giving us the opportunity to make it to the semifinals without much infrastructure other than the full support and dedication of the club cheering us on and our 6th player (sub) who would help us out with our picks/bans and general macro play. Also, our manager Sri Talluri, was a great resource and form of support as he helped us schedule scrims with other teams and make sure he could do everything in his power to help succeed in our bracket. However, this is nothing compared to RMU’s infrastructure, where they scrim at least 3 hours every weekday in a room set up with PC’s and their school sponsors them with uniforms and gear, and most importantly, pays them to play the game. Furthermore, they have a couple coaches and managerial staff who schedule scrims with other teams as well as critique the players on their gameplay, which gives them a substantial advantage compared to a team lacking the same kind of infrastructure, such as our own. Coming into the semifinal match against RMU, we were determined to win to prove that we were top contenders, regardless of the difference in our programs, but once we lost, we realized that the extensive support the RMU team had with a program dedicated to collegiate league was extremely valuable and we believed that their superior team dynamic and synergy was a direct attribution of their program’s support.
Regular college sports get a lot of benefits when it comes to schoolwork flexibility. Do you think esports will achieve this same kind of recognition within Universities?
White: I know some schools like Robert Morris University and more recently, UC Irvine started to offer scholarships for League of Legends, but it’s going to be hard to get more and more universities on the same page. E-sports is a very fast growing industry so it’s possible that players of this kind get these benefits, but I just don’t see it happening in the near future as there are still so many people against it who do not see its merits as a competitive game. I’m still hopeful for the long-term potential of e-sports though.
So you guys qualified for Pax East which is the biggest tournament you all have competed in as a school team. What was the exposure and experience like for you guys as a team, especially considering how your organization made it to the semi-finals?
White: There was a lot more exposure than I expected, which made it that much better of an experience. Riot sending people to take photos of us and interview us made it seem very legitimate, and I was excited to see content of each team online. They sent us 3-day passes to PAX East, which was a huge event filled with thousands of people, and even though we only recognized a couple of games there, the act of flying to Boston just to play a video-game on stage for a few days was pretty cool. Also, although we lost horribly, we got to hang out with the Georgia Tech team, which made it truly a worthwhile experience.
University of Maryland mid-laner Martin "White" Kwan at PAX East from lolesports
How strenuous is your League schedule with the University of Maryland’s academic demands? Is it difficult to balance League of Legends with school work?
White: It was a lot more stressful than I initially planned for. Although I didn’t put in as many games as some of our other players, I spent a ton of time watching past broadcasts from mid-laners as I’ve found that to be just as useful and effective as practicing. Schoolwork this semester, unfortunately, was much heavier than the previous one, and it was difficult for me to try and balance schoolwork with League. I would try my best to divide my time into blocks, where I would watch VODs/play League during one block and study/do schoolwork in another.
With the progression of collegiate LoL, do you see the collegiate scene as being a way to engage yourself in the professional scene at all, or do you keep the two completely separate?
White: I think the two scenes are interconnected in some way. The live event at PAX East, the same shout casters who cast for the professionals, and the livestream on Twitch all give a taste of what the professional scene is like, but at a much more amateur level, which I think Riot has done a great job with so far. It also gives a great opportunity for collegiate players to get exposure for themselves to recruiters. For example, bobqinXD, the mid-laner for the 2-time champions University of British Columbia, recently announced that he is going to try and immerse himself in the professional scene, and it was a lot easier for him to put himself out there as a good player to recruit because of his great plays from the campus series.
What was it like for you to know that your game would be casted by Riot's own Phreak and Team Dignitas's old mid-laner Scarra? Did it add any pressure for you or was it more casual?
White: After our team talked to them backstage, it sounded like they had high hopes for us because our roster looked quite strong on paper based on solo queue rankings. Moreover, even though we came in as the underdogs versus RMU, I definitely felt some pressure and was pretty nervous, as I didn’t want to let my team down and disappoint (and I’m sure a couple of my other teammates really wanted to prove themselves out there at the live event as well).
As you may know, the LCS is changing to a multi-game format (Series format instead of Best of 1's). What are your opinions of the uLoL format? Is there anything you wish would change about the collegiate LoL format or do you like how it is as of right now?
White: Yes, I would recommend two changes to the uLoL format. First, for the qualifiers, they should make it double elimination because theoretically, the top 2 teams from each region could face each other and knock one out completely, which should never be the case. Also, I think the idea of having a team from each region (North, East, South, West) compete at the live event is great, but it’s a little unfair to some teams. In particular, I think that Simon Fraser University from the West has a great team, but since UBC is in their conference and only one team can make it out, they weren’t able to come to the live event and compete. Just that example right there is why there should be some sort of change with the format. SFU’s game against UBC ended sour at a 2-3 loss, but I’m sure SFU could’ve done much better than us at the live event.
What kind of advice would you give for upcoming college Freshman who want to participate in collegiate League? Is there anything you would have liked to have known beforehand that would have bettered your experience?
White: You should only participate in the campus series if you have the drive to be self-critical and the right attitude regarding your own play. Many times when I end up in (or overhear) a conversation about someone’s game, I always get the impression that a lot of players think they’re really good or don’t believe that they did anything wrong in their matches and just blame it on the team. That is definitely the wrong attitude to have if they’re looking to improve and they need to change it if League is more than just a way to pass the time for them and is something they want to get really good at. Every game is winnable if you could have done more, and that’s how it should always be, and this philosophy has become more and more apparent since I entered the collegiate scene, and I hope others realize it too.
For more information regarding the uLoL event at PAX East, feel free to visit the uLoL website at http://ulol.leagueoflegends.com/campus-series.html