Burnt out and tired of playing for a losing team, professional League of Legends player Austin "Link" Shin announced last night that he was leaving the game. He did so in a bombastic way: writing an 18-page screed that called out nearly all his former teammates, coaches, and ultimately the game itself.
Link retired from a position one of the five starting players for the North American League team Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). He'd been with the team since December 2012, so he had a lot of history to cover in his closing remarks. Clearly, he also had an axe to grind. The majority of the essay is devoted to breaking down his career in CLG season by season, the team member by team member, hashing out where things went wrong, and what landed them in their current less-than-stellar position closing out the spring split of the North American Championship series tied for 5th place (6th being last place). He bemoaned a lack of teamwork between the members of CLG and overpowered egos that left him feeling disrespected and undervalued.
"I was in a position of power yet I didn't have the full trust of my team," Link wrote at one point late in his piece.
His final remarks on his decision to leave professional eSports give a sense of the whole piece's tone:
so reasons for leaving:
-don't know if i can give it my 150% next split
-too much work and burden on me and I doubt it's going to get better
-only wanted to play 1 more split minimum and compete and do well at worlds (ideally win)
^ me being greedy and I recognise a team just doesn't magically come together and win worlds
-i was promised change and there wasn't going to be any so well me leaving is pretty much the drastic change. ( a coach doesn't magically solve all problems i think )
I'm pretty much done with league. Cause NA is terrible and League of Legends is devolving into a game that I don't even recognise anymore. No one even plays it properly lmao
Beleaguered eSports players stepping away from their game of choice, and airing their dirty laundry while doing so, is nothing new. What made Link's outro strike a chord with the League of Legends community was the length and candour of his criticism, and the way he singled out his teammate Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng in particular.
"One biggest problem I have is with double and him not playing as a team player," Link wrote. "I mean he flamed the entire team and blame deflected after playoffs ended. To me that's the biggest backstab anyone can do. You either lose as a team or you win as a team. You accept your loss and you move forward to figure out what you can improve. To blame your team and say there's nothing you could have done = telling me you will never trust your teammates."
"This CLG isn't a team," Link concluded. "It's just five players trying to work together lmao."
Doublelift is a well-known League of Legends player in his own right who's gained notoriety over the course of his career for his arrogant behaviour. He's famous for making claims that, say, he outperformed every other North American player in his position during interviews. Detractors therefore saw Link's statement as vindication of their worst suspicions: that Doublelift was an egotistical player who worked to the detriment of his team.
Link's big document sheds light on one thing: Doublelift has a Disease of Me, an untreated one at that. HUGE coaching challenge.
— Adel Chouadria (@HypeAlgerian) May 14, 2015
Wait there are people who actually thought that Doublelift wasn't the one holding the team back all this time? *mind blown*
— Fotini (@Darkeella) May 14, 2015
How doublelift views himself :/ pic.twitter.com/VIrjJ9af0E
— kity kat (@BasedGodNorthy) May 14, 2015
Doublelift, for his part, refuted most of Link's criticisms in a post on his Facebook page.
"A lot of the criticism lacks context, which isn't something you can easily digest and circlejerk about," Doublelift wrote. "If I was the aggressive cancer on the team who didn't trust anyone, I would have kicked one of our incompetent leaders out and taken charge myself."
"the fuck is this other than a blame deflection," he added in response to Link's specific claim that he'd been stabbed in the back (metaphorically).
The two players have since tried to sound a more diplomatic tone, effectively hugging it out over Twitter:
@CLG_Link no hard feelings :^)
— Yiliang Peng (@CLGDoublelift) May 14, 2015
Though many, including fellow League of Legends pro Christian "IWillDominate" Rivera, doubt the sincerity of their messages:
So who actually believes that link and doublelift are actually "good friends" after this lol..
— I Will Dominate (@LiquidDominate) May 14, 2015
What's peculiar about Link's sudden, controversial exit from the League of Legends pro scene is the plethora of negative forces that brought it about. If his account of his time in CLG is even partly true, one has to wonder how tensions were allowed to simmer between top players long enough for them to evolve into mutual animosity -- be it personal or professional. Link's departure from CLG is a grim reminder of how League's emergent but already enormously popular eSports teams too often often lack responsible forces for proper coaching and management.
You can read Link's full statement here.