Alex "Xpecial" Chu Believes ESports Will Become As Popular As Real Sports
Those wondering how eSports and traditional sports like soccer, baseball and football are becoming more alike need only to look at Riot Games’ League of Legends. This year the League of Legends Championship Series added a minor league Challenger Series. That has set off a chain reaction of trades as teams jockey for position and new talent replaces aging pros. Alex “Xpecial” Chu, one of the star players of Team Solomid (TSM) was traded recently to Team Curse.
The LoL support player was at the Alienware booth at E3 2014 to check out the new Alienware Alpha gaming system. He explains why eSports and real sports are merging in this exclusive interview.
What’s the transition been like for you coming over to Team Curse?
Chu: It’s been different. Curse is a lot different. Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses. I really want to push Curse to be a strong team. That’s my goal. Make myself, push myself to be really good and make my team really good.
What would you say the strengths and weaknesses are of Curse compared to TSM?
Chu: With Curse our teamwork and our laning is as strong as Team Solomid. At TSM we were known for our laning, really strong laners, all mechanically strong. With Curse we’re really close in mechanical skills, but not nearly the same, and our teamwork is also lacking. We need to improve in shot calling and our lane game and mid-game rotations are our big key. For TSM they just have a lot of weaknesses and mainly just energy. They don’t work too well with team plays. They’re really rough for them. That’s why they are falling right now.
How have you seen the ability for players to trade and move around impact League of Legends as an eSport over the last few years?
Chu: I think it’s positive. Every single sport has these trades and they’re seen as normal. It makes teams better, and that’s really the goal. As the game gets more and more competitive these traits are going to be more common. You want the best players on your team. Maybe even if you have the best players, they’re not going to be the best fit, and that’s what these roster changes are about. You want the best fitting team. You want the team to work really well. Good synergy is crucial and it’s showing in League of Legends.
Each one of you pros has his own fan following as well as team followings. How have you seen your fans follow you from TSM to Curse?
Chu: There’s a saying that some fans follow for the name on the front and some follow for the name on the back, and there’s a lot of both. I have a lot of fans that follow Xpecial and some are fans of Team Solomid, and that’s fine. That’s normal. I do get a lot of hate, like ‘Why did you leave TSM?’ But it’s for competition. We all want to win and we’re going to do the thing that’s going to give us the highest chance of winning. That’s what this all is about.
What impact have you seen having the LCS championship last year played in a real arena in Staples Center have on eSports as a valid sport?
Chu: I don’t think the venue itself is going to make it so that League of Legends becomes a sport. It’s really the league that has the set- with all these tournaments and the ramp of you have now with these Challenger teams that are competing as LCS. It’s just the way things ramp up and it’s really similar to real sports. You have amateurs that want to be pro. You have pros that aren’t pros anymore because they’re just not good enough. That is where League of Legends is really pushing itself as an eSport. It’s by making itself a sport, not just a venue, but the structure.
What are your thoughts on the fact that just this X Games awarded pro gamers for Call of Duty gold medals just like they would to extreme sports athletes?
Chu: It’s just a matter of time. I remember doing interviews three years ago and I would say it’s inevitable. And it really seems to be coming true. You’re seeing sports and eSports blending together. I don’t think that line will ever be gone, but it’s definitely getting closer. You’re going to see a lot more eSports in around sports. It’s not that they’re going to be the same thing, but it’s going to be similar. People are going to recognize this. People are going to see it and recognize that these are pro players, competitive players, and it’s really similar.
What impact has the Challenger Series had on giving amateurs new opportunities?
Chu: The Challenger Series is really great for these players that want to go pro. You have these players that are trying really hard and this is where they get to shine. Before CS, it was really hard to just show yourself as competitive in those public games. Now players can really show themselves. A lot of roster changes that we’re seeing are from these amateur teams. They have these really good players, but their team might not be as good. And you have LCSC pro teams drafting these players and making them into stars.
When you look around here at E3 there are a ton of MOBAs. What do you feel differentiates League of Legends and keeps it so popular even with all the competition?
Chu: League of Legends was first. That’s a really big thing, but the bigger thing is that it’s constantly updating. The Season 3 patch was huge. The Season 4 patch was even bigger. You have a new champion out every single month and it’s always fresh. If you leave the game for half a year, you’re going to find out that everything is different. It’s a fresh game. It’s a fresh start for a lot of players and it’s really refreshing. People get tired of games no matter how fun they are, but League of Legends constantly changes stuff so that even if you get tired a little bit, something new is going to come out and you’re going to be rejuvenated. I really like that about League of Legends. Sure it makes our job as a pro hard because you have to adapt, but that’s part of League of Legends. It’s part of what makes people want to play it.
What impact do you feel a device like the Alienware Alpha, which brings video games like League of Legends into the living room, will have on the popularity of the game in the living room?
Chu: I think it’s great. Much like how people love consoles and you often play those games on your TV. They’re bringing the PC onto the TV. So say you’re playing in the living room and your mom is watching you and it brings even more awareness to League of Legends. The impact might not be as big but really the goal is to expand League of Legends and PC games and get more and more players each day. PC gaming has grown so much. You have an event like E3 for console and just PC and that’s really very popular. You see tens of thousands of people here and it’s crazy. It blows my mind. The first time I went to a convention I could not believe that there’s so many people out there who enjoy what I do. But there’s a lot more people who don’t go to events and they don’t really realize this is so common. Gaming is not nerdy. That term still applies, but nerd, the connotation, just does not apply. We’re normal people. We go out. We love games. We still do real life stuff.
What’s a match that stands out as one of your favorites from all the competition you’ve faced over the years?
Chu: People ask me this question all the time and I would love to say something in the past. There’s plenty of games that I’m proud of, but my biggest goal is a game in the future. I want my best game to be in the future. I don’t want to look back and be, ‘Hey, my best game was in the past. I’ll never do that again.’ I want to say, ‘My future, tomorrow, next time, that’s where my best game lies.’