LoL Esports: An Interview with Travis Gafford

“If everyone is running towards this finish line, if  we’re all pulling out guns and shooting each other in the kneecaps, we’re never going to reach it.”

On September 21st I interviewed Travis Gafford, a well known interviewer from the LoL E-sports scene, and host of his own panel talk shows, Who’s League is it Anyway (WiiLA) and State of The League (SoTL). He is known for his impartial, well-informed views on current events in the scene, and his impromptu, relaxed interview style. For those unfamiliar with the LoL E-sports scene, i personally wrote an article dedicated to it earlier in the year.

Francis: How did you find yourself in the position you’re in now? What brought you to LoL and its E-sport?

Travis: I had followed Starcraft 2’s E-sport scene since its conception, that was the first time I was passionate about an E-sport and had favourite players and followed tournaments. I had been playing LoL since the beta, which was before SC2 even came out, so as I was a really big fan of SC2 in the background LoL was starting to form a pro scene, while i was vaguely aware of the teams around, I didn’t follow it with the same passion I had for SC2. There came a time when I asked myself why I wasn’t following this great game? and i realised it was because of the lack of easy access to information and players and personalities so you knew who was who, LoL didn’t have this sort of closeness to its professional players. Meanwhile a good friend of mine Peter ‘Doublelift’ Peng had moved in with me after i had recently graduated suggested to me that I use my experience from my degree in communication studies to interview professional players, which was a gap in the market as i had said, there was very little in a way of content that put a face to these names of pro players.

Francis:  You are close friends with Doublelift, has that helped you with your relaxed interview style? for example Shopping with Krepo and Yellow Pete and Building a chair with CLG

Travis:  I would say it has, whenever I interview someone new it is most definitely very different to hanging out and interviewing someone like doublelift, I have friendships with at least 1 player in almost all of the NA scenes teams, so whenever i know that people like doublelift who likes to crack a lot of jokes it helps me create an interviewing style that meshes well with their personalities so it has definitely helped knowing pro’s as it assisted me in creating the fun style of interview that I stride to achieve.

Francis: You’ve had a lot of backlash from league of legends as a community especially from  /R/LeagueofLegends how does it feel to have these people throw back in your face the content you try to provide that many of them still enjoy and additionally how do you deal with the hate?

Travis: Ahh… Well it definitely comes in waves, right now overall I have a lot of support from the community, its really hard… alot of the time people will say ignore the trolls but when there is a lot of up-votes behind a comment that a troll makes, its hard to ignore. Its not  like I upload content thinking ‘oh I’ll make a lot of money from this’ its because I want to be a conduit of information for the community, so its very hard when people get frustrated, for me having people poke fun at my appearance or my interview style, that doesn’t really bother me anywhere near as much as when people just blatantly miss-characterise my intentions and people say ‘Travis just uses e-sports to make a lot of money’ which is not the case, and because people can be gullible they will read that comment and think its reasonable that someone in the scene could use their connections to make a lot of money. Any time i try to respond, a lot more annoying is when I try to respond is when I get a flood of messages saying  ‘don’t feed the trolls’ I feel like I should be able to address allegations in public, and when that happens it can be extremely annoying. People will say just ignore it but as anyone in the scene will tell you, you cant imagine what it would feel like to have thousands of people say these things about you and make these assumptions openly until it happens to you, but I guess that’s an occupational hazard.

Francis: On the other hand, you have a lot of great fans who went as far as to send you money to get you to Korea, how does it feel  to know people enjoy your content enough to pay for it?

Travis: Oh yeah, that’s a great feeling, for em the Korea trip, while I didn’t get as much as I had hoped to after losing a camera and some content along the way I think the content I did produce people really appreciate and it gave me  a lot of insight which i can carry into WLiiA and interviews with pro’s, I received a shadow ban on Reddit a while back but during that time people sent me messages and i received the nicest message I have ever had which said that I was the reason this person had got into the LoL scene and I was the reason they are now so interested in its continuation, hearing that really makes all the frustration in my job worth it.

Francis: Speaking of frustration, DDOS’ing has plagued the scene and you over the past month, why do you think this is so?

Travis: Well, whenever you start to hit the number of people that League receives  I mean SoTL has reached almost 11,000 viewers live, so whenever you start to hit those sorts of numbers, there are always going to be weird people that get joy from causing such a large group that much frustration. I try to not think about it, again i see it as an occupational hazard, you have to figure out a way to deal with it, right now I believe its purely down to the numbers LoL generates.

Francis: large amounts of people inside and outside the community believe that LoL’s E-sports scene has been falsely generated by riot pumping money into their own tournament and forcing it into the limelight, while some say they are actively involved in their game and that it can only be a good thing, what is your opinion?

Travis: That’s always been an interesting conversation and its fascinating to see this conversation bubble up over the last couple of months, i think that its not a fair argument, no doubt has Riot’s involvement increased the scope and scale of LoL to dwarf almost every other E-sport around. But then you have things like ‘The Kings of Europe’ event, they broke 100,000 viewers and i think Riot had a link to it in one of their news posts like they do, and you see the majority of the people didn’t come through a riot client, it was an event that riot wasn’t at, so I take offence with the claim that the whole scene it created just by Riot throwing money at it. I mean if blizzard did as much for their E-sport as riot does with theirs I cant see the SC2 community saying  ‘how dare they’ so i don’t think its a good analysis of the situation, but i understand their frustration, I mean whenever you think your E-sport is more interesting or compelling than the other you have to search for justification why the other receives so much more attention.

Francis: As someone who used to follow the SC2 scene and now the LoL scene, you can tell theres very little difference between the communities barring size, i would say we should spend less time bickering and more time work together to help E-sports as a whole grow.

Travis: Well, if not perhaps together at the very least we need to not work against each other. If everyone is running towards this finish line, if everyone is pulling out guns and shooting each other in the kneecaps, we’re never going to reach it. I have no problem with their being competition between the two companies behind the games, but when it trickles down into the community or the players there’s no advantage there.

Francis: Starcraft has been an E-sport for longer than I even know, do you see LoL’s scene having the same longevity?

Travis: Starcraft’s scene has been around, I mean its about 10 years old now. I’ve been thinking about how people seem to merge Starcraft2 and Brood war into this one game, and say SC2 had a big legacy, but if you look at the scene, the majority of the western players didn’t come from Broodwar, and neither is its audience, and that’s important to realise when you look at the longevity of SC2 and LoL. In Korea when SC2 came out, the KESPA  Pro’s didn’t switch over and neither did its audience, quite frankly if you go into PC bangs in South  Korea, there’s not that many people playing SC2 over Brood war, and that’s important to take note of.  In terms of LoL i think it definitely has the capability to have the life span that Brood war had, and possibly even eclipse it for these reasons; The developer is supporting it in a way Brood war never had, its much more approachable than Brood war is, some will say that makes LoL a casual game but that doesn’t make any sense to me. Its casual at a start but its silly to call its E-sport casual, i mean you could never say TSM, CLG.NA/EU, M5 or any of the Korean teams approach it casually.

Francis: The way I explain it to my group of  friends that I tried to get into SC2 and much more recently LoL; SC2 is like a brick wall of difficulty, and my friends, not being the biggest gamers beforehand, getting them into the game was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. On the other hand, LoL has a slow incline of difficulty, its easier to start but the multi player aspect of LoL is what brings it up to a similar level of difficulty in its E-sport. The fact that five people have to be functioning as a team brings a whole new level of difficulty with its need for communication and teamwork.

Travis: Yeah, i think we may have strayed slightly of topic but to answer your original question, i think yes, as long as Riot keeps on going as they are now, and they keep on track for the season 2 finals and season 3 itself we could see LoL last as long as Brood war and possibly even longer.

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