The Fault of Assuming Growth

Every so often, fans will hop aboard a disturbing train of thought. They’ll assume a player can change fundamental aspects of their play or experience startling growth by merely flicking a switch. Maybe we’re culturally conditioned from the advent of the training montage (thanks, Rocky) in cinema, or the arbitrary power up of protagonists in shonen manga/anime. But such development only exists within those media, and for good reason.

Training is not a simple task. It’s arduous. It’s time-consuming. It demands sacrifice. And, most importantly, people have their inherent strengths and weaknesses, and have honed their skill set based on those. Changing their skill set often demands them to readjust those strengths and weaknesses.

Hai “Hai” Du Lam is a good example. Throughout his career as a mid laner in Cloud9, his shot-calling and in game leadership were rightfully praised. The man understood the game. But he was a liability at an international level due to his small champion pool. Don’t bullshit me that it wasn’t small; in Season 3, his notable champions were Kennen, Kha’Zix, and Zed. When those champions were nerfed, he never had the same strong base again. He could certainly play various champions at an average pro level, but by no means as elite as those, and he was even outclassed by other mid laners on those champions. Yet people just said “he needs to grow his champion pool.” I’d like to see you understand and learn to properly play 20+ matchups in a single week and reach the level of your main. You might get away with it in lower elos, but it’s a different beast at high levels where people understand how to trade, team fight, etc.

The other argument was “role swap him to support! Keep the shot-calling and get a beast mid laner!” That was silly in itself: let’s have a player who is known for having a small champion pool change roles, requiring him to learn a whole new pool of champions. As a support, Alistar was by far his best, and when he was taken off of that he dropped off. He was good enough for Cloud9 to get to playoffs, but not good enough to win the League Championship Series.

One might point out Hai’s run as a jungler for Cloud9 in summer 2015, but his success is more of a statement to how weak North America was than any incredible change in identity.

Role swaps don’t often work. Learning a new skill set that one didn’t practice to advance into the competitive scene sets them back. Like a body builder who skips leg day, a mid laner who doesn’t practice jungle pathing is not going to magically be a good at it without practicing. That’s why we view role swaps with skepticism until proven otherwise. Players like Go “Score” Dong-bin are remarkable because they’ve successfully done it. Not, “have been successful,” but “are the cause of success.”

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.