MaTTcom blog: An artist’s journey in LoL and eSports

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Nearly all of my major professional accomplishments as an artist have occurred within the robust ecosystem that is “League of Legends.” It’s a game so significant in social and economic impact that a moderately talented art hack like myself can create great opportunities for achievement. So when things got even better and eSports kicked off, I realized what was really possible. People could live off playing, and contributing to, a single amazing video game. The dream was real, and I wanted in. More specifically I wanted to be Riot MaTTcom. So I made the decision that, in order to do this, it might help to be in the good graces of a professional eSports team to bring more attention to my work. I chose my favorite team and took a shot at proving myself as someone who could contribute to League of Legends in a multitude of ways. Counter Logic Gaming took notice and my life in eSports began. They provided opportunities, challenges and venues through which my work could be featured and valued. For an artist this is priceless. During the pursuit of the Riot title I gained more and more experience with the team and eventually found that I could really start making a positive difference within CLG. Over the next 2+ years I worked my way up the organization through a desire to create and contribute in as many ways as I possibly could by adapting to any and all challenges. Being able to share in the team’s successes and failures I found that while I may have initially been going for Riot MaTTcom, it was becoming CLG MaTTcom that that really allowed me to grow as an artist and as an individual.

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This is straight up McDonals, because “I’m lovin’ it”

First, a bit of background. Previous to all this, in the before time, I was an overwhelmingly mediocre freelance artist. I never took any art classes when I was younger, but I constantly drew on any surface I could during class. All my classes. Ever. While it is indeed possible to get pretty good at any given task with zero guidance, but tons of persistence, I wouldn’t recommend it. Luckily enough, I was surprisingly decent in a lot of art mediums. But without a niche or an audience to appeal directly to, my focus wandered. While I managed to make some money by helping friends of friends with various projects and small business opportunities, most of my progress came through free work in unfamiliar areas. I just winged it and taught myself as I went along, meeting each new challenge with literally zero preconceived notions (“notions” implies forethought; a concept beyond my intellectual grasp at the time). Soon enough I improved and found that I was pretty good at this whole adaptation thing and I could take on a decent range of tasks. I was still a mediocre artist, but now I was a FLEXIBLE mediocre artist.

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Now I needed to work on that “forethought” stuff. A friend introduces me to League of Legends and I love the game so much that I start making LoL illustrations. The splash art used to sell skins in game is a format that my few strengths as an artist could actually play to. I see the opportunity to perhaps get a job at Riot (see: delusions of grandeur), and I begun searching for a way in. The same friend who introduced the game initially points out Summoners Showcase; the perfect venue. I do some full color splash art skins I thought might appeal to the community and post them on the forums to surprisingly positive response and keep going until I get on the show. As a result of being on the show my work gets a lot more attention and I continue to engage the community with more skins. Later, I want to appeal to a smaller, more specific, segment of the community: pro gamers. I targeted this segment of the community in the hopes that I can get access to an even larger portion of the LoL community through association with these more established community figures. At this time I watched pretty much all the NA matches and had favorite players in various organizations whose streams I would watch. Counter Logic Gaming stood out as I was a huge fan of “State of the League” where one future CLG star in particular, Peter “Doublelift” Peng, was constantly featured. I become a fan of him and the team and decided to whip up something in the desperate and shameless hope that it would get posted on Facebook with a reference to my own struggling Facebook page. And it works.

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Immediately after this pic, Saintvicious was benched. Good work MeH-Tcom 

My first assignment as a volunteer is to make a website background for CLG co-founder and resident programer, Vodoo. Not an area I’m particularly strong in. This goes well and everyone is happy. Praise be to Zeus! I help out with a few more small things here and there until they bring me on as a volunteer for news graphics. At the time the CLG website covered nearly all LoL esports events so I’m constantly cranking out banners and thumbnails. I suck at graphic design but I adapt in hopes of other types of art making opportunities. This helps me get part time work with the team. I do more graphic design in other areas such as tournament bracket systems, jerseys, and diagrams, really anything that was needed or that I thought might be worth making. I try to squeeze in some cartoons or more traditional League style art wherever possible. I take more and more initiative (like yelling at jersey printers over the phone, good times) all while producing as much LoL fan art as possible. The skins get better and better, the community reacts amazingly (I love those guys). I’m lucky enough to work my way onto Summoners Showcase a few more times, and I squeal a little each time someone posts “Riot MaTTcom. WHEN?” Eventually I become Art Director and pick up more responsibility to produce different types of assets for the team and increase my involvement; interacting more and more with the players and the now team house manager, Kelby May. I start working on a new set of shirt designs for possible future sale that he gives me feedback on and we get off to a pretty good start. I’m not great at making screen printed shirts but I adapt and produce some half decent stuff for the team and everyone is happy.

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Though, half decent might have been too generous for some of the designs. Seriously, wtf?!

I get the chance to make two official LoL shirts for Jinx.com: “Baron Face” and “Graggy Ice”. At this point I noticed I was getting better at making shirts, finally. Eventually two of my skin illustrations get put into the game (Astronautilus and Pool Party Ziggs) and Riot flies me down to LA to visit the office and attend the Season 2 World Finals. My body is thusly filled with literally all the joy ever. I get to meet the CLG players and stop by the gaming house for my first IRL exposure to the pro gaming lifestyle. Spoiler: there’s no furniture. I go back to work making skins and CLG 2D assets in a variety of areas, while establishing a rapport with Kelby as he transitions into the General Manager position of the team. He gives me more opportunities and we focus on getting some merchandise rolling at last. A few shirt designs I make get printed and everyone is happy. I’m helping! I still do skin splash art while getting contract work with Riot through their community department and I get interviewed on Summoners Showcase #104. The Riot dream stays alive and Doublelift shows up at All-Stars 2013 and gets a pentakill while wearing a shirt design that we JUST sold out of (all that lost mon….err fan engagement, yeah, that’s it. All that lost fan engagement.)

DLyoutube5Doublelift was quoted later as saying “Where’s my assistant? This latte is too hot!”

After a wave of, uh, interesting roster configurations and a less than impressive performance in the 2013 Spring LCS split the team establishes a more stable lineup and avoid risk of relegation in the Summer Split. I get more opportunities to engage in the business and planning aspects of the team with Kelby and I start to better comprehend what it takes to run an eSports team, as well as the tremendous new challenges involved. I didn’t major in business so I learn and adapt. I provide a little bit of help when and wherever I can and the merchandising expands. Everyone is happy. I devote more and more of my time to team activities and they invite me down to MLG Anaheim for the weekend where I get to experience my second live event. I hang out with the team, get to experience the full dynamic of the five man setup within a competitive setting and help out whenever I can. I also get to finally meet all my Riot buddies that I had been playing ARAMs with (shout out to Riot BaconHawk, Terablo and MsPudding; you my boys/girls). I’m lucky enough to get more contract work with Riot but have to sacrifice some of the fun stuff by illustrating less skin ideas. Soon after MLG Anaheim I get the opportunity to live in the gaming house and get promoted to Assistant Manager. I’ve never helped manage an eSports team, but I’ll adapt.

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The team’s immediate reaction upon my arrival

Luckily enough it turned out to not be such a huge mistake and after some adjustment I started to find new ways to help out it any way I could. And that’s pretty much what I do as Assistant Manager: I help out. I’m the support main of the CLG staff and my masteries are 0-9-21. I try to find what needs doing and do it while helping to ensure that there is a positive environment that promotes winning. Comics, sketches of the players, catching mice with my bare hands (because I’m a modern day beastmaster); whatever makes people happy and gets the community engaged with the team and LoL eSports. I get to go to LCS matches and interact with seven amazing people on a daily basis to create content for one of the best LoL teams ever to exist. Because of CLG I’ve had a myriad of opportunities open up to me within the glorious LoL ecosystem. I get to interact with sponsors to help create new CLG products and continue to collaborate with the game studio that inspired me to grow and adapt as an artist, and a person. My quest of rising through the CLG ranks has been a long and fulfilling one that I am extremely lucky to have had. While I may not ever be able to be Riot MaTTcom, as CLG MaTTcom I have the opportunity to contribute to the game in more ways than I ever thought possible when I first started making crappy “art” during class.

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PFFFT. Basic math skills are for nerds anyways…

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by Kelby May, on May 4, 2014