search slide
search slide
pages bottom

At Worlds, Regional Skill Gaps Refuse to Close

Fans of League of Legends are likely more than familiar with the phrase "the gap is closing" by now. It became an ironic meme within the community as the three Korean quarterfinalists put the hammer to both Chinese and North American teams, a catch-phrase repurposed to illustrate the wishful-thinking that's informed so much international League of Legends discussion.

For years now, each Worlds has brought with it the possiblity that Korea's LoL domination might be at an end. China was the rising powerhouse in 2015, only to stumble badly in the last lengths of the race. 2016 was considered North America’s strongest year yet as a region, and yet they had a massively disappointing showing on the world stage. While Europe's H2K enjoys the distinction of being the last non-Korean team in the tournament, their regional colleagues had a poor showing overall. Korean teams seem to outclass their challengers more than ever.

But it's not quite that simple. H2K’s Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski and SKT T1 Kang "Blank" Sun Gu shared their thoughts on why that regional achievement-gap is so persistent, and why it obscures some real gains that have been made across pro League of Legends in China, Europe and North America. In a word, while the problem is often discussed as being about a gap between Korean teams and the rest of the world, it might better be called a built-in ceiling stemming from the way League of Legends teams operate outside Korea.

While Western fans and plays are very aware of the gap, Blank had a different point of view on the topic. "I actually think that the gap between foreign teams and LCK teams isn’t that big," he commented.

It’s difficult to agree with that at first, when you consider that the semifinals are made up of four Korean teams, but he expands on that thought to explain why these teams are having trouble advancing. "For these foreign teams, they have their own meta and champion picks and that causes a very big variable [between regions] that’s very hard to play against. I think that they’re very good [mechanical] skill level wise."

The difference between meta games can cause a rocky first week, as each region tries to feel each other out and adapt. International tournaments are relatively rare. All Stars is considered a non-serious fan event, Worlds and MSI are six months apart, and the Intel Extreme Masters series have difficult limitations on bracket sizes and team invitations.

While North American teams have been trying to adapt their rosters to meet these challenges, there’s one drawback: "If I had to pick a weakness about foreign teams," Blank says, "it’s that most teams import one or two Koreans, and that causes a loss of open communication. I think that’s one of their weaknesses."

Leave a Reply

Captcha image