The Fall of the Theorycrafter
Hello Reign of Gaming. Today's article is a break from the usual: instead of a fun analysis on some aspect of the game, I want to have a 'real talk' with you guys. In this point in time, I've been blogging at Reign of Gaming for a little over a year, so in today's post I wanted to reflect upon the time I've spent writing and discuss a worrying trend I've noticed recently in the community. The scope of this article is not only the readers of Reign of Gaming, who only make up two parts (news and articles) of the League audience, but rather the League of Legends community as a whole.
When 'A DIFFerent View' was first started as a blog by DiffTheEnder, there wasn't a central source of theorycraft information in the scene like there is today. There were a whole lot of individuals doing theory work, like myself with the Item Efficiency Spreadsheet, but there were no individuals that were prominent in the theorycrafting scene. From the time between when I started writing and now, the scene has barely grown in comparison to other aspects of League, such as news coverage, the competitive scene, or even competitive coverage. I'm disappointed in this, and I want to see growth and not apathy towards analysis.
I attribute lack of growth in blogging to two factors, greed, and the lack of greed: on one hand, there are budding writers who will only do their work if they are compensated (something that would never have happened a year ago), and on the other side, individuals going so in depth with their analyses that they fail to draw in anybody but the hardcore League-heads. There appears to be an inability in the scene to balance the two interests: there don't appear to be writers that can sustain both mass appeal and drill down to the specifics at the same time.
And yes, if you didn't notice, I'm calling out the League community in this post.
The decline of the theorycraft scene
Part of the issue today is that the standard of quality is too high to be sustained. Readers now expect perfection from articles, no matter if the writer is a veteran to the scene or someone making their first post. The standard is rising for quality, but there are no longer individuals who can meet the standard. You can see this evolving expectation by comparing the best posts from a year ago (Lifesteal Quints by DiffTheEnder, 12/10/12), to six months ago (Boots of Swiftness by VVinrar, 7/16/12), to ones produced today (Health vs Resistances by Gustaf). If you look at the individual posts, quality increases over time, yet the first posts were the most lauded by community members.
At this point, aspiring writers to the scene are being actively discouraged by the community, either because they fail to meet the standard of quality or because the community fails to appreciate their work. This has led to stagnation of the scene: no new names have risen in the scene, and there are no longer any independent theorycrafters of note. Reign of Gaming is now the only major source of game theory and information (not that it's bad a thing for us), yet the more popular we become, the lesser the number of major writers that are recognized. I'll go into this a bit more later, but keep the thought of "evolving quality" in mind.
What I'm asking here is for players to be more open for a lower bar. In order for theorycraft, for article writing to continue in growth, we need to be more accepting of new writers. Instead of regarding analysis and news of competitive play on a pedestal far above theorycraft, we need to look at them on equal terms. Articles like A DIFFerent View may not be as interesting as YouTube videos, but they are far more likely to help you improve your game than watching streams of professional players.
Stop stifling your creativity; voice your opinion, community pls
You can't expect someone to be brilliant right off the bat; if we see potential in a particular writer, we should follow their efforts until they improve to immaculate quality. Quality has to evolve, but at the same time we cannot tolerate low quality. The bar of quality has changed so much that if someone posts a thousand word opinion of a subject, it is heralded by the community as "analysis." This has led to the area of true "theorycrafting" to be outpaced by the growth of news sites (such as RoG's news section) and competitive coverage.
Six months ago, players were experimenting with all sorts of unconventional builds (think SivHD). Today, the North American metagame is an unchanging beast that is often dominated by the European and Asian scenes. Why? Because there is no creativity. Nobody is willing to experiment, to take the chance and break the meta, whether it be through ingame experimentation or mathematical analytics.
The independent writer has ceased to exist in the last twelve months. Everybody "famous" nowadays is a corporate; they work for an established site or team, and then have fanbases that hold every one of their words sacred. We, as a community, need to pay more attention to those who aspire to have success in League, the independent writer who has both thorough and concise. Analytics and theorycraft should be a meritocracy, not a celebrity-driven scene. We need to pay more attention to the niche writers, those who do not yet meet the community standard of excellence, yet are very close to that point. We should be commenting on articles, not ignoring them. We should discuss interesting analyses, not discount them as "trolling." Last but not least, we should also be dissecting thoughts; we should be criticizing the rationale behind arguments, not the final conclusion. If we do all of these things, we will see new names and faces in League blogging, instead of half-dozen of so writers in the current stagnant scene. Half a dozen people can't cover everything in League, so it is only logical that we recognize the up-and-coming so they can fill in the holes in our knowledge.
I want to write/contribute, wat do?
If you're an aspiring writer, find new and explored topics to write about. There are always things you can talk about, a niche in the scene that has not yet been filled. You won't always be successful due to the current community. Two years ago, Chickenmoo's Climbing Mt. Elo blog was the most popular LoL blog, yet when I tried to do the same thing recently in my Tumblr blog, the reception was only lukewarm. Similarly, you could argue that the hole has also been filled in theorycrafting by A DIFFerent View. Instead, find something that has not been done, and fill that void so you can carve your own way into the League scene. With weekly competitive matches in Season 3, there are plenty of spaces you can make a name for yourself through analysis, and there are many other possibilities you can take advantage of.
Don't try to copy established writers or sites. If you follow in the footsteps of A DIFFerent View, you're not going to get anywhere, even if you use a different platform like LoL Math. Likewise, we've seen prominent gaming names like SoloMid and GosuGamers launch news and competitive sites, respectively, with little success. Find your niche, exploit it, and be successful. Since Team Dignitas stopped compensating writers for analytical articles, I have seen less than a dozen articles of note come out from the community. You shouldn't expect compensation to come right away. If you have talent, someone will recognize you and eventually you will see results from your efforts.
If you want to be recognized, you can't just write one thing and expect people to fall head over heels with critical acclaim. You have to stick to your work, develop your writing style, and persevere so people recognize your name. There are some great writers out there who have the potential to be great, if only they would put out more than one or two pieces. Notable examples that come to me off the top of my head are DerBattery Rising's Damage Analysis Blog and to a lesser extent bummer2000's analysis of TPA's starting strategy. If you want to be successful, do what you love, love what you do, and expect good things to come.
Final thoughts: how can YOU help?
In the last few weeks, I've had many individuals ask me on how they can help contribute to our site. I've been kind of wishy-washy on the responses, especially since most "article" submissions I get are too amateur in quality to publish on our frontpage, but I'd like to make my response clear today:
If you want to be a successful writer, you need to put forth the effort to be successful. If you show me a spreadsheet with 500 numbers and formulae, and a 10 line explanation of your results, I'm not interested. Anybody can do math, but not everyone can explain the math in a clear and concise manner. If you want to be taken seriously, show me (or the community) a completed piece that accurately reflects the level of effort you put into it.
For those who aren't quite as interested in math: if you want to write a guide for the community, you need to push in a new direction and find new unexplored topics to talk about. As alluded to before, it's much more difficult to break down and find a topic than it used to be, but it's still very possible. This means NOT proving that Muramana does more damage than Archangel's on Ryze, because every aspiring theorycrafter has done this. Instead, find something that nobody has done yet (there are dozens of possibilities you can write about) and make your name known. I can assure you, I read nearly every relevant thread in the Reign of Gaming forums and anything that makes the top 30-40 on /r/leagueoflegends. If you're successful enough to be recognized in one of these forums, I'm taking notes. If something you write is interesting, someone (not necessarily me) will contact you. I don't want to see unfinished projects or potential ideas; I want to see people who can think of ideas and execute them successfully.
I don't want to see any more stagnation in the blogging scene. I want to see growth. I want to see writing. I want to see math. And most of all, I want the scene to be successful. In order to do this, we cannot continue on this path of stagnation. In pursuit of the standard of excellence, we have sacrificed the lifeblood of the community. If the theorycraft scene is to be successful in the coming months (or years), we need to be more accepting of our peers. Instead of throwing community icons on a pedestal and the unknowns under the bus, we as a community need to recognize and appreciate talent in writing. Otherwise, we can say goodbye to blogging and analysis.
Disclaimer: This article is 100% my opinion and not representative of the Reign of Gaming staff's thoughts.
For more of my work:
- Climbing Mt. Elo Hell (ranked games blog): vvinrar.tumblr.com
- #VVinning (RoG blogs): reignofgaming.net/tag/vvinrar
- Item Efficiency Spreadsheet at bit.ly/s3items
To contact me, come to the "A DIFFerent View" chatroom (NA) or drop a line at VVinrar@ReignOfGaming.net