Counter Logic Gaming airs dirty laundry

CLG spring 2015 NA LCS playoffs, image by LoLesports

With the lock-in deadline passed for Riot Games' North American League of Legends Championship Series, the professional esports teams slated to play over the coming summer finally stopped playing coy with their roster confirmations. For most of the announced retirements, the fallout was relatively minor. For instance, former Cloud 9 captain Hai Lam's decline has been publicly remarked upon since his health troubles early last year, and the team's subsequent pickup of newly eligible European mid laner Nicolaj "Incarnati0n" Jensen was more anticipated than surprising.

Not so with Counter Logic Gaming. Though former mid laner Austin "Link" Shin's retirement was also anticipated, his passing was far more turbulent. Link had been subject to years of community criticism for what was perceived as playing an excessively passive role in the team's often troubled fortunes—and in his passing, let free the coagulated mass of his built-up resentments in a 17-page summation of his experiences, thoughts and frustrations with the team. The accusations ranged from unprofessional practice environments:

"Everyone was playing path of exile or like street fighter or d3. No one played soloq except me and aphro. I was like wat the hell is happening. This isn’t a top tier team. But obviously I was new so I was getting used to it."

To disconnects between coaches and players:

"Monte failed as a coach in korea particularly because he couldn’t get to people. Maybe it’s the team’s fault, but as a coach you should somehow be able to get your players to listen. Maybe it’s the players being uncoachable but I remember Monte/Zikz telling dexter like a billion times hes on the wrong side or to tell him what he’s doing and dexter failed to do it or did it half-assed. Maybe that’s the reason why he got kicked/left i dunno."

And was especially critical of star AD carry Peter "Doublelift" Peng's effect on CLG's internal culture:

"At some point double lost respect for [Christopher Mykles] and once he loses respect for ANYONE your’e fucking donezo. It’s what happened with him + chauster/jiji/saint/voy/nien/seraph/dexter/me/ go FIGURE.

I think the biggest problem was that double always tried to take action. He’d get desperate or the blame deflect would come up. There’s a reason why every single one of our top laners feel like they are awful at the end of the split. You can guess why. It’s actually cancer. The trust within hotshot/nien/seraph all fell. Top lane was an island because clg became so bottom lane focused. It was the wrong way to play the game."

Link's outburst led to Doublelift posting a lengthy—if not 17 pages—defense:

"All his points about me being overbearing, loud, calling for ganks, forcing us into unfavorable lanes for my benefit - fucking hilarious. Maybe relative to the 2 mute solo laners I played with for 3 years (minus Darshan who is very vocal god bless him) I am loud. Maybe I'm lane focused because in context of our team, both our other lanes have been absolutely shit in lane vs top teams and it's incredibly hard to win a game with 3 losing lanes."

And it all snowballed out from there. Former players and staff left terse comments over Twitter either in support or disagreement with Link's assessments, while his summary of CLG's historical inside story prompted others to pitch in their own full-length perspectives.

Both Steve "Chauster" Chau and Cody "Elementz" Sigfusson, founding members of the official Season 1 team back in 2010-2011, threw in their own analysis of the team's flaws during their times on the team. Their inclusion in the ongoing multi-sided tell-all illustrated that the current public spat between Link and Doublelift wasn't just a reflection of two headstrong players, but an ongoing issue with the venerable organization, among the first to be established specifically for the game.

That, in turn, prompted team owner George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis to explain his own perspective and his plans for the future.

"From the beginning CLG has been the most "players first" and focused organization that has existed in the scene. That in itself creates personal story lines where the players develop and grow through their failures and experiences. The problem with this model is that players have the freedom to make mistakes. In a more authoritative and militaristic styled organization you don't let players make those mistakes. You bypass the whole process by telling them how things are from the start.

When everything started, I was a dumb 19 year old kid living in his mom's basement. I had a dream to make a community for everyone to support and be a part of. I wanted to foster an environment where everyone was nice, and we'd all work and fight for the same goal. I learned it just couldn't be that way, and I couldn't be that way. Discipline and the ability to control attitudes are what leads to success in young athletes."

What this actually means for CLG's future was left mostly unexplained. HotshotGG mentioned organizational changes and a shift towards a more authoritative and dictatorial style of team management, but deferred to explain the specifics some time in the future.

This isn't the first time that CLG's promised major changes in response to glaring weaknesses revealed over the course of the competitive season. They were in similarly dire straits back in August 2014, prompting HotshotGG to tweet:

"I won't let this happen ever again. I knew all the answers but never acted on them. Change will come, I promise."

Change has finally come with the summer roster, in the form of an overhaul that mimics Korea's SKT T1, featuring dual interchangeable mid laners with Eugene "Pobelter" Park and Jae Hyun "HuHi" Choi, formerly of Winterfox and Team Fusion respectively. Whether the leadership issues that plagued CLG in prior years have finally been solved is left to be seen.

Former coaches Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles and William "Scarra" Li were contacted for this article, as was former jungler Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp and former manager Kelby May. All have declined to comment. Counter Logic Gaming was sent a request to comment, and has yet to respond.