Meet the Team: League of Legends
The United States Army Esports Team’s reach not only includes Counter Strike: Global Offensive, but also extends broadly into other disciplines and gaming genres as well. The League of Legends team had a chance to show off what it was made of back in Boston at PAX East. We were able to sit down and talk to a few of the players.
For all of the members, gaming has all been a part of their lives. PorkCChop (Top) told us at length his gaming history. “I’ve been playing video games as long as I can remember,” he said. On the PC, his father played Half Life and Warcraft 3. “Half-Life especially because I was scared of the zombies and aliens in the game.” PorkCChop’s father also had tons of arcade emulators. Because things were rough growing up, Pork always had a competitive itch to scratch. League of Legends filled that role perfectly for him.
Valencia (Jungler), for his part, grew up on the Nintendo 64. Of course, that meant he also got exposed to the real hardcore stuff as a little boy. “I played Duke Nukem, Mortal Kombat & Mario kart 64. Ever since then I just loved playing video games.” Valencia eventually moved on to Runscape, and then to League of Legends via friends.
The Nintendo 64 also provided a launching pad for YRito (Support). “I mostly played Banjo-Kazooie, NASCAR, and Pokémon.” YRito explained: “My background in gaming really took off when I played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I played for a team called ‘Up In Smoke,’ and we played on Game Battles and achieved the 6th on the site for Team Deathmatch.”
However, all of them eventually were introduced to League and fell in love. PorkCChop mentioned financial struggles in one of the factors that motivated him to take up League. “We never had much money, so I’d just download free to play games. I played stuff like combat arms, maple story, and dungeons and dragons online but League of Legends was easily the most fun game. I started playing it in 8th grade.” By contrast, Valencia saw the game’s evolving meta as a consistent challenge. “League of legends is a game where you learn to grow a really strong mentality and following the pro scene for such a long time it drove me to finally start improving as a player around [Season 6].” For him, hitting Diamond was a longtime aspiration that truly cemented his competitive aspirations. YRito saw a slow climb up the ranks of the leaderboards over the course of several years, cutting his teeth playing mid for caster friends.
But what also unites all three of these elite players is the fact that they are soldiers in the U.S. Army. Some of them were excited to become that; others came to decision later in life. YRito came from a long line of men in his family who had served. He “Well I’m a generation Solider, so just naturally had to join but always an honor to be able to serve my country when I can.” His Officers have been nothing but supportive of his efforts, and when his lieutenant “found out [about USAE], he told me how to get ahold of the program.”
PorkCChop in turn never considered the Army because he already had planned on going to the University of California, San Diego. However, he craved the brotherhood and camaraderie that comes with being in the Armed forces. “I just didn’t feel passion for my studies,” he explained. “It was so difficult trying to study, work, and pay bills all for a cause that didn’t call for me.” That calling would soon be answered by the Army and how it would give him “purpose and a brotherhood.” He eventually signed up as a 14H, or an Early Warning Systems Operator.
Finally, Valencia was drawn into the military life through his positive experiences with a military school he enrolled in after he lost interest in normal schooling. Valencia told us that he did “not have a clear path in life.” After living in the military school for 6 months Valencia “basically decided this is something I might want to do and ended up joining [the Army] soon after.” His decision has paid off as the Army has allowed him to pursue training that would be unattainable to him on the civilian side.
All three of them saw something of value in the Army and through USAE were able to continue in their gaming passions. PorkCChop calls his teammates “instant friends” and were able to have a blast on the show floor at PAX East. Valencia is super excited about the future and what could come next with the team, as “after talking/playing with each other for over half a year” they all meshed really well together. YRito also cited the strong support from his own battalion that enabled him to compete and be a part of USAE’s LoL team.
For anyone thinking of enlisting, Valencia, advises future soldiers to “future soldiers are have a strong mentality! Know what you’re coming in for and what you’re trying to accomplish. Never quit regardless how hard you think it is. After BCT and AIT you will get to reap your rewards and start your future career in the Army.”
YRito also has some advice: “Do your research, make sure you know all about the field you are thinking about going into. The Army con provide a great career or an excellent start to a new life, career, and education. Times can get tough, but the people and the experience overall is worth it. Just remember who you are and what you want to be/do when you want to make that jump. The Army can be the best decision you make.”