Before competing in the most important competition of your life, picture being compelled to spend two weeks alone in a hotel room.
This was the predicament that players from the 22 teams competing in this year’s League of Legends World Championship in Shanghai, China, had to deal with before they were able to participate in the competition, which comes to a close this weekend. The competition is held in China.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, teams from all over the world were allowed to participate in the world’s largest esports tournament as long as they self-isolated for 14 days.
Throughout the entire quarantine, coaches and players were confined to four walls, with the exception of opening the door to collect food, get tested for the virus, and dispose of waste.
Head coach of the European team MAD Lions, which was eliminated during the play-in stages, James MacCormack remembers feeling a little uneasy when he heard what was in store.
“Our underlying response was that it planned to suck however that, as expert gamers, it will be fine,” he tells CNN Game.
We are accustomed to spending extended periods of time inside. We would practice and be occupied. That being said, it would be fine.
“Really, really strange”
As soon as the teams arrived in Shangai, the situation was made crystal clear.
Their effects were disinfected and desk work finished up before they were rushed off in a van transport to a close by inn.
According to MacCormack, the procedure was thorough, and once they arrived at the quarantine hotel, staff “popped” them into a room and “that was kind of it.”
He claims that the room was as expected, with a few custom touches.
To assist with practice and preparation, organizers had provided them with an exercise bike, a small desk, a gaming chair, and a computer.
MacCormack had the good fortune of having a view of the coast. However, a lot of other people were stuck with a wall view.
He claims that players struggled with jet lag and adjusting to their new surroundings during the first few days.
He continues, “The days were really, really odd because your sleep schedule is messed up and you’re out of contact with everyone.”
You don’t yet have a good routine, and you’re still getting used to it. Therefore, those two days were actually the most difficult for me.
A Mental Test
MacCormack established a daily routine for his players because he felt more obligated to care for them as coach.
It included getting up at the same time, sharing meals over video chat, and a lot of practice before the tournament started.
However, he claims that the mental strain of working, sleeping, and eating in a single room was difficult and worsened over time.
I didn’t feel like I could do anything about it. In that situation, it’s hard to know what to do, “he says.
“Our performance manager and sports psychologist went to all of our families and friends and got them all to record videos, which was one of the really good things that happened to us.
“There were ways we could ease the pressure.”
In such demanding circumstances, it was much more difficult for Josh Leesman, the head coach of Team Liquid in North America, to perform his duties.
He tells CNN Sport, “It’s just way less optimal than being in person because some of my strengths are just understanding the room’s mood or being able to empathize with a player’s body language.”
We did not use webcams during practice because the hotel’s bandwidth was insufficient to support them.
Team Liquid was eliminated from the tournament in the group stages, but Leesman did not use the fact that their preparation was subpar to prevent them from moving on. Damwon and SN Gaming will meet in the final on October 31.
We probably realized that everyone was on equal footing. As a result, all of the international teams that arrived are staying in the same quarantine hotel, eating the same food, and using the same computers and desk, he explains.
Players and coaches had plenty of free time despite tactics work and practice taking up a lot of the day.
While others binge-watched Netflix, others exercised. However, one experience unites them all: the food.
Staff in full hazmat suits served breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time each day, offering a choice of Western or local cuisine.
According to MacCormack, “a lot of the time your food would arrive and it wouldn’t exactly be hot anymore, which was not pleasant.”
“During the quarantine, we had players who lost a lot of weight because they just didn’t like the food,”
When they were finally transferred to new housing, many of the coaches and players had one thing on their minds after being starved for two weeks of good food: the hotel’s buffet.
He remarks, “It was honestly like seeing 100 kids on Christmas Day.”
“I remember sitting down with a full English breakfast and just thinking that I’ve never been so happy in my entire life to see a piece of bacon,” “I’m actually welling up a bit now.”
Teams were allowed to practice together once the quarantine was over, but they had little time before the tournament started on September 25.
Nicolaj Jensen, a player for Group Fluid, had found fourteen days alone testing however said it merited the difficulty to contend on the live stage.
Over 100 million people watched the 2019 tournament, making it the most watched esports competition in the world.
This year’s final will feature a Chinese team, so viewership figures are expected to be similar or higher this weekend.
However, fans could not cram into the stadium to watch the games live because of regulations.
“At the point when you hear the group get stronger, you can feel it. “It gets into your head if you make a great play and notice the crowd,” Jensen tells CNN Sport.
It was evidently a little less than ideal situation. Because that is what I look forward to the most, I would have loved to play Worlds in front of a crowd.
This year’s championship, like many other events in 2020, has been a new normal, and participants have made the most of extraordinary circumstances.
There are few regrets, despite the difficulties they encountered.
According to Leesman, “hopefully we won’t have to have another 14-day quarantine in 2021,” but “hopefully we’ll look back on this championship and think “wow, that was just really unique experience”.”
“I think sharing something like that with a group does bring you closer together,” she said.