Some VALORANT teams have different expectations of their players than others
While VALORANT has hardly got a storied history behind it, at this point it is safe to say that the dust has indeed settled to some degree, the beginnings of storylines have been crafted, and a lot of what we consider to be current top tier talent have settled into their homes, for now. We can only assume that two years from now every top-tier player is someone who is currently 16 years old, pouring G-Fuel over their cornflakes and grinding 14 hours a day in lockdown all summer long, but for now, this is what we’ve got. The orgs that have picked up teams so far have done so in a myriad of ways that we have covered here at GGRecon already, but today the focus is on the culture within these teams, both “orgful” and orgless, ex-CS and non-CS, international and national, old, young and everything in between.
One team we can look at for many intersections of these characteristics is G2. This is a team that is very much orgful, one of the more prestigious organisations around in the VALORANT scene with serious credentials in Rainbow 6, League, CS, Fortnite, and Rocket League. With orgful-ness comes expectations of professionalism and conduct - but we can be frank - esports teams are frequently amalgamations of young people playing video games with higher stakes, so if you’re reading this article from another universe, we will concede that these standards, while very much real, are still a far cry from most other industries’ standards of conduct.
G2 benefit from the veteran leadership of mixwell, a CS player who has shown up on several top-performing CS rosters in his time. He’s not often the loudest player in the lobby but is still someone who commands respect from teammates, opponents, and viewers alike. However, everyone else on this team, while perhaps not world-shaking superstars from CS like their captain mixwell, have plenty of experience on semi-pro teams at the very least between them, and this can go a long way in terms of in-game performance and fulfilling the actual practical expectations of showing up on time to scrims, doing the homework, etc.
However, for us on the outside, these factors can only be speculated about. Where we can see the difference is in the public-facing aspects of pro life. mixwell has by far the biggest social media presence on his team, having been a famous public figure for almost his entire adult life, and is very comfortable interacting with fans on stream and in real life, plugging sponsors and generally operating smoothly within the realm of business in esports. By contrast, most of his team are still building both an audience and their own people and business skills.
The other interesting aspect of G2 is the fact that they are an international team. VALORANT being influenced fairly strongly by CS both in the game and in esports has a tendency, especially in the EU region, to follow in the CS tradition of having rosters that are entirely composed of members of one nationality. For VALORANT, this was especially true early on, as teams were formed amongst friends, orgless and roaming the higher echelons of the infant scene at the time, hoping to get noticed and signed. When such teams do get signed, like HypHypHyp did to NiP, often they become international, with the NiP roster including a German and a Bosnian player in addition to the three Frenchmen from HypHypHyp. However, FABRIKEN, needmoreDM, fish123, nolpenki, Wave, Giants, and ThoseGuys still remain with all their players of a single nationality.
The obvious benefits of this kind of team structure are in communication and culture - as nothing is lost in translation, more can be communicated more efficiently in the heat of a match, and team meetings/arguments/business discussions can be conducted without mismatching ideas of what the cultural norms are in any given situation. In CS, single-nationality teams have hit the very top of the game, such as Astralis, SK/Liquid, and Virtus.Pro back in the day. However, G2 have absolutely stomped recently in EU VALORANT, and they have not seemed to suffer from Faze syndrome - their “superteam”, if you can call it that so early in VALORANT, actually works.
Since mixwell streamed his perspective during the WePlay Invitational (and many other tournaments, we can take a look at a couple of examples of how the players on G2 conduct themselves in-game, and the way they handle stressful situations as a team. First we have here a clip of mixwell whiffing a 1v1 in a slightly embarrassing way, and ardiis immediately chimes in with the positivity, consoling his captain by reminding him that he can either laugh or cry (while laughing himself), implying that the best thing to do in that situation is to laugh at the mistake and move on, focusing on the future in order to win the game, instead of focusing on the error and getting in your own head about it.
This is a great example of good teamwork and handling of a potential morale issue, reflective of ardiis’ experience in professional settings where quickly dealing with mistakes is the difference between spiralling to a loss with negative momentum or stabilising and coming back. On the other hand, we have a clip here of mixwell getting a little angry with his team - but recognising that his comms are no longer productive and remaining silent while the team struggles through ardiis’ technical issues, putting them at a severe disadvantage that is out of their control in the middle of an official match.
Once again, this is indicative of mixwell’s experience and professionalism, but it is interesting to note that emotions can and do get high - professional players want, as a rule, nothing more than to win, especially when they're at the top of their game as mixwell is, and we’ve seen countless rage moments on stages of countless esports events. What is impressive is his ability to recognise the anger coming on and holding back, allowing his team to be productive in comms instead.
In both these examples we have to also consider that the entire team is going to be aware of the fact that their comms are being streamed - the way they act is almost definitely affected by this. In LAN events, comms are also recorded, but not constantly pumped into the ears of the public, rather select highlights from team comms are sometimes shown to the audience online and in person in between maps and rounds. This is a feature of the online tournaments that really helps the viewer experience during COVID times when people can’t be gathering in stadiums to watch games, allowing us to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the absolute best of the best and actually compare comms between teams, which is something we have always been unable to do in every esport without some insider access, but can do now. However, this is far from the norm in esports, even with a delay on the stream, and the players on all the teams (most had at least one player streaming a POV) must surely be hyper-aware of this fact, which would therefore affect the way they behave in game.
Orgs themselves are also more likely to push professionalism standards on their players - teams that are just groups of friends or players banding together are less likely to have strict rules about behaviour, although it is not unheard of. They also generally push higher expectations of actual in-game performance - if you’re spending the big bucks, you do expect results. Orgless teams are also less likely to last as long as orgful teams, since their main incentive is to get picked up in the first place and actually get paid to play outside of prize money, and be supported by an organisation in getting sponsors and invitations to tournaments, etc. This inevitable impending demise looms over many groups-of-friends teams, but does not always take a performance toll - sometimes teams (like an earlier version of Prodigy, who are an agency that always fields a different selection of players from their clientele in order to promote them to teams) seem to just have as much fun as they can on their way to a more stable pro career.
Images via Riot Games