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EU All-Stars on playing 'just for fun'

We talk to the European All-Star squad about what it means to come to Barcelona and play 'for fun' when you're used to playing for keeps.

The All-Star event gives pros who’ve been practicing and tryharding all year a chance to relax and play for the love of the game, maybe even troll a bit. Regional bragging rights are up for grabs, but the results won’t affect anybody’s seeding going into spring or chance of qualifying for Worlds 2017. We talked to some of the EU All-Stars to see if it’s even possible for a pro player to come to an international event and avoid the pressure that usually goes along with stepping on stage.

Jankos at All-Star

EU's Jankos has been a crowd favourite at All-Star 2016

“For me the All-Star event is very similar to normal competitions,” says Jankos. “The main difference is we do pick & ban basically in champ select. It doesn't really matter what we play, it's about having fun. But then inside the game, everyone still wants to win and tries his best to carry the team. So inside the game it's very similar, but outside the game it's more trolly fun, picking whatever you want, just having fun.”

For Rekkles it all depends on which game mode he’s playing. The 5v5 matches between regions are serious business, but a special game mode such as the Marksmen Mode allowed him to shut out any performance anxiety he might feel otherwise. “In the Marksmen Mode I just tried to have as much fun as possible and if anything it actually helped me because I kind of let loose a little bit and did more risky plays than usual.”


xPeke vs Uzi

EU's xPeke made it to the 1v1 semis but succumbed to the mighty Uzi

“The 1v1s are the most serious,” says Rekkles, “at least for myself.”
“That’s true for everyone,” agrees Peke, who also happens to have a crowd packed with thousands of fellow Spaniards he’d love to make proud and comes into the final day of All-Star as the only remaining EU player in the 1v1 tournament. “Everyone takes the 1v1s super serious because they want to prove themselves.”
“Until they lose and then they say like, ‘nah I was just trolling’,” adds Mithy, laughing. “After they lose they can say, 'I don't care about it'. I think if you don't care, you overthink so little. Everybody is overthinking so much because you only have three bans and there are a hundred champions that counter each other. And if you don't overthink, and you're just like whatever, you can just play what you like.”
“That's what I was thinking,” says Peke. “Before every 1v1, when I overthink, I'm like, what if he picks this, or what if he picks that? Then I get nervous. For example, I ended up picking Kennen because I didn't know what to pick.”


EU All-Star shorts

EU All-Stars pay tribute to the Barcelona fans

Even if the trollier aspects of All-Star bring to mind the pure love of the game that exists before your career depends on achieving victory, it’s the unquenchable desire to win that caused Europe’s All-Star representatives to pursue their dream in the first place. And the thousands of people sitting just a short distance away, cheering like crazy, keeps things from ever feeling too reminiscent of the early days.

“You still want to win,” says Rekkles. “That's the fun part of it. So I think it's hard to go back to how things were when you first started playing the game. And all the memories I have of season 2 or season 3 when I started playing professionally is that I was extremely nervous so I don't think I embraced the crowd at all.”

Like an adult who now bears the weight of responsibility but also has no desire to hop in a time machine and relive the insecurity of his teenage years, Peke has gotten more comfortable in his own skin. “I think [playing League] felt even worse back then,” he admits. “I was pretty scared of the crowd... You were really nervous about everything, you didn't want to lose. The crowd was getting you nervous and you didn't know if they were going to cheer for you or boo you. [All-Star] is how you dreamed it might be when you were like, I wish I was super famous, I could play and people would cheer for me regardless and that's how All-Star is.”

Mithy looking happy

Mithy calling the shots at All-Star 2016

When Mithy began his career, he couldn’t bring himself to focus on the crowd at all. “For me it was all about playing my game and being inside the game and doing well and beating the other team,” he says, “more so than it was about the fans and the job of being an esports player. It was just about winning and that was everything. I would never want to go back to when I started because now I feel like I have maturity in terms of letting loose and being more experienced with the whole thing, you kind of learn to enjoy the opportunity that you've been given, more so than when you first started. I would never want to go back.”

So, in an unexpected twist, the looseness that comes along with maturity nicely mirrors the looseness of All-Star’s moments of joyful immaturity. It’s all about letting the feeling and the joy of competition carry you to victory. If you’re having a good time, you’ve already won the game.