Playing to a home crowd

By Jem Alexander

European teams have performed very well at Worlds 2015 so far, with Origen and Fnatic emerging from the Group Stage and heading into the Quarterfinals in London this week. Both of these teams had great support from the French audience during their time in Paris, not least because of their French team members, Origen's Paul "SoaZ" Boyer and Fnatic's Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim. They've been playing League of Legends professionally for quite a while and neither one is a stranger to performing at Worlds.

But this is the first time Worlds has visited their home country. So what's it like playing in the biggest League of Legends tournament in the world with a home audience? "It feels good because everyone is supporting the Frenchies," SoaZ explains, passing off the colloquialism far more confidently than we ever could. "They don't just cheer for us, they cheer for the whole team as well. It's a pretty good feeling when people cheer for us. It always makes me smile."

It's no surprise that YellOwStaR agrees with his ex-teammate, beaming as he tells us how much fun he's having playing in Paris. "It's really exciting because it's the best tournament of the year, the crowd is really cheerful and they support you. They chant your name, they chant your team. It's just super exciting and it gives you a boost of confidence."

"But at the same time, it's really stressful," YellOwStaR continues. "If you [mess up] your matches, you will feel really bad...It's extra pressure to perform. But at the same time, if you perform really well you get a better reward."

As professional gamers, risk-reward isn't a new concept to these two and both encountered defeat as well as securing impressive victories on the stage in Paris. For SoaZ, it's less about the pressure of facing a loss in front of his biggest fans, and more about not letting the audience's enthusiastic cheering distract him from the game. "I try not to focus on it. It's like, you don't want to be over hyped because then you might make a mistake if you're over aggressive. So you try to focus on your own thing and try not to let the crowd affect you at all. Whether it's negative or positive, it's the same thing. Negative, you could play too scared. If they're cheering for you, you may play too aggressive."

Not only are these audiences specifically focusing their cheers towards the French players, but they're doing so more forcefully than any other audience YellOwStaR has encountered. "I have the feeling that they know how to be loud. How to express their emotions," he tells us. When pressed to describe how that differs from last year's Worlds audience he says, simply: "Louder, for sure."

SoaZ agrees. "They tend to be more excited. Just happy to see the games and see everyone play and cheer for the good plays. More excited than other crowds I've been to, especially compared to last Worlds." This exuberance manifests in other ways, too. Such as the seemingly perpetual "audience wave" that filled Le Dock Pullman several times a day. "My friend who came yesterday told me that they did a wave in the crowd and it lasted 10 minutes!" SoaZ laughs at the thought. "That's pretty crazy."

Both YellOwStaR and SoaZ had friends and family in the audience, though their tight practice schedules made it hard to find the time to see them. "I've had a lot of friends and family in the audience," YellOwStaR tells us. "They messaged me and I said 'I won't be able to see you because I have to practice.'" Undeterred, his friends and family snuck onto the end of the Meet The Fans queue to surprise him after the show. "When we had the fan meet I saw them and they were screaming my name! It felt really weird to me because I didn't take the time to meet up with them because we had a really short period of time between scrims. But it's really special to me. I'm really close to my family and I don't see my friends often since I stopped university."

People travelled from all over the world to congregate in Paris for the Worlds Group Stage. In some cases, however, it was very easy to pinpoint the French members of the audience, as SoaZ explains. "The first day we played I noticed in the crowd there were like 10, 15 people waving baguettes." As he tells us about it he can't help but laugh. "Instead of the [inflatable thunder sticks given out to the audience], they would bang together baguettes! It was super funny."

This became something of a running joke among the casters and community, with fans mocking up concept art for a new Fiora skin, complete with a fencing rapier in the shape of a baguette. "Yeah, there's fan art on Twitter and stuff. One guy made a Fiora weapon with a baguette with a 3D printer."

The appreciation and pride these guys feel about their loving audience is evident from the looks on their faces as we chatted. YellOwStaR eloquently puts this into words as he tells me that he's, "always really thankful to the fans because even though sometimes you are doing bad, they are still there for you and sending you messages. But when you're doing well you have plenty of supportive messages. I'm really grateful to them."

"I want to say thanks to every European fan," SoaZ says. "Or anyone who is cheering for Origen and myself. If they're here or at home. Thank you!"

Origen, along with their opponents the Flash Wolves, will be playing in the first match of the Quarterfinals on Thursday, October 15 at 17:00 BST, 18:00 CEST, or 9:00 AM PT.

You can see Fnatic play in their Quarterfinals match against Edward Gaming on Saturday, October 17 at 3:00 PM CEST / 14:00 BST / 6:00 AM PT.

For more Quarterfinals and Worlds coverage, visit Lolesports.

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