Earlier this week, founding member and owner of League of Legends team Counter Logic Gaming, George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis, announced his departure from the team's starting lineup. The team's support player, Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black, is also leaving the team and organization completely.
Previous CLG member Michael "bigfatlp" Tang will join the starting lineup in the jungler role, and former team MRN AD carry Zach "Nientonsoh" Malhas will be playing in the top lane, with Steve "Chauster" Chau taking over support duties.
HotshotGG spoke to GameSpot regarding the decision to step down, and the future of Counter Logic Gaming.
Whose decision was it to have you step down from the team and why was that decision made?
It was my idea and decision to step down from a starting role on CLG. After being a professional player for over three years and as CLG grows, my aspirations and what I feel is best for the company have shifted. While I still enjoy being a competitor, the intense schedule of LCS has created more disconnect between the team and its fans I can help remedy not being tied to a starter's schedule. This, coupled with my desire to become more involved in the industry side of eSports and my confidence of the potential of the team moving forward, all contributed to this decision.
How do your teammates feel about the decision?
This topic is something that I have brought up in the past, but the real barrier ever keeping this from happening was a lack of talent in the NA scene making it difficult to fill my spot on the starting roster. Since LCS began, however, we have seen the talent level of the NA scene increase dramatically making a change like this possible. My team knows I have the organization's and in turn, their best interests in mind, so they support me completely with this decision.
What role will you have with CLG beyond being a member of the team?
Aside from being a sub for the team, I will also be acting as a coach helping Nientonsoh learn his new role. I will also be putting much more focus on streaming, community interaction, as well as pursuing other special projects within the organization. Things such as potentially starting a challenger circuit team under the CLG banner.
"My team knows I have the organization's and in turn, their best interests in mind, so they support me completely with this decision."
How do you think you'll be able to assist the team as its new coach?
As a professional player and a member of CLG for three years, I have great insight into how LoL is played at the highest level and how CLG interacts. It's often much easier to provide objective feedback when you're not a player on the team yourself. Of course, in most cases professional players know more about the games they play than their coaches (in eSports at least), but knowledge isn't what makes the coach valuable. His ability to objectively and properly asses the teams strengths and weaknesses and what needs to be addressed moving forward is what's important. I will be putting most of my focus into help Nientonsoh learn top lane and reach the level of potential CLG sees in him.
Being both a founding member of the team, as well as its owner, how hard was it to step down from the team?
It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to be honest. Playing professionally is very stressful, especially when you're under as much scrutiny as I am. CLG had a bumpy road in LCS this season, and there weren't as many highlights as I would have liked. I’m excited to keep contributing to the team in other ways and watch these guys take back our spot at the top of the NA scene.
As someone who helped pioneer the professional League of Legends eSports scene, what do you think your stepping down as a player means for the current LoL eSports ecosystem?
I think we're getting pretty close to the point that every eSports scene sees after it has been around long enough. Eventually, the first wave of superstar players begins to move out of the spotlight as a new crop of talent emerges. Players like WildTurtle, Bjergsen, and Flame are all emerging as perhaps the leaders of this next new wave of talent. I suspect I won't be the last of these 'OG' LoL pros to transition from our roles as starters over the course of Season 3.
Can you give me any of the details behind Aphromoo's decision to leave the team?
We had originally planned for Aphromoo to take over my spot top lane when I stepped down. Unfortunately, after several weeks spamming top and taking a short break after this Spring Split of LCS, he decided his heart just wasn't in top lane. Aphromoo is a great player and has the talent to play many roles, but he'd prefer to play AD if he's going to play on a team professionally. Unfortunately, the one role that really isn't up for debate on CLG is AD.
Do you think that Nientonsoh will be able to perform better as a toplane player on CLG than you currently can?
Obviously the team's success in regards to winning is paramount to everything else. We wouldn't have made this move if we didn't think Nientonsoh had the potential to become a better player than myself. He has great mechanics, understanding of the game, and most importantly, ambition. Will he be better than me by the start of LCS? Very unlikely, but as we saw in the last split, with the current format of LCS, seeding going into the playoffs has very little impact on final results.
Bigfatlp has always been a mid-laner professionally. Why decide to put him in the jungle role for the team?
Jiji really proved himself over the course of the Spring split. He single-handedly built Azure Cats from nothing to a team that was capable of competing at the LCS level consistently. He has always been a great teammate and held great understanding of the game. While he has always played mid lane, his strongest attributes translate very well to the jungle role.
"Obviously the team's success in regards to winning is paramount to everything else. We wouldn't have made this move if we didn't think Nientonsoh had the potential to become a better player than myself."
Bigfatlp previously did not live in the CLG gaming house. Will both he and Nien be moving in prior to the start of the LCS or will either of them continue to practice with the team remotely?
Jiji and Nien will both be moving to the CLG house as soon as Doublelift returns to the US from All Stars in China. The team will immediately begin scrimming in preparation for the next split of LCS.
With the new lineup, including you as a coach, how should fans expect CLG to perform both in the short term and the long term?
To be honest, we're going to have to wait and see. This roster was put in place with Season 3 World Finals in mind. Ultimately, there is definitely some grooming that needs to take place before we are ready to compete on the World's stage, but sometimes things just click (like WildTurtle on TSM). Ultimately, everyone on this roster has played competitively with at least one other person on the team before. CLG fixed a lot of small details which ultimately had a large impact on results right at the end of the last split, so there's a chance we could see CLG charge out of the gates as a force to be reckoned with.
Do you have anything you would like to say to your fans and CLG fans around the world?
First and most importantly, the number one take away people should get from this is that I am in no way 'going away' or diminishing my involvement or visibility in CLG. If anything, this change will hopefully create more connection between me, the team, and our fans! I'd also like to thank all of our supporters, especially our fans, sponsors, (Razer, AzubuTV, XMG, iBUYPOWER, ELOBUFF) and Riot. Without you none of this would be possible.