Team Rogue has launched a new program called Junior Rogue to help people find their way into the Fortnite scene and esports overall. Popular streamer Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo has signed on to join the effort. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Team Rogue, in partnership with Find Your Grind, an education platform that helps kids pursue less traditional career paths, launched a mentorship program earlier this week called Junior Rogue in order to help kids interested in the esports industry. And Rogue’s Fortnite squad is on board.
“Too many kids feel like they have to go get the perfect grades to go to the perfect college to get the perfect job which creates the perfect life. But a lot of us don’t really realize what the job really entails,” Nick Gross, founder of Find Your Grind and drummer for Half the Animal, said in a phone interview with ESPN.
In Gross’ experience, when kids are actually told what life is like as a doctor or engineer, it doesn’t excite them. “So our whole thing is about shifting the focus to like what type of lifestyle you want to live, and what kind of careers exist in these lifestyle buckets that we’ve created, and really exposing what those are,” Gross said.
At the moment, the life that many kids want to live is one of either an esports athlete or professional streamer. It’s something that streamers on Twitch are asked about constantly. Even then, being a pro player or streamer is a very narrow view of the esports industry. There’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes, which can open up potential career paths for kids interested in the space. It’s this friction that sparked Junior Rogue.
The spark actually happened over dinner with ReKT Global founder and Rogue co-owner Amish Shah and the founders of Find Your Grind. They were explaining that many kids want to enter the esports space, but don’t know how. And that’s when Shah thought of Junior Rogue. He didn’t know what it would be at the time, possible a fan club of sorts. But over the past three months, it has started to congeal into what it is today.
Junior Rogue is planned to be a semestral program that will offer mentorship by Rogue’s Fortnite team and Find Your Grind. Mentorship can include competitive play, but also streaming, game development or other things that are related to the esports space.
Kids will get streaming assets, help with social media and access to Find Your Grind educational events. Each kid will also receive a $500 scholarship to help with any costs, such as buying equipment, along with a travel stipend. But the team will also look at each applicant on a case-by-case basis. If there is someone who is passionate and wants to excel, but doesn’t have all the funds, then the team will help leverage costs to make things easier.
“When we put this together, we knew everyone wasn’t going to be a PC player, even though we know the best players are on PC. We knew there were some console players, we knew there was an inner-city person, who may not even have had a shot at playing but may have the passion,” Shah said.
Shah also said that they’re hoping to take Junior Rogue international. Find Your Grind is already reaching people in other countries, and with its help, they want to engage kids in countries where internet is not the best, or where quality hardware is either too expensive or hard to come by.
For Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo, a popular Twitch streamer and founder of Rogue’s Fortnite team, jumping into education is not only natural, but part of the family trade. DrLupo’s father was a professor in psychology, and he remembers sitting in on his father’s classes when he was younger. DrLupo, 31, now has a 3-year-old son of his own, and understands how important it is to reach kids when they’re young.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity with Rekt Global and Rogue and Find Your Grind to do this. Like mentoring and building up young players is something that, because of my history in education, my father, and that kind of thing, it’s very important,” DrLupo said. “My hope is that the program will help make opportunities in esports more accessible for students, because I feel like right now the scope of what is easily available is extremely narrow, and that needs to change.”
And while DrLupo is passionate about helping kids, it will add to his already hectic schedule of streaming, running a team and spending time with his family. DrLupo hasn’t ironed out the details of what will be required of him, but wants to deliver on providing a quality experience.
“If you would have asked me three years ago when I first started — 41 months ago now is around when I started streaming — if you were to have asked that guy, that version of me, ‘Hey, do you expect one day to be able to help people directly pursue potentially a career in esports,’ I would have laughed. This is definitely a big change in terms of where I saw myself going. Which is good, it’s great, I love it to death. And I’m glad I have a platform to do something like this,” DrLupo said.
When Jean-Paul Sartre penned the line “Hell is other people” in his play “No Exit,” he wasn’t being literal. Instead, as people, we are frequently trapped in a hell of perceiving ourselves through the eyes of others. We cannot break free of the existence of the other.
For Team SoloMid this year that other is a community of fans and analysts with only small pieces of a larger internal picture. This isn’t saying that outside commentary shouldn’t happen, but that some of it inevitably creeps into players’ and staff’s perceptions regardless of will. Several TSM players discussed this during the season, as the team missed the world championship by the narrowest possible margin. So, this hell now applies to TSM. For the first time in its history, TSM is looking in at the world championship from the outside, while also bearing the brunt of a community storm that has been building since before the roster was constructed in the 2017-18 offseason.
As North America’s premier League of Legends organization — or at least its most popular — TSM is expected to perform well. The team has been a constant at international events as the North American League Championship Series representative. It seemed inevitable, just like it did SK Telecom T1’s dominance in South Korea and G2 Esports’ dominion over Europe across the past few years, that TSM would continue that success in 2018 and represent North America at worlds.
But this year marked a series of new challenges for certain old guard teams. Equally shocking as TSM’s absence, SKT also failed to qualify for worlds. G2 qualified but as Europe’s third seed rather than its first. Now the TSM organization is the hot topic in the North American League of Legends community. Why did TSM fail? Who should be replaced? Treatises and theses have been posted to a variety of social media platforms on whom should be kicked off or why the star-studded roster didn’t live up to expectations.
The trick for TSM is to now escape that commentary “hell,” the expectations placed by the community and that the organization had set for itself, while thoroughly examining the team’s failures on TSM’s own internal terms.
“We just have to find a way that both allows us to have success in the short term both in NA and internationally if we make it that far,” TSM general manager Parth Naidu said, “and also progressing as an organization moving forward. Regardless of all of the changes we made this year, I don’t think that keeping the same roster and staff together for this year, regardless of how much success we would have had regionally, would be in the best interest of the org.”
Two years ago, TSM assembled a different superstar roster that similarly failed to find its synergy until playoff time, narrowly losing to Counter Logic Gaming in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split finals. After acquiring rookie support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang to replace Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, TSM won that season’s summer split and was a pre-tournament favorite to become the first North American team to make it to the world championship semifinals.
TSM’s elimination in the group stage was unexpected, and the team was near-universally panned for the failure. When TSM decided to stick with its 2016 lineup for 2017 — top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and support Biofrost — expectations were similarly high, although not as high as the previous year. The worlds defeat had tempered predictions, but the team looked to have grown from and built upon the experience of its 2016 shortcomings.
Again, TSM failed to make it out of the group stage, leaving Cloud9 as the lone North American organization in quarterfinals for two years in a row.
It was time for a change.
“I think this was the first season where TSM has had the chance to experiment in the post-franchise era, and we took very big risks with both our roster and our staff,” Naidu said. “This was the year where I felt we kind of approached it with a little bit of hubris where we took potentially the best coach — at least based on his knowledge and experience, we felt like that was true. We brought over a bot lane with a lot of experience.”
TSM assembled another star-studded lineup in this offseason with the signing of former G2 bottom lane Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. The team signed former Immortals coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo and former TSM support Ham “Lustboy” Jang-sik as a coach as well. Everything pointed to another successful domestic season for TSM and a chance at a better result at worlds.
The team never came together, and the tough part for Naidu and his team is that there are no easy answers.
“Everyone on our team is insanely good, it’s just that culturally as a fit, things just didn’t click throughout the year,” he said. “It’s not like they didn’t like each other or didn’t want to work hard. It was just some piece of both in the game and outside the game didn’t click with them.
“We worked with SSONG and Lustboy and again, individually, they’re very smart about the game. Everyone on the team and the org respects their knowledge a lot. But there are certain nuances in terms of how they work as a staff with the players that also didn’t click very well.”
What is a staff to do when the team simply doesn’t come together? When there was no prolonged infighting? No individual player problems? When everyone works hard but just can’t manage to jell as a competitive team? It’s a lot less salacious than one player antagonizing teammates and a lot more difficult to grasp. Mediocrity is worse than being awful because at least awful is easier to recognize.
For Naidu, TSM’s shortcomings this year will turn into a new direction for TSM in the future, regardless of whether changes are made within the roster or staff. Team Liquid, with its squad of veteran talent, and Cloud9, with its seven-man roster including three rookies, both found their own individual paths for their teams in the franchising era.
It’s now time for TSM to do the same.
“We just have to recognize what our plan is, at least for the League of Legends competitive side, and go forward next year with that,” Naidu said. “Until this year we’ve always had the legacy of having the best players and then having success, but this loss right now where we’re not attending worlds ushers in a new era for TSM, and we have to see how we want to face that.”