“I was so happy…I cried, they were tears of joy obviously,” says Sam Bouchard, team manager for Good Game University, who had a stellar performance at the League of Legends North American qualifiers a month ago. As reward for that performance, GGU became a professional team in the League of Legends Championship Series. “It’s really hard for me to describe the level of happiness but I can tell you that it was through the roof,” says Bouchard.
“This was one of the most emotional experiences in my gaming career.”
Tears were shed again last weekend by Team GGU, but there was no joy this time. GGU had finished their second match of the opening week of the League Championship Series and had two very emotionally stressful losses. That second game, against the now #1 ranked Team Curse, was especially heartbreaking as GGU was putting damage on an exposed Curse nexus before losing the match, a situation comparable to being stopped on the one yard line. “This was one of the most emotional experiences in my gaming career,” said GGU’s AD Carry, Brandon “DontMashMe” Phan, on a Facebook post discussing the weekend.
While some might scoff at the idea of grown men crying over the results of video games, the League of Legends Championship Series is no mere hobby. All of the members of GGU are professional gamers, all salaried by Riot Games. The players hold no other jobs, except for those still in school, and they put in full days of practice just like professional athletes would. “A typical day during the week day for GGU starts at 3 PM where we start practicing against other teams and ends at 10 PM,” says Bouchard. “During the weekend we usually try to practice as much as possible so our schedule can vary but we try to do from 10 AM to 10 PM.”
Those disciplined practice sessions are important for any team, but especially for a newer team like GGU. While some of the GGU members played together when they were under the sponsorship of Team Dynamic, the Season 3 GGU team is still somewhat inexperienced in tournament play with their current lineup. That inexperience may have led some people to underestimate this talented team going into the season.
“NintendudeX [Josh Atkins] is a mastermind and a really good leader”
GGU’s critics may be quick to point out errors the team made against Team Curse and blame inexperience, but Bouchard and the rest of the team are now looking back on the game to see how they can grow from that disappointing result. “We played so well and our game plan worked perfectly, we were decimating them in team fights and the game was ours to lose,” says Bouchard. “Unfortunately a few crucial mistakes cost us the game. What that game did though, it opened our eyes and we actually learned a lot from it and we now know what we’re capable of.”
Despite two losses in the opening weekend, GGU did show the gaming community that underestimating them is a big mistake. “I am extremely happy about how the team is doing right now,” says Bouchard. “We might have lost those 2 games but both of those games were also extremely close and we were able to show the world that we’re definitely up there and that they can’t take us lightly.”
Opponents certainly won’t take DontMashMe lightly in the future. He scored the first blood kill early in the match against Curse, and in GGU’s season opener against Counter Logic Gaming, DontMashMe had an impressive nine kills and seven assists with only a single death. Bouchard contends that Phan is one of the elite attack damage carries in the league, and says, “DontMashMe has been shining a lot… he really proved himself.”
“[Danny] Shiphtur [Le] is extremely versatile. He literally plays any viable mid champion and also plays them well.”
Sticking by DontMashMe during the laning phase and providing critical setups, like a Sona crescendo that led to a double kill for Phan against Curse, is Angelo “i am Anjo” Cortez, GGU’s support player. However, late Wednesday night GGU announced that i am Anjo is now a substitute for the support role, and he has been replaced by Lyubomir “Bloodwater” Spasov.
The rest of the team is equally skilled, and Bouchard has plenty of praise for his players. “NintendudeX is a mastermind and a really good leader, Shiphtur is extremely versatile. He literally plays any viable mid champion and also plays them well, and blows my mind with some of his plays. [Darshan] ZionSpartan [Upadhyaya] is incredibly aggressive and carried the team at so many occasions.”
Good Game University’s next big challenge will be this Friday against Team Dignitas (1-2). In 2012, then Team Dynamic struggled many times against Dignitas, who sent them home early from a few big tournaments. Looking forward instead of backwards, Bouchard says, “the past is extremely insignificant, we’re a completely different team, we changed our play style and the game change a lot as well.” A victory against this old nemesis would certainly show the world that GGU is a newer, better team than Dynamic was, and that first win would mean a lot to the team.
After facing off against Dignitas, GGU will take on Vulcan (0-2), who will have played Curse earlier in the day. The following week, on February 21, Good Game University will have a shot at redemption when they take on Curse in an early season rematch.
With over 50 games left in the season, GGU does not need to be concerned with an 0-2 start. In fact, Bouchard has very high hopes for his team by the season’s end. “I’m expecting us to place top 3 for sure,” he says. “If we keep playing like we played the first week and fix some of the mistakes that we make, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be one of the best teams. We’re working really hard to make it happen and I’m confident that my team will be on top.”
Whether or not GGU makes the top three is yet to be decided, but after week one there is one thing that is for certain: Good Game University is going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in Season 3. This group of talented League of Legends players is bringing a lot of emotion, drive, and heart to each game, and they’ve kept fans on the edge of their seats so far.
In the end, Sam Bouchard is proud of his team, and he sees GGU on a path to greatness. When asked what he wishes people knew about GGU, Bouchard says, “the only thing I wish that the world knew about us is that how seriously we’re taking this and how much it means to us. We’ve always been extremely underrated by the whole community and Season 3 LCS is our time to shine and prove ourselves.”
Photos courtesy of Sam Bouchard, Team Good Game University, and Riot Games