To most RLCS fans, the best LAN events fulfil at least one of two requirements: incredible gameplay and a hype crowd or pros displaying their personality and interacting with each other outside of the context of the game.
While these kinds of events vary greatly in scale—think the Season 5 World Championships in comparison to 2019’s Beyond the Summit event—they both bring in new fans and create new iconic moments in their own right.
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Johnnyboi_i’s show matches between NA and EU last wednesday proved that the latter is still an effective means of creating incredible moments and bringing in new fans to Rocket League esports.
From Turbo saying that “mist looks up to Garrett like gods look up to me,” to getting #MickeyMoon trending at #8 in the US, the stream was a prime example of just how much fun everyone has, both fans and pros alike, when they’re really allowed to put their personalities out there.
No, they didn’t answer the question of which region is better. The combination of pickup teams playing established teams and high ping for said pickup teams made all three matchups fairly uneven. But it did answer the already kind of absurd question about whether or not trash talking is good for the growth of the scene.
This event, which has already been regarded as one of the most fun and entertaining Rocket League events in recent memory, could not have happened without trash talk.
For those unaware, the event was only supposed to be one show match between First N’ Friends (Chicago, Firstkiller, and Retals) and Guild Esports, the most recent European regional champions. After their regional victory, Guild’s Noly went on First Touch and started making some pretty bold claims about the NA vs. EU debate. The hottest of his takes was that M0nkey M00n is an overall better player than Firstkiller and that the debate is “not even close.”
Most North American pros did not take this well but it was Spacestation’s Retals who had the guts to put his money where his mouth was. Retals, already known as one of the most prolific trash talkers in the game, challenged Guild to a best of 7 on European servers against himself, Firstkiller, and “any good NA east pro.” He even put up $1,000 for the winner.
Johnnyboi_i jumped on the opportunity and made the match happen, but once it was clear that Guild was taking the series 4-1, a new batch of NA pros (GarrettG, mist, and JKnaps) who were watching at the time came up and challenged another top European Team; Team Queso.
Again, Europe prevailed, this time 4-2. Turbopolsa, who had been casting the last two series, decided to take matters into his own hands and decided that the tables should be turned: an established NA team, his own Team Envy, vs. an EU superteam, consisting of M0nkey M00n, AztraL, and Itachi.
Team Envy had a convincing 4-0 sweep. While some saw the event as a 2-1 victory for Europe, I more see it as a 3-0 victory for established teams. It proved that in an era where almost everyone can do almost anything, chemistry is the most important aspect of success in professional Rocket League.
Retals By Name…
But I’d like to turn our attention back to the cause of the event: Retals. Everyone in the scene seems to have a strong opinion on Retals and for good reason: he’s probably the biggest trash talker in the the community. Some love the banter he brings, others believe he’s the poster boy of the immaturity that is supposedly holding the scene back.
I find myself falling into the first category for several reasons.
I will admit that many pros—Retals included—do need to work on how they present themselves to the public. The debacle in the semifinals of the most recent NA regional between SSG and Envy is a shining example of this.
For those unaware of the situation, here is a video from Lawler explaining what happened in depth. Pro athletes—whether in esports or traditional sports—should be expected to handle unfair situations with at least some grace, and talking poorly about the tournament organizers in public will be understandably punished. Retals did post a formal apology on reddit, so there is some sense that he’s learned from this. Hopefully other pros did as well.
What’s the Real Issue?
However, I don’t think this means that trash talking, more specifically banter between pros, is an indication of, well, anything.
It’s an opinion I’ve seen far too often and one that I simply fail to understand. “People do not want to watch an esport where the players are mean to each other” is far too common of a take, yet it doesn’t seem to be based in reality whatsoever.
The truth of the matter is that trash talking exists everywhere. In professional and amateur sports and esports, in almost any multiplayer video game lobby, and even on an elementary school playground. It’s in the nature of competition to try and get in your opponent’s head by talking a little smack.
As an NFL fan, my favourite example of trash talking is when Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe would recite the phone number of his opponent’s girlfriend from memory every time they lined up against each other. It was hilarious and a smart way to get into an opponent’s head, but more importantly, at no point in the history of the RLCS has trash talking ever gone this far.
NFL fans did not whine and complain about Sharpe’s behavior, because they seem to have a better understanding of what trash talking is than the RLCS fans who send death threats to a player’s parents because he called their favorite player ‘washed.’
Banter adds more to Rocket League than it takes away. Banter is what gave us First N’ Friends vs. Guild. Before it was cancelled, the RLCS X World Championships was primed to be one of the most exciting and legendary events in Rocket League history.
Yes, part of it was that there hadn’t been a LAN in over a year, but another major part was because we would finally see who truly was the superior region after the NA vs EU debate engulfed RL twitter for the entire season. SSG vs BDS would be one of the best matches ever, not just because they’re two of the top teams in the world, but also because of the sheer amount of smack they talk to each other. Bragging rights are almost as important to these players as the money is.
The final point I’d like to make is that 99% of the time, the banter is friendly.
RL pros play together all the time outside the context of the RLCS and almost all of them are either friends or at least cool with each other. Players do not call each other trash to purposely hurt their feelings, they do it to get twitter impressions and to make their next matchup more entertaining.
To sum up everything: No, trash talking on twitter is not the result of a massive maturity problem in Rocket League. It doesn’t turn large crowds of people away because “they’re mean to each other,” and it certainly doesn’t warrant death threats.
Trash talking is the natural result of playing a game at the highest competitive level. It adds to the entertainment value, is ultimately harmless to the players, and most importantly, is not exclusive to Rocket League in the slightest. So please, let’s stop pretending that twitter banter is the biggest obstacle to Rocket League’s growth.