After the NA BlizzCon representatives were sealed, a rules debate on social media sparked controversial opinions and a distinctive line in the sand was drawn. Is our community ready for the emergence of a heel?
What is a heel?
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a heel, let me enlighten you:
“InÂ professional wrestling, aÂ heelÂ (also known as aÂ rudoÂ inÂ lucha libre) is a wrestler who isÂ villainousÂ or a “bad guy”, who isÂ bookedÂ (scripted) by theÂ promotionÂ to be in the position of being anÂ antagonist.Â They are typically opposed by their polar opposites,Â faces, who are theÂ heroicÂ protagonistÂ or “good guy” characters”
The terms has since been adopted in many sports and esports alike. Unlike professional wrestling, where the heel character is acting and may actuallyÂ be a really nice person, esports personalities aren’t expected to act, and thus, are never given that benefit of the doubt.
So, even though Filipino Champ is an incredible player that brings depth and tension to the fighting game community, he will always have his share ofÂ legitimateÂ haters. The same goes to DestinyÂ or Idra of Starcraft 2 infamy, Leffen of Super Smash Brothers Melee fame and,Â now, perhaps ourÂ very own KenmaÂ from Heroes of the Storm.
What makes a heel?
In a community brought together by mutual respect and courtesy, the esports heel, operates on a different set of principles. The core trait of an esports heel is the overwhelming value they place on player skill and the inflammatory language they use to place judgment on their peers’ lack of it.
Other players aren’t just bad, they are garbage. Strategies aren’t just cheesy,Â they are cancer. The game doesn’t just need a few balance tweaks, it’s completely unplayable. It’s these hyperbolic statements that ruffle the feathers of everyone around the heel, giving audiences a clear target on who they love to see eliminated, or who they rally behind in a shared sense of salty rebellion.
Right for our game?
It’s no secret that KenmaÂ has made some waves recently– first with his public criticism of a Blizzard’s tournament system (that, while fair, came across as sore loser antics) and more recently, a now public flame war with one of Heroes’ most beloved players, Fan. This article isn’t about that drama, but the question it has spurred:
Is Heroes the type of eSport that could ever embrace a Heel?
My first instinct is a resounding “No.”; not because I don’t like strong personalities or am opposed to conflict within esports, but mainly because of the overwhelming team aspect of the game. All of the e-famous heels I listed above are successful for one reason:Â they were very skilled at the game they played and have the wins to back it up. Love themÂ or hate them, no one can deny that they have earned the right to trash talk and flame whomever they wanted to. When they lost, they stopped talking because they knew there was nothing more to say– 1v1 esports have a way of doing that.
The Heroes difference
But that doesn’t happen in Heroes. Heroes players rely on their 4 other teammates and, literally, could not do it alone. This means that every time KenmaÂ speaks his mind in that distinctive, take-no-prisoners attitude, he is simultaneously speaking for 4 other players. It doesn’t matter that he is an individual, not to the public at least. His words are seared into the community’sÂ collective image of Naventic as a team.
Because, after all, aren’t the other members of Naventic Kenma’s teammates? Don’t they like him as a person? Don’t they, to some extent, support and accept his behavior? That is the assumption and, even though it may not be true, it’s the reality that Naventic needs to contend with. This split team personality just isn’t good for business.
Just look at the polite persona that Bigempct brings to our esport:Â
BigempctÂ has fans and they aren’t the type of people that will root for an esports heel. Now, every time these Naventic fans tune into a game, they are torn between rooting for their soft-spoken mechanical monster…
…or rooting against Kenma: the guy who ruins your Hero League experience by calling you a “shit” player that is the “cancer of hero league”. The guy who likely flamed you from the start of the draft screen just because you picked your favorite hero. The guy who people cheer for every time his hero is killed.
The Light Knight we don’t want
We all know that Heroes of the Storm’s best selling point is that it isn’tÂ Dota 2 or LoL– two games so polluted with toxic players that it’s expected to be flamed for no reason nearly every game. Our community prides itself on its inclusive nature and the friendly nature of the game is a big reason most of us play every night.
Kenma,Â personally, is one of my favorite type of gamers. Sure, he doesn’t seem to value peace for the sake of the greater good, but he has a passion for the game that can’t be denied. HeÂ wantsÂ to win. HeÂ wants the game to played perfectly. He probably gets immense satisfaction when he plays against a team that is far superior toÂ his, as it gives all ofÂ his studying and draft discussion validity: “See? NA is garbage and we have so much to learn!”
But I think his approach to cultivating esports success is in direct conflict with our community, and not in the good, exciting way. Maybe he doesn’t care, maybe he will move on to the next game in a year, but if he and Naventic wantÂ to be the “heel of Heroes”, they should think about whether or not any of us want them to be.
Or, in other words, maybe more players shouldÂ #BeLikeTurbo.
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Does Heroes esports have room for a heel?
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