compLexity's Slemmy: 'Unless you’re winning at the top level, being an IGL can be a thankless job'

by Dennis Gonzales Sep 9 2017
Thumbnail image courtesy of compLexity Gaming

Alec "Slemmy" White is the in-game leader for compLexity Gaming, who are competing in DreamHack Montreal 2017 in their first LAN since they brought in AWPer Peter "ptr" Gurney on August 10.

Before his games in Montreal, Slemmy answered questions from theScore esports regarding the apparent lack of dedicated IGLs in the NA scene, and looked back on his tenure on Cloud9.

What sort of things did you do during the August player break? Did you play any good games that weren’t CS:GO?

It was good to get back home for a few weeks and recharge the batteries.

I played some poker, board games and visited with friends and family. As far as video games go, I have enough on my plate with trying to improve at CS:GO, so I try not to dabble in others, although I do get lost on Rust for a 12-hour session every now and again.

You’re still a pretty fresh recruit, having been on the coL roster for under half a year, but there have also been two changes since then. How has that affected your transition into the team?

Coming in as an IGL is always a much more complicated transition than replacing another type of player, but I would say that it was one of the smoothest transitions of my career.

Have you had a say in which players the team has picked up?

I played with the original lineup for around four months in which we showed only mediocre improvement. We, the players, want to compete at the highest level and are fully supported by the compLexity management in trying to get there.

I’m not the type of person who relishes players being replaced, but I think we all understand that this is, and should be, a business based on results.

When it came to choosing the new players we would be picking up, I did have some influence in the matter, but in the end, it’s a collaborative effort. With yay [Jaccob "yay" Whiteaker] we saw a young guy who had a lot of raw skill and his passion for the game is infectious. He is doing a lot of learning on the fly, but is taking coaching and critiquing fairly well.

Also, how can you not like a guy who can inhale three Monsters and drop 30 kills in a match when you need him to?

I was very excited to land ptr [Peter "ptr" Gurney] as our final addition because I know he adds so much to a team beyond just being a skilled player. He is a very intelligent and vocal player and, most importantly, he never settles. He demands excellence from himself and his teammates and I think that’s his best quality.

You came into the roster taking over the IGL role from coach Matt "Warden" Dickens, how does leading this team compare to your previous ones?

I feel both comfortable and fortunate to be leading this team. I feel that I have the respect of my teammates. Being able to give them constructive criticism and for it to be received the right way is not something that comes naturally to all players.

I also have the trust of my teammates to believe in the system that we have created, even in nail-biting, late-game scenarios. When you add in the fact that they are all very skilled and capable professional players, it’s an ideal situation for an IGL.

How would you describe your growth as an in-game leader overall?

My growth has been slow and steady as an IGL. It definitely took me more time than it should have to learn some of the tricks and grasp some of the important concepts of in-game leading, but with persistence and dedication I feel I am pretty well rounded at this point.

There is still a lot to learn from the top tier teams and IGLs, so I'm hoping I will have plenty of opportunities to play against them and continue to grow.

Do you believe the NA scene, or perhaps the CS:GO scene at large, is in a bit of crisis regarding a lack of proper IGLs?

I think it would be great to have more potential pro level IGLs coming into the scene, but unless you’re winning at the top level, being an IGL can be a thankless job.

You have to have a certain skill threshold to play at the higher levels and this includes the IGL. Everything being equal, why would you choose to be an IGL rather than an AWPer or rifler? Your stats undoubtedly take a hit being an IGL, so players that are trying to work their way up don’t want to risk putting up average numbers and being passed over by the bigger orgs for lesser-or equal-skilled players that are being utilized in ideal map situations.

I think this is one of the larger reasons why we aren’t seeing a lot of younger IGLs coming up through the ranks.

RELATED: mOE on what's wrong with NA CS:GO: 'We’re breeding aimers and all-stars rather than leaders'

How can you improve your stock as an IGL in the scene and get discovered?

I don’t believe there is a secret or shortcut for how to be discovered.

There are plenty of aspiring IGLs who have solid understandings of the game, but without a lot of repetition or experience leading and playing against top level teams, they aren't able to master their craft. It can be too costly to the immediate performance of a team (re: my tenure in Cloud9) or it can be too long of a process to see it through, so that is the biggest disconnect in growing semi-pro IGLs into pro IGLs.

The best way to make it as an IGL in my opinion would be to help guide a team through the ranks and gain status that way, or make it to the pro-level as a fragger, learning from IGLs along the way and then making the transition to IGL. Tarik is currently doing the latter, so that will be an interesting transition to watch. That path gives you the experience of playing versus the highest competition, but you’ve also observed IGLs working at the top level too.

You were notably on C9 as an IGL, though that did not end up lasting. Looking back, what could you have done different to improve that situation?

Joining Cloud9 was a much bigger step than I had originally anticipated.

I played very poorly in my first few events and some weaknesses in my calling style were exposed. Most of the team was patient with me and I was able to improve upon both of those aspects throughout my time on the team.

I felt more comfortable in my leading and individual skill at the end of my tenure than I’d ever had, but a few strained relationships eventually boiled over.

Stewie [Jake "Stewie2K" Yip] and I were clashing pretty badly at the end and it created a tension-filled environment that wasn’t conducive to playing at the high levels needed to compete internationally. I decided it would be better for the team to move on from me and find a fifth that meshed with the team a little better.

I needed to get smacked by Fnatic a few times at a big LAN before I was going to learn what I needed to. It was an invaluable experience for me, but it was unfortunate C9 had to bear with me while I went through the growing pains.

I will always be thankful for the opportunity that Cloud9 gave me.

One of the notable changes during the roster shuffle was OpTic Gaming picking up a full EU roster to compete in NA. What are your thoughts on this?

In my opinion, building a team of European free agents was the only viable way for OpTic to field an upper echelon pro team after RUSH and Tarik went to Cloud9.

There are only a handful of NA players that are of similar skill to those two and all of them would have either been a small fortune to buy out or were completely off the table.

Do you believe a team like this in NA will motivate the rest of the teams, or do you believe them competing in the region is unfair?

I think that the new version of OpTic will be around the same caliber as the previous version, so I don't see them shaking up the NA scene very much.

I don't know what kind of precedent it sets for future teams being able to move from one region's pro league to another, but as a standalone case, I am happy to be able to play against a European style more regularly and I think it will help elevate all teams that interact with them.

RELATED: CLG's reltuC on OpTic's EU team competing in NA: 'Hopefully it will make people practice harder and allows NA teams to play against the EU style'

Looking forward to DreamHack Montreal, North and Immortals look to be the favored teams, especially the former given their Grand Final appearance at Malmö. How are you and the team approaching the event?

My team and I feel this is a good opportunity to build some momentum heading into our upcoming online season. We have aspirations of breaking into the top half of the NA pro scene and every event or match is a step on the way to doing that.

Even though we believe we have the raw skill needed to compete with the world-class teams at this event, we are going to approach every match the same way we always do. Our team has to eventually get over the psychological barrier of being able to beat a team that is better than us in a high-pressure situation.

Once we are able to get a few of those big wins, that’s when everything will start coming together. So that is our main goal for now, whether it be at this event or the next one, we are looking to beat some good teams and start breaking through.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Discipline Priest Pharah a silenced Cavity 9mm Ryu Bounty Hunter. You can follow him on Twitter.