When Kontantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou-Napoleon told the European League of Legends Championship Series spectators that he received news Thursday morning that he would begin his compulsory military conscription in March, I immediately attempted to research exemptions. This didn’t prove fruitful, especially in light of the sentiment FORG1VEN expressed in his follow-up Facebook post. If it had proved fruitful, I’m sure FORG1VEN’s speech wouldn’t have aired. H2K Gaming would already have a solution.
I’m not Greek. I’m not a lawyer or a law-maker. I don’t have cultural or legal context to understand military conscription in Greece or speak about it intelligently. But I do know League of Legends, and FORG1VEN is important enough within the context of the game to inspire that kind of reaction.
FORG1VEN joining SK Gaming motivated the first article I wrote about the European League of Legends Championship Series. Since then, I’ve written articles about Gambit and H2K before the start of the split in which he has played for those teams. All of them have been conservatively optimistic, not because I personally wanted FORG1VEN to succeed, but because it always seemed to me he would. FORG1VEN will make the World Championship. FORG1VEN will at least go home claiming he bested his international opposition in lane.
Before FORG1VEN rose to join the European League of Legends Championship Series, it was hard to make a true case for an elite European AD carry. The magic of FORG1VEN came in that he didn’t need a team built around him to look good. His Lucian play for Copenhagen Wolves didn’t require numbers or analysis to grab spectator attention.
FORG1VEN is the kind of player about whom one asks, “What makes him good?” not “How good is he?” Many questions about FORGIVEN’s champion pool have arisen throughout his career. His first split in the LCS, he played primarily Caitlyn and Lucian, peppered with Jinx. In 2015 Spring, many teams advocated the strategy of banning Lucian and Graves to knock SK Gaming out of contention.
FORG1VEN values success in lane. He has said in interviews that he judges his opposition by how well they play against him in the laning phase. He wants to amass a powerful individual lead to give himself more leverage throughout the rest of the game. For this reason, he has gravitated toward champions with early power spikes, he has focused on honing a high average CS lead at 10 minutes. He has made an impression.
During a team fight, FORG1VEN uses re-positioning mechanics aggressively, pivoting forward to eliminate a target with burst damage, and then weaving out to autoattack. This playstyle correlates with the champions FORG1VEN has chosen to play, but that doesn’t mean he cannot play other champions. Observing the rare game where FORG1VEN plays a hyper carry like Jinx, Tristana, Vayne or Kog’Maw, he still has strong positioning. He doesn’t rely upon his teammates to peel for him. Even someone who doesn't normally value his playstyle must acknowledge his skill. That kind of player is incredibly rare worldwide.
If anything, one may argue that because FORG1VEN has put so much responsibility to play self-sufficiently on his own shoulders, he has put himself in more situations where he may get picked off. He has occasionally positioned too far forward, taking the risk to open the team fight by doing a great deal of initial damage, but miscalculating a cooldown or failing to predict the enemy’s reaction correctly. Given FORG1VEN’s playstyle, it’s impressive how rarely this happens.
It’s not necessarily a mark against FORG1VEN that his attitude has reportedly created internal conflict on the teams for which he has played. He demands commitment to the game from not just himself, but his teammates. This is a quality that many successful players have had across multiple sports and competitive games.
Professional League of Legends is exciting because competing requires stamina. It requires mental clarity. It requires the ability to cooperate. It requires talent. FORG1VEN has all of these things, and it comes through in his games regardless of whether he plays for the best or the worst team in Europe.
This is at least my sixth article written with FORG1VEN as a focus figure, but I don’t personally care if FORG1VEN goes to the World Championship or wins the European League of Legends Championship Series. In markers I consider for success and skill, FORG1VEN is already a great player.
What I do want is for FORG1VEN to keep playing League of Legends professionally. I watch League of Legends to see teams develop, to find answers to changes in the meta and to watch the best players differentiate themselves. FORG1VEN is one of those players.
Perhaps it isn’t fair to say that FORG1VEN’s skill when it comes to playing a video game should allow him to defer his military service for the rest of his gaming career. Military service is a point of pride and an act of duty for many young people. Yet to say nothing, however, would be tantamount to arguing that eSports isn’t worth the many sacrifices players and individuals who choose to work in the competitive gaming industry have already made — that success in a video game isn’t worth delaying or foregoing education, that the quest to hone a craft isn’t worth losing sleep or relationships, the risk of entrepreneurial failure, or investing one’s life savings into a dream. It's to say that what FORG1VEN has done so far isn't that valuable.
Careers in professional League of Legends are short. H2K and FORG1VEN so far this split have demonstrated that they are worthy contenders for the European crown, which is difficult to achieve within the limited time each player has to compete. If they should lose the EU LCS and fail to gain a spot at the MidSeason Invitational or the World Championship later on, it should be because other teams best them in the playoffs, not because of Yoo “Ryu” Sangook’s visa woes or FORG1VEN’s military conscription. Once again, it won't be just FORG1VEN losing out, but every member of H2K who has contributed to the team's existing dynamic.
As coach Neil "PR0LLY" Hammad said on the desk before the next game, H2K will fight for FORG1VEN, and it will work out. FORG1VEN has been forced to leave his team just before the playoffs once before. Once is enough.
Yet even if Friday’s match against Giants Gaming is the last professional game FORG1VEN plays in 2016 before he leaves for military service, I want to acknowledge everything FORG1VEN has achieved so far. Despite never having won the European League of Legends Championship Series or secured an international title, FORG1VEN’s play commands respect in nearly every game in which he participates. Spectators everywhere loudly acknowledged the shame it would be for League of Legends to lose him for another European playoffs.
To conclude his speech after Thursday’s match, FORG1VEN said, “I'm sad, but in the end, I'm grateful for what I did.”
What FORG1VEN “did” has made him one of the greatest AD carries in League of Legends, it has made him unforgettable. No ban or conscription can take that away.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.