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LCS host James "Dash" Patterson: "I don't think there's any world where Cloud9 doesn't win"

GINX caught up with the LCS host to discuss working through a home production, how he is staying productive throughout the pandemic, and his thoughts on playoffs.

James "Dash" Patterson has been with Riot since 2014 where he started as an esports coordinator. From there, he worked for six months with others in various projects and to see if he could be a part of the broadcast team. 

He originally wanted to be a shoutcaster, but found that being the host would be more transferrable to moving back to acting at some point.

Dash has been hosting every single event in the LCS, from regular splits, to being at Rift Rivals, MSI, and through most of the Group Stages and on at Worlds. As the LCS moves into unprecedented times, we spoke with Dash all about the adjustment. 

 

So with everything regarding COVID-19, how are you doing? How are you staying sane, if that's the right word?

I think I'm doing quite well considering the circumstances of the world - all of us - that we find ourselves in currently. I think a lot of that comes from the fact I have some semblance of "normalcy" with a job that I still get to do.

I consider myself very lucky that I still have something that I can invest myself in weekly and focus on, along with all of my incredible teammates. So the fact that we have this project, this product that we're all so passionate about, is a blessing we can lean on. A lot of my drive right now comes from this idea that in some of the worst of times, throughout even history, entertainment has been such a saving grace for some people.

It's part of what has always drawn me to the entertainment and creative space to begin with; the idea of putting a smile on someone's face regardless of what the circumstances around them in their life are, and I think that right now, we have this incredible opportunity to kind of just affirm that belief, right? That entertainment matters, that smiling and joy and this shared love of something matters even in dire circumstances.

Dash Patterson LCS
James "Dash" Patterson hosts the LCS (Picture: Lolesports) 

I think in a lot of ways that has helped me. Obviously being a gamer, again, has been a blessing. The fact that I have an online community. I have friends that I don't see normally in life anyway, so there is also an aspect of my life that does feel normal because of that as well.

Being able to log on and invest in time playing League of Legends or some other game with online friends, and then I have a roommate that I live with in LA, so again, we're not totally alone; there's someone to talk to, but in general, I would say that the biggest thing that has been helpful has been to pull myself into work. 

 

In addition to prep for the show, what do you do outside of that? I know you've hosted The Queue which has been utterly fantastic; will you be doing interviews like this, where it's audio only, or is that pretty much on hold?

Unfortunately, I don't have a ton of info on The Queue right now. There's been a bit of a priority system put in place in terms of restoring content to our fans and you kind of see us levelling up week after week.

You have probably witnessed and will continue to witness things, again, returning to normal as they figure out all the crazy tech hula hoops we have to jump through as we have to do this off site.

That said, we've talked about The Queue briefly. I will say, I'm not sure how well it would work without being in a room with a person. So much of that show, while yes, we can have a genuine connection online and through video chat, there's something that's gained from being in the space with someone and sharing that space and that intimacy with someone for an hour-plus.

We're usually in there for an hour or two hours for filming that, and that intimacy lends itself to what the goal of that show is, and while I am not necessarily ruling out any Queues happening during the course of COVID-19 stay-at-homes, it's actually not the thing that's on the top of my priority list. 

I'm a bit more geared towards playoffs, and two, I'm a little bit more intrigued by what other things can we produce within the given circumstances from being at home. That might be served better by this situation anyway.

Does a sit down long-form interview work when you can't sit down with the person in a room? Less so. But maybe there's another show idea that is supported by the more Discord-y or Skype talking head four-box and maybe we pursue something more along those lines. That's all to say, in terms of future content or The Queue specifically, I don't really have any major updates for you aside from that.

 

Is the Queue mainly for players? Or would you maybe do something with an analyst, coach, or something like that?

I would absolutely. The Queue is meant to expand, or be able to expand to be able to incorporate people outside just the player space, but also to branch out beyond just the one-on-one interview.

There are ideas and thoughts to expand at some point to talk to more than one person, like veterans, or something with a theme, but we felt the best and safest place to introduce the product was with the player storylines, which are what generally are nearest and dearest to our viewers' hearts.

But actually, if people will recall, last year we kind of did a test pilot for The Queue which was with Jatt. At the time, it was just called Dash and Jatt One on One and it was just on YouTube on our channel and it was just about Jatt coming back to be a caster, but that was just them coming to me and saying, "Hey, we know you've had this idea for a long form interview for awhile and we thought with Jatt returning, it would be a good time to test the theory," and I did an interview with Jatt.

So funnily enough, the episode that got The Queue approved and shipped was not with a player, but all of the proceeding episodes have been with players.

But I totally intend and hope to pull in coaches, analysts--I mean, hell, we could even expand beyond then, but I think it's a natural course for us to start with the storylines that are at the forefront of the League, and that is the player storylines.

 

Is there any player that you particularly really want to get on The Queue? Or is it something where you have the pick of the litter, for lack of a better term? 

Well, actually I wouldn't say I have the pick of the litter. Obviously we have to approach and ask all these guys and they have incredibly busy schedules, so a lot of times it's just a scheduling conflict.

To your question about who would I like to interview, I know Dardoch; I would love to explore his storyline more, he's been very adamant and kind of outspoken at times about how he believes he is kind of ridding himself of the the shadow that follows him around his, you know, personality from his earlier days in pro league and he wants to kind of refute that storyline.

I would love to explore that with him and really give him the platform to talk about that journey and I think having a lot of the substantial amount of time would service that, so I think Dardoch is up there.

I always would love to talk to Bjergsen about his very, very storied career. That's from the player side; I realize those are both TSM players, but I've gotten people from 100 Thieves, Cloud9, Team Liquid etc.

FlyQuest, they're an interesting one; I think I'd like to talk to Power of Evil sometime at some point and Wild Turtle - even IgNar, actually they've got a few guys on that team that are interesting - even Santorin is interesting.

 

So, just the whole team?

Except their top laners, since they can't figure out which top laner they want to play with, anyway.

I'm rattling off names because I'm interested in so many of the players' stories. We started with lot of the mainstays; we started with the big-ticket names, but I'm interested in talking to Closer about his transition here to North America or FBI, because he's actually had an incredible split now, his second year in the LCS from the OCE.

There's such a long list of people that--I'd like to talk to even people who aren't necessarily playing anymore. What if we brought Dyrus back and did an interview with him, or with Regi about management now?

There's just so many options for that show and I am so infinitely interested in their human stories: how they got where they are, what the circumstances were of their childhood that maybe allowed them to be able to do that or what they had overcome to get there.

I just find that stuff so incredibly interesting so the list is crazy long and we haven't even got to non-players. 

 

I really like that. I'd personally love to hear Bjergsen's story about the beard that once was and now is no longer.

And now is a moustache.

 

I personally didn't like the beard but to each their own. [laughs] 

To each their own. 

 

How well do you feel the LCS came together to adjusting to an online broadcast? I know with the LEC they had some issues with Berlin’s internet, but it seems like it’s been a lot easier for you guys at the LCS.

I'm not much of a tech guy, but what I do know and have been told is that first of all: comparisons between the LEC and the LCS are just.. like, I understand the comparison in your question; this is more to people out there.

The teams are dealing with totally different systems, obstacles, everything like that, right? So, the comparison is, I think, unfair in the sense that they have totally different issues that they have to deal with then what we have to deal with.

Both teams are working through challenges but again, to your question, words that pop my brain: astonished, aghast, baffled, holy shit, incredible. All of our engineers, our software, out TDs, our directors, our observers, our graphics producers, our producers… they deserve seven metals each kind of a thing, because I'm amazed at how quickly and how well it came together.  

It was just this incredible display of teamwork by so many people more talented and more intelligent than me, to give me and the rest of the guys the opportunity to be on camera again within such a short period of time and to put these games out to the world. So, all credit goes to the work that the team did behind the scenes to get it up and running. I’m honestly just so wildly impressed and it’s going to keep getting better.

We’re hoping to level up the coming playoffs broadcast even more, so hopefully you guys will continue to be impressed.

 

Obviously the finals atmosphere is going to be different now. I know that you probably can't tell me what you guys have planned, but what are your thoughts on just the mindset going in when it's going to be more a muted scenario? 

First of all, as you said, you expect me not to be able to share much with you about Finals. One, that's correct, two, it's also because we're figuring that out right now.

It's a one thing when we have the show planned for Texas and have known that for a long time but we're basically building this show week by week at this point with our online capabilities, and a lot of what we are able to do with Finals is going to be determined by wherever our technical capabilities have risen to by that time. 

Obviously our goal would be to produce as technically proficient a show as we normally would for a Final as possible, so that's what we will be shooting for. Now the question is, how close to that bar do we come? And that's to be found out.

To your question about how I personally am coming into it: my big thing is "Don't fight your circumstance in this situation". We've done a pretty good job of not so far in our broadcast, and the audience is aware that we're doing this from our bedrooms.

You can see me sitting in my bedroom, or you can see Jatt's dog climbing up on the shelf behind him. Everyone knows where we're at in the world right now, everyone understands the circumstance that we find ourselves in and so trying to cover or hide or adjust for that, I think, is actually wrong in a lot of cases.

James Dash Patterson LCS
Dash also hosts The Queue (Picture: Lolesports) 

Again, it's just going to be about trying to strike and find that level of professionalism and polish and everything that you would naturally expect to find from the Finals broadcast, but with the acknowledgement that "Hey, James and the producers and the analysts and the casters and the graphics people and the software engineers are all at home". 

In terms of atmosphere: without a doubt it's going to feel different. I don't know how I'm going to feel until the day when I can't feel the crowd or I'm not even in the green room with my fellow casters. That's going to feel super weird, where we're talking about the series leading up and joking around, getting makeup and going through the process and being out in the arena before the show starts, and the crowd counting down, and thousands of people are chanting; obviously all of that is not going to be there and that will be missed dearly.

I think we might find that the online-only remote Finals is going to be special and spectacular in so many of its own ways because everybody is in this situation. Look at what it's done to a lot of communities already. Look at NASCAR, at the F1 iRacing things that they've done, and how traditional sports worlds and esports worlds have come crashing together, and people are driving greater viewership around some of these online events than they ever have.

Who knows, maybe we're in for this really cool special treat of the at home LCS Final where everyone just surrenders themselves to the circumstance and says, "What's given is given, let's have fun on this day, let's get riled up and passionate, and let's be in our living rooms and let's shake our apartment buildings with our cheers and our screams and make our neighbors wonder what the hell were celebrating in the middle of this whole hysterical situation" or whatever.

That would be my dream goal. Honestly, I'm going to come in with the attitude that this final means as much as any other final; I think that's still true, and hoping that we can get five incredible games and that the best team comes out on top. That's all we can hope for and we're going to make the best of what we got.

 

As a host of LCS and someone who watches their games, what are your thoughts on Team Liquid not actually making it to playoffs?

I mean, it's nothing short of a disappointment, that's for sure. I think Azael said it best. He said something to the effect of the four-time back-to-back-to-back-to-back defending champions of the LCS having made one change that is considered on paper an upgrade, to not make playoffs is a disappointment, and perhaps the greatest disappointment of a roster in LCS history.

I think that's key, because you were talking about the finish as compared to expectations. Are they the worst team in LCS history? No, quite clearly, I don't believe that at all. But is it one of the biggest disappointments in LCS history? I would argue yes, because the expectation of a four-time defending champ is that they'll get back to the playoffs if not much has changed.

So I land squarely in the camp of it's rather disappointing.

I don't want to take away the obstacles that they did have to overcome, which were a few, maybe even many, but even with those obstacles, I think the roster of five that they have, it's a fair expectation that they could walk onto the LCS Rift and make it to playoffs, so that, to me indicates something else.

I don't know what that is, hopefully they can figure it out and solve it moving into summer, because I still - like most people I think - have high hopes for what those five players could achieve if they can figure out how to work together. They just didn't find it here in Spring, and it is a bit of a bummer that they're not in the postseason to defend their title.

I would have loved to have seen a Cloud9 and Team Liquid final, right? With especially how good this Cloud9 squad is, like how amazing would that rivalry be, and maybe we'll get it in Summer, who knows?

 

I want to talk about Cloud9 because you've mentioned how well they've done with this roster. They've only lost one game so far but do you think they've learned from that loss? Or could further issues be exposed in playoffs?

I think if there are any further issues, playoffs is where they would be exposed. That's generally when you see those kinds of things exposed, because over a five game series... when you give one team a few shots at Cloud9, they might notice a trend, they might find the answer, they might make it repeatable and lay out the game plan. So if they were to get exposed, that's where it would be.

Do I think that in a 17-1 season where they drop that one game to TSM, that they are "exposed"? No. Does that mean they're a perfect team? Absolutely not. Cloud9 has miles and miles and miles to grow like any League of Legends team around the world has miles to grow.

I say all that, I still consider Cloud9 to be a wildly heavy favourite in this postseason, especially considering the records and the performances of all the rest of the teams behind them.

No one even feels like they're close to on par with Cloud9 right now. So, my expectation is that Cloud9 will run through the playoffs and win, but that doesn't mean it will be without hiccups, that doesn't mean I think they'll do it without dropping a game. I think they might lose a little bit more, and that will ultimately be good for them.

I agree with Licorice that losses are good in the improvement sense, right? Obviously they want to be 18-0, I'm sure they weren't happy when they lost, they probably weren't like, "Yes, we lost, now we can learn!" No, because you can learn while winning as well, but losing just puts your ego in check, it gives you some very specific things to look at, and it can generally point to some weaknesses a little bit more glaringly. I think that they have the right headspace about it, and they will utilize any losses to great effect in terms of improving.

I think a lot of what you see out of Cloud9 is what you would imagine this Team Liquid squad could look like if they were all on the same page and playing at their potential. It's just a very impressive Cloud9.

I would also like to see them challenged more. If you look at records that made it into the playoffs, they're not wildly impressive, so it feels like one of two things happened: either Cloud9 is so dominant that they're that far ahead of everyone, or maybe some of their competition wasn't as strong as we would hope and that's why the gap exists, but who knows?

 

Flyquest did a lot better this season than they did last time, we have Evil Geniuses who have done really well. It feels like this season has been way more unpredictable than other splits, would you agree?

I would agree it seems way more unpredictable. Unpredictable is a strange word because I think it depends on the scope by what you're looking at the league from. Are you looking at it from week 1 to week 9, are you looking at it present day to present day?

I would say yes, it was wildly unpredictable based on preseason expectations where people thought Cloud9 and Team Liquid would be one and two, and again, one of those things didn't happen and didn't happen by a wide margin. Golden Guardians out-performed a lot of people's expectations as well. So from that perspective yes, it was unpredictable.

I think if you are a more objective person maybe midway through the split you would have been able to decipher a little bit more of relative team strength. I'll caveat that with we do have Stats Bot, like the actual stats bot that does game predictions based on schedule strength, so it's about as objective as you can be and Stats Bot had one of the most abysmal prediction rates that it's had so far in its inception, so that might speak to what you're talking about; the unpredictability of this split.

 

Do you want to throw out your predictions for playoffs?

Well, I've already tipped my hat to Cloud9 taking it all when I was talking about them earlier, so I guess spoiler alert on that one. 

I think Cloud9's going to win it. Cloud9 beats 100 Thieves, I would expect Evil Geniuses to beat FlyQuest, and then I expect Golden Guardians to lose their matchup - well, that's funny, so I think Evil Geniuses beats FlyQuest but I think FlyQuest is the only team that Golden Guardians is probably capable of beating and that's who they'd end up playing, so Golden Guardians might make it out of the "losers bracket" by virtue of playing, I think, their best possible opponent.

TSM versus 100 Thieves, I'd probably expect TSM to come out on top and then you're probably looking at a Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses or Cloud9 and TSM Finals.

 

Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses in the finals would be very interesting.

Cloud9's gonna take this. I don't think that there is any world in which another team wins, but you know I say that and watch it happen.

 

So the script has already been written.

The universe will prove me wrong just to prove that it can.

 

Cloud9's victory has been ruined by Dash, you heard it here first. One last thing, do you think because we've heard about some teams playing well in scrims versus playing well on stage, do you think playing from home has changed any of the standings or if it'd still be just the same across the board?

I'm sure it has some amount of effect. I mean even just to the degree that when you move your computer to a new setup, it's going to feel a little differently. Obviously we were talking about the idea of game day jitters and adrenaline, like you might not feel as much if you're not on the stage, and so I'm sure there might be some players that are performing marginally better because they're not on stage, and some are performing marginally worse because they're not on stage.

I fancy myself a person who does better under pressure and kind of in the spotlight but other people don't. This is all to say that I'm sure some people perform marginally better and some marginally worse. I don't think that it had much of any effect on the overall standings because I think you're asking for a pretty large percentage shift in ability just by virtue of changing places, and let's not forget that these guys are very practiced playing in multiple setups: home setups, office setups, LCS setups.

I also think that the Scrim God thing: it's a great storyline, I think it's a little over spun. Goldenglue came in and played a best-of-five on the stage against Bjergsen and smacked him in a previous series. I don't see the Scrim God thing as much, like there's still pressure if they're still playing in the playoffs. I think all those guys are well aware of it and they're going to be feeling it. 

You are right, again like, the floor won't be shaking. That’ll be the big difference is they won’t feel the vibration under their feet, or the crowd chanting and stuff and maybe that will help them a little bit marginally, but I don't think it's enough time to make a difference in the standings. It's still going to be up to the player's ability and in the decisions they make on the day.

 

That's a good point. Thank you so much for doing this, it was a lot of fun.

My pleasure, thank you so much.

Be sure to catch more weekly recaps here on GINX TV and check out the continution of playoffs on 7th April, at 21:00 GMT (12:00 CET / 01:00 PST). You can catch it onYouTubeTwitch, and lolesports.com.

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