The League of Legends World Championships 2020 has won Esports Event of the Year at the 2021 Tempest Awards. We caught up with Riot’s Kristin Stewart Turley who accepted the award on Riot Games Esports team’s behalf.
The Tempest Awards are a time to look back and reflect on some of the greatest achievements and moments of the year past in esports. And that is perhaps no more true than in the Esports Event of the Year category. This year’s champ is the League of Legends World Championship in 2020. This is the 2nd time that League of Legends Worlds has won a Tempest Award, with the LCS also picking up the honors in 2018, and League of Legends esports as a whole taking home the glory in 2020.
League of Legends Worlds 2020 takes home Tempest Award Glory
Worlds is always one of the marquee events on the esports calendar and its one that was fraught with turmoil and difficulty last year. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Riot managed to put on an impressive show with a limited audience, despite the ongoing global health emergency. In fact, they were one of the few organizers able to put on such a show, with many developers opting to either swap to online-only events, or outright push the event back a whole year.
We had the chance to catch up with Kristin Stewart Turley, Senior PR Lead for Corporate Communications at Riot, who accepted the award on Riot Games’ behalf as the Worlds team is busy producing this year’s finals in Iceland.
Dustin Steiner, Americas Editor Esports.gg: What does it mean to you to accept the Tempest Award for Esports Event of the Year for Worlds 2020?
Kristin Stewart Turley, Senior PR Lead Corporate Comms, Riot Games: It’s an honor. I never thought I’d ever personally accept one of these awards, so I was quite surprised to be able to do it. With PR, usually, we’re behind the scenes and helping people go up on stage, so the fact that they trusted me to do this and that I can represent League of Legends esports even though I’m no longer full time with that team, is just a big honor for me and meant a lot that they trusted me to accept on their behalf!
How Riot dealt with hosting Worlds in the wake of COVID-19
Steiner: It’s a very exciting time for Riot Games. Currently hosting the World Championship right now. What’s been the biggest challenge for you guys working around COVID-19?
Stewart-Turley: I think it’s really that COVID restrictions are changing so much. It’s trying to make sure players, teams, and staff well-being are a top priority. Ensuring the safety of everyone involved while still putting on an amazing show. We know that League of Legends Worlds is such a marquee event of the year, and being able to do it despite the pandemic, is a milestone for esports fans. We’re honored that we were able to do it last year and again this year.
Steiner: A lot of developers have had to cancel events or push them back a whole year (as Valve did with TI) or just, in general, have large disruptions to their ecosystem thanks to COVID. What specifically do you think Riot has done to ensure competitive integrity and continuity in person?
Stewart-Turley: We say this a lot but we aim to be the most player-focused company in the world. I think that resonated with us during the pandemic. We focused on trying to weather the storm together. Esports is an important moment for all of us and being able to give this to our fans and players in such a tough time, we made sure to rally around that. The health and safety of our players, teams, and staff is our top priority, we would not operate an event if it was not unsafe, but we want to make sure that if it can happen, we will make it happen. We’re also going to make sure that we make it a spectacle that people are used to.
Riot continues to innovate in their esports programs
Steiner: What has Riot done to keep innovating and keep their audience engaged? Some games start strong but have trouble maintaining that hype. What do you think Riot Esports does that keeps people engaged?
Stewart-Turley: I know I’m going to sound like a broken record but we’re player-focused. I know our events lead is sad that she wasn’t here to accept this award, but I think she’d say the same thing. I think having those genuine connections with players and keeping that player focus in mind resonates and adds value to the community no matter what we do.
Steiner: Something that’s been an ongoing narrative seemingly since the start of League of Legends esports has been the gap between the east and west in terms of competitiveness. What do you think the LCS could do to close that gap on a programmatic level?
Stewart-Turley: Speaking as the former comms lead for the LCS, I trust the LCS team to develop. There have been some really exciting programs that they’re trying to invest in and continue to innovate. [This was conducted before the Quarterfinals] I am hopeful that now that we have two teams that have made it out of the group stage, one from NA and one from EU, which I’m very happy about because I’d never hear the end of it from my colleagues. Hopefully, we see some good results from them. I think it’s a joint effort, and while NA and EU have traditionally had a bit of a rivalry, I hope we can continue together rather than just region by region. All boats rise together.
Talent development in League of Legends esports
Steiner: As the former LCS comms lead, why do you think it took so long for the LCS to develop their amateur system? There was a time where the challenger scene did that but once franchising kicked in, it sort of fell by the wayside.
Stewart-Turley: To go back to our player-focused messaging, it’s a lot of listening. Let’s make sure the system works before we implement something and make sure it works for the players and what they need. I think we had to do a bit of a pause and listen when we went to franchising, but obviously, I trust my league operations experts and leadership to figure out the right systems. It also varies by title. Valorant, what they need to do to continue to build the amateur league, is very different from what the LCS needs to do on the League of Legends side.
Steiner: Now that you aren’t with the LCS full time anymore, what do you focus on in your day-to-day?
Stewart-Turley: I focus on media relations and external communications. I focus on a few different areas, so I help teams that might be understaffed that don’t have comms people. I also focus on a lot of Research and Development, obviously, I can’t talk about that as much as I’d like. I also talk a lot about how we work the way we do, to help people decide if they want to join Riot. So that’s been a big focus for me – obviously, we also have Arcane coming out November 6, and that’s our first foray into such in-depth deep storytelling, and with the players in mind, they’ve known these characters for up to 10 years. They have their imagination built around what this world should be like, and we hope Arcane does it justice in the way it should.
Steiner: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing to League of Legends fans as Riot takes home the Tempest Award for Worlds 2020?
Stewart-Turley: A big thank you to the players and the fans. We would not be there without them. We really appreciate them tuning in to see all the excitement. I know a lot of my colleagues are working on Worlds delivering the best possible experience, so shout out to them on the ground. Shout out to all the esports teams, our partners, the staff on the ground making it happen whether they are around the world or in Europe. And of course, Riot as a whole, we’re all really fired up for this exciting moment with Arcane coming out – Worlds finals and Arcane to follow so we’re in for a very exciting moment.
While Riot have accepted the Esports Event of the Year at Tempest Awards for 2020, the 2021 League of Legends World Championships are ongoing and are about to head into their semifinal round. For all the latest on that and everything else League, keep it locked here to Esports.gg.