WHEN news broke out that five MPL veterans have decided to temporarily step away from the competitive MLBB scene, I began wondering: “Should Moonton and the MLBB community feel worried? Should they start lessening the number of events?’
Let's compare, for argument's stake, the 2021 professional South Korean League of Legends scene with that from the Philippine MLBB scene.
The number of tournaments are the same. They run all year round, starting in January and ending in December. The M2 World Championship could have happened in the last quarter of 2020 instead of the start of 2021, meaning that the MLBB scene could even have had fewer events in 2021 had the pandemic not taken its toll.
But how about the likes of Juicy Legends? Well, this tournament seems to feel like an optional tournament for MPL teams as not everyone signs up. And besides, Juicy Legends was built to support the amateur scene.
You could also put forward the argument that the MPL: Invitational is an additional burden for teams to take on, especially for a side event organized by One Esports.
But the MPL: I has its place. I realized that removing the MPL: Invitational could be a major problem, as the tournament is emerging as a training ground for existing talent. Billy “Z4pnu” Alfonso even mentioned that the MPL: Invitational gave Duane “Kelra” Pillas the confidence he needed to take on Season 7 — leading to his explosive debut as a rookie in MPL-PH S7.
And just after Season 8, this year's MPL:I also became a testing ground for reserve players like Eman “Emann” Sangco and Sanford “SanFord” Vinuya, who have never seen or rarely saw the limelight in the domestic scene.
So, despite the packed schedule that awaits pro Moible Legends players, it wouldn’t make sense for Moonton to reduce their number of tournaments. This actually might make the situation worse, as players might complain that their potential income (outside of their salaries) will diminish due to the lower volume of events.
MPL players are slowly realizing the benefits of rest
Then there are other factors to consider.
For example, let’s look at the players who took their leave. They all have one thing in common: They have been in the MPL scene for a very long time, racking up many achievements throughout their careers.
Ashley Marco “Killuash” Cruz started the trend back in Season 8, but he has already proven his worth as he won two MPL trophies, and even competed in the MSC, garnering a second runner up finish with ArkAngel.
Then there are the likes of Adrian “Toshi” Caballo and Joshwell Christian “Iy4knu” Manaog who have never won trophies, yet carved themselves out a respectable career (even if Toshi was eventually relegated to reserve status in his stint with TNC). Both of them suffered from painful runner-up finishes and competed in the world stage, though they got booted out early on.
As for the likes of Carlito “Ribo” Ribo, Jr., Danerie James “Wise” Del Rosario, and Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna, is there anything else that needs to be said from these three?
With everything these vets have gone through, they definitely deserve their break, which was something that coach Francis “Duckeyyy” Glindro regretted not doing after Bren won the M2 World Championship. It seems that it is only now that the MPL organizations are acknowledging the importance of rest in their players' careers, to allow them to rediscover their passion for MLBB while avoiding the toxicity it brings.
Perhaps they’re even aiming to freshen up their minds for the upcoming SEA Games, an opportunity for them to not only bag a prestigious gold medal but also promote the advocacy of esports at an international multisport competition.
And if there’s one thing history has proven is that a long hiatus could be beneficial. Michael Jordan, Zinedine Zidane, and Anathan “Ana” Pham could also attest to that.
However, I also believe that this trend should also be a wake-up call for teams and organizations. With the stakes much higher due to the franchise nature of the league as well as the increased opportunities due to the game’s slowly growing global reach, and obviously the unwanted toxicity involved, teams should start digging deep and investing heavily into the importance of player welfare.
Whether that means taking a page from Blacklist, OG, or Astralis by hiring a life coach or a professional psychiatrist to check in with their players on their ongoing struggles, or something as simple as conducting yoga sessions a la RSG PH, player welfare should be given more importance now than before.
After all, the last thing we want are our beloved players getting overwhelmed from the realities of being a professional esports athlete.