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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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From passion to professional play: How a UNCA League of Legends MVP hit their stride

When it comes to passion, many things can be the spark that leads to a lifetime of engagement and practice. For Mike Islas, that passion began confidently at an early age.

“I started playing “League of Legends” in December of 2014 and I’ve been a fan ever since. When I was a kid, I had this drive to know everything about the game before I went into it,” Islas said.

Rarely does this kind of drive stick with someone their whole life, but for Islas that drive to understand isn’t showing any signs of disappearing. 

“I’m still like that today with the games I play. I want to own and play every champion, I want to know all the abilities, all the mechanics, every strategy I could employ in a match,” Islas said. 

As with many competitive video games in the esports scene, there is a complexity to them that is akin to the most complex sports and tasks, with experience and knowledge accumulated over years of play.

“I’m just happy to be an MVP since I spent so much time learning the game,” Islas said. “I’ve only ever seen my love of “League of Legends” as a guilty pleasure, something that wouldn’t help me in the long run, so to have it pay off in such a way was really incredible.”

The level of dedication and commitment to playing well is akin to the hours upon hours put into practice by other athletes, but no amount of training can account for everything. 

“My mom taught me a lot of things, not just actively teaching me but through example. I never want to be a pushover, but I was taught kindness goes a long way and I’ll always keep that in mind,” Islas said

Islas noted one major influence on his life growing up was the popular “League of Legends” streamer Nick “LS” De Cesare, who Islas said gave him the confidence to follow his gut and make the right decisions during the tournament. 

“LS is just so cool; He’s overcome so much and he is so unrelenting in everything he does. He doesn’t care what people think about him and he’ll say what he thinks is true, instead he follows his own path and will say what he believes without worrying about what others might think of him,” Islas said.

Born in Rhode Island, LS “LastShadow” first got into competitive gaming by playing “Magic: The Gathering”, “Yu-Gi-Oh”, and “Super Smash Bros”. “Melee” and then transitioning into “StarCraft”. When he was 18, he permanently moved to South Korea and played with multiple gaming organizations there, coaching “League of Legends” despite never playing the game competitively. 

“When I was really getting serious about “League of Legends”, LS was one of the only people who I felt like I agreed with. I would think of something only to have LS repeat what I was thinking,” Islas said.

Through constant practice, intuition, and a little bit of luck, Mike Islas worked hard to prove himself worthy of the MVP title. And according to the man himself?

“All my hard work led to this and it’s amazing to scratch that itch. I love “League of Legends” and to be able to play at a competitive level is very fulfilling.”

Next time you walk by the eSports center, consider stopping by and taking a look. Whether it’s something competitive like “League of Legends” or more relaxed like “Super Smash Bros”, there’s always something to enjoy for every kind of gamer.

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