Chair League was founded back in December 2015 by Paul, better known to the community as Superjova.
Related to everything that happens in Chair League, Paul runs the Subreddit, Twitter, and Facebook, on top of managing recent hires to help out with Chair League. Outside of Chair League, Paul owns a developer consultancy company for software.
Chair League is a recreational eSport organization for Heroes of the Storm. Players can sign up on the official website, and either look for a team or start a team themselves. Players will receive an assigned time and date for when they play their match each week, and throughout each season can climb divisions to get better standings within the league.
Speaking with Gamepresso, Paul explained how Chair League has grown, why he thinks it’s been so successful, and where he hopes to see it and the rest of eSports move in the future.
The inspiration for Chair League came after seeing how many Heroes of the Storm players focused on themselves, and not the community, a similarity to other online games. “With Heroes, I had no idea where I sat. Hotslogs is a good tool, it’s a great tool, but it’s selfish. It’s about me, me, ME. So I made a basic website and it was make a team, bring your friends, make it happen. That part of the website was up by December 8th, I just made the basic website to create a team. You create a team or you could apply to join a team, and that was it,” he says.
Finding initial success in the website with 50 users by the end of the first day, Chair League began to flourish. Moving into Season 2 and beyond, the recreational eSport organization found its groove with divisions. “What was the big transition between the first season and the second season was the division system. If you look at British Leagues they have divisions 1, 2, 3, and as you play and get the top of your division you move up. That’s kind of what the new division system is going to be.”
Elaborating further, Paul discusses how the community was coming back to life. “The thing we are doing differently is tournaments. We don’t do them. It takes so much time. Instead, we play one game a week over several weeks, and you rise and drop in the standings to find your place in the division. It’s a unique approach within gaming, surprisingly, because in sports we do that. Chair League just hit 5,000 users this morning or something like that. Why did we hit 5,000? Well, it’s because we are using a model that works, different from a model that does not work. Might be a mistake, might not be.”
Simply put, “Chair League is successful because it’s not about the time commitment.”
“This is a place where people come to meet new friends, play a game of Heroes of the Storm once a week and try and get to the next division.”
Taking a look at Chair League’s structure, it’s run like an after work softball team. Gathering up a team of friends, colleagues, or maybe even people you’ve played with in Hero League, you can start to compete in Chair League. Even with an organized system in place, people have begun to mistake Chair League for a casual environment, a common mistake when ‘recreational’ is associated with a brand.
“Sadly, people take recreational and slap on ‘casual’, which is a very big stab to my heart. I never said this is a casual environment, I always said it was competitive. But it is recreational at the same time. I’m not going to self proclaim that Chair League is the pro scene, I think that’s a jerk move to do. Other organizations claim that this is where the amateur scene is, and what Chair League is saying, is that this is where you play. This is a place where people come to meet new friends, play a game of Heroes of the Storm once a week and try and get to the next division.”
With over 300 teams currently playing in Chair League, the system running Chair League was never, and will never be, flawless. Often times players get fed up with fighting the same team multiple times in a season, even if the system is trying to get more accurate information on your future pairings. Who you are paired up with is attempted to stick with other teams within the 10% of your win percentage.
The growth of Chair League is perhaps the fastest any league has ever seen in an eSport, with Season 1 having 500-600 games casted in total. Considering it only lasted a few months before the organization was on to Season 2, the growth is expectational even in comparison to MLG, ESL, and tournaments like Dreamhack. And perhaps that is because of gaming’s diverse community, and the accessibility that Chair League offers. “We are trying to concentrate on the fact that people want to watch others play video games. It’s a pretty unique phenomenon, but it isn’t that unique. ‘Why are you watching someone play video games?’ and you can just respond with, ‘Why are you watching someone play sports?’”
“Asking the question “What is the position of eSport players and teams?” Paul hopes to break down the barriers in eSports communities.”
Heading into Season 2, Paul explains that Chair League had 100 games to get organized and casted within the first week. With part of the foundations for Chair League being that every game gets casted, it didn’t take long before it became an impossible task. “I had to constantly be scheduling these casters, going through them and figuring out what combination of casters worked. With all these different games and skill levels in Chair League, how many games can happen between the hours of 5pm pst and 10pm pst. Who’s going to cast what games, who’s going to be going through all of them.” During that time, to most players, Chair League was most likely seen as something expanding – and therefore beneficial to all parties. Unfortunately for Paul, it caused more stress then he expected.
“Eventually I cracked. I don’t think many people know this, but I cracked during Week 2. Should of put me into an asylum, would of been good for me. I had a lot of help from a Ninjahood player, and I was doing 30-40 hours a week of Chair League. It was hard. Making sure every game could be casted, it was an immense amount of effort and I don’t go out there and play the victim. It was about 80 hours a week, when you remember that I have a job outside of Chair League. I didn’t leave the house for 2 weeks.
“I had to draw a line, and I came up with the concept of an ‘All you can cast’ buffet. Kind of like an all you can eat restaurant, if you will. So now what happens is there are 18 games that I schedule. The 9 pro games and 9 games from other divisions that I will schedule every week since Week 3, or Week 4, or whatever week I implemented it on. With the new All you can cast buffet in place, more games then ever before are currently being casted for Chair League. Casters have the ability to pick up and cast anything that they want to, opening the floodgates and endless possibilities for how large Chair League will actually get.”
And that isn’t all, with new features Coming Soon™ to Chair League. Asking the question “What is the position of eSport players and teams?” Paul hopes to break down the barriers in eSports communities and ensure that no players get affected negatively because a team didn’t make it in the end.
“Chair League doesn’t have managers. And there is this unique idea that Chair League is going to be introducing in the next few weeks, and that is the Manager. And now you’ll be able to recruit managers just like you can recruit a player. The manager gets special permissions on the website, and he can set up his own things. The captain would be in charge of rosters and signing in, but the manager comes in and plays the business sport; the fantasy sport.
“And then that comes along with the idea of salaries, or currency. Not everyone is going to be making money from Chair League, but I think people should be able to make some currency that is inside of Chair League’s castle. And the Manager would be able to spend or receive this currency. So now if he sees a Free Agent on the market, he can pick him up for some of the teams currency.”
“Chair League is creating a system for gaming that mimics professional sports organizations…”
Payment outside of Chair League isn’t even out of the question. Although it won’t be a lot at first, players will be able to make money off of how many viewers they pull in during their games. And, depending on the contract they’ve agreed to, they are paid out. There will be no more reddit threads crying that “Players were kicked off of teams!” And perhaps, eventually, Chair league will be recognized on a much grander scale by Blizzard Entertainment.
Chair League is working towards letting the players focus on playing, while someone else focus on the things surrounding it. That viewpoint not only differentiates Chair League from others, but takes pressure off of the players, and creates a much healthier gaming environment.
“Chair League is creating a system for gaming that mimics professional sports organizations, it creates professionalism… Why can’t we build a system that fills it for us? So that you, as a player, can concentrate on playing. Chair League will be the place that you sign up and as you earn your spot in the Pro Division, that’s when you know ‘I just got drafted into the NBA.’ because you crossed that line! You are now in that area, because that’s when you’ll see teams like Cloud 9 and Tempo Storm, they’re going to start saying ‘Shoot, that’s another route of money we can earn. Yeah, it’s only 500, but that’s a start.’”