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During the 2019 League of Legends World Championships group stage, Duan “Candice” Yushuang took a 15-hour flight from Berlin to Shanghai to host the game’s 10th-anniversary celebration. At this event, Riot Games revealed four new game projects, finally proving the plurality of its company name. It was a significant milestone for the publisher, one which Yushuang had to be there for. As well as being the host of the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China, she has also now become the face of the game in the region.
Unlike some other well-known esports hosts, such as Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere or Paul “Redeye” Chaloner, who’ve had somewhere between six to even 20 years of esports hosting experience, Yushuang joined the esports industry only three years ago. In 2015, she graduated from the Communication University of China with a bachelor’s degree in English Broadcasting and Anchoring. One year later, she made her journey into esports.
“It was in the April of 2016, I saw Riot Games was looking for bilingual esports host in Shanghai and I just applied [for] the job,” Yushuang told The Esports Observer. “It was a part-time job and I had a full-time job in Beijing as a broadcasting DJ in a radio station. Every weekend, I needed to get the 6 am flight on Friday morning from Beijing to Shanghai, and take the latest flight to return to Beijing on Sunday. Those transport fees were paid by myself.”
Yushuang kept this working mode throughout a full season of LPL in 2016. Whatever risks she paid, she earned back through her passion for League of Legends. “I didn’t pay much attention to my income from the League of Legends esports scene, I just love the game and the community.”
In 2016, the League of Legends World Championships was hosted in the United States. For this event, Riot Games needed a bilingual frontline correspondent for about two months in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In other words, Yushuang had to decide whether or not to quit her full-time job to report on the World Championships. She chose League of Legends esports.
In January 2017, Yushuang officially joined Shanghai Dominion as an esports host. This is an esports planning and production company fully owned by Riot Games. In the same year, the League of Legends World Championships first came to China. At that time, the grand final filled over 44,000 seats in Beijing’s national stadium (a.k.a. the “Birds Nest”)—also the main stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and one of the biggest stadiums in China.
“I always believed that as long as you are good enough, you will win recognition from somebody” said Yushuang. During the World Championships in 2017, wardrobe which reflected Chinese culture, as well as her ability to interview in fluent English, made the world remember her name.
Between 2018-2019, the Chinese League of Legends esports scene has skyrocketed and become a lifestyle in the country. In team performance, Chinese team Royal Never Give-Up won the 2018 Mid-Season Invitation (MSI), and Invictus Gaming won the 2018 League of Legends World Championship. Riot Games and its parent company Tencent Holdings also established a joint venture, TJ Sports, to deal with all esports business for Riot Games’ products in China, mainly League of Legends. In sponsorships and partnerships, LPL not only increased its participating teams to 16 (higher than any other region), but also sponsors of the tournament now total 13, and include Mercedes-Benz, Nike, KFC, and Intel.
With more and more brands connecting LPL and League of Legends, Yushuang’s career includes not just on-stage hosting, but also a number of offline esports events with fans, brands, and even the Chinese city officials.
Before the 2019 League of Legends World Championships, Yushuang was involved in a project with Mercedes-Benz and LPL called the “LPL Go on World,” an international tour in cooperation with multiple city governments. The tour featured Mercedes-Benz branded products, as well as cultural symbols of both the LPL and multiple cities. These cities included Beijing, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Moscow, Stuttgart, and Berlin.
“Hosting those brand events were very different compared to hosting normal competitions in the LPL,” said Yushuang. “It will be more pressure to host competitions than brand events, due to it [being] live, and I need to think carefully about every question and word. For the brand events, it’s about the engagement between fans and the brand, making some interesting and funny content for the fans, brands, and the city.
“It’s good to see the Chinese government has seen the value of the esports industry,” she added. “There are six Chinese esports organizations which already have their home venues in five cities.”
For every influencer on the internet, regardless of industry, there will be compliments and criticism. Speaking about how she was able to handle criticism from the internet, she said it all came from her understanding of the digital world.
“On the internet, no matter how good you are, there will be some people who like you and some people that just don’t. Sometimes, people will change their thoughts about you and forget their criticism. I want to show the people who supported me the best parts of my life and work, and make sure their support is worthwhile.”
As the face of the LPL, Yushuang currently has 4.38M followers on Chinese social media Weibo, at the time of writing. Sometimes she makes personal vlogs to her fans, and shows them behind the scenes of her League of Legends journey around the world.
As for her future career plans, Yushuang said that it is more important to her focus on the present.
“I enjoy League of Legends and would like to give all my energy and passion to my work at the present,” she said. “I’m not like the others who have a long-term plan. I believe the gold will shine everywhere, so I make good use of the present and make every day count.”
In 2020, the League of Legends World Championships will go back to China for the first time since 2017, and the expectations of the Chinese fans for the LPL teams and talent will be even higher. If everything goes well, we will still see Yushuang here.
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