Fight for First pulls back curtain on Excel esports team


To those on the outside, it has a lot in common with other sports in that all we see are the upsides: getting paid well to play video games, with fringe benefits including travelling the world. But as with hockey, basketball, baseball, wife carrying, and extreme ironing, almost all of the work goes on behind the scenes. A new BBC series called Fight for First: EXCEL ESPORTS tells the story of one team in the League of Legends trenches.

Told in five parts, the doc will look at how members of the U.K.-based Excel team approach the business of competition. The backdrop for this is the 2020 LEC Spring Split. Expect candid off-stage footage of players pulling back the curtain of their day-to-day routines and training regimes. With professional esports athletes often putting in up to 12 hours a day in front of the screen, the issue of maintaining a social life and subsisting on a diet of more than Cheetos and Dr. Pepper is also tackled.

Rounding up the Excel team was in some ways easy—despite a year that’s been all about lockdowns, the players lived communally in a tricked-out gaming house. They also made it out of that house on occasion, travelling to Berlin for LEC competition just before COVID-19 exploded globally.

In a press release for Fight for First: EXCEL ESPORTS, chief Excel gaming officer Kieran Holmes-Darby called the documentary an important look into the lives of esports players.

Practice, prepare, and play

“This five-part series showcases our attempts to reach the League of Legends European Championship play-offs for the first time in our history,” Holmes-Darby said, “and is a completely unique insight into EXCEL ESPORTS and what goes on behind the scenes of a major esports organization. At EXCEL, whilst competing at the elite level, we pride ourselves on always striving to be better, and the series demonstrates how we practice, prepare and play.

“Not only will it offer our fans a deeper look into what we do, but it will also offer people who are completely new to esports a fascinating perspective of our exciting industry.”

Fight for First: EXCEL ESPORTS is narrated by actor Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight Trilogy28 Days Later). Watch for it to stream on BBC iPlayer and BBC Three sometime in 2021.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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