On a typical game day, the area outside of Riot’s Los Angeles studio, which plays host to the League of Legends Championship Series, is usually full of fans. Each of the 10 teams in the league has an outdoor booth area, where visitors can buy jerseys and other gear, or snap a photo with their favorite player. There’s elaborate cosplay and co-ordinated team chants. Amidst this scene, FlyQuest’s booth stands out. There you’ll find fans, players, and even the CEO practicing the Japanese art of flower arrangement known as ikebana. It’s just one element of a new team initiative dubbed “go green,” which is the esports club’s attempt to use its platform to bring attention to larger issues. “It represents so much of what is important to us,” says FlyQuest CEO Tricia “megumixbear” Sugita.
Flowers aren’t something you typically see in the esports space. Teams and players usually present an aggressive image; there are lots of photo shoots with crossed arms and flexing biceps, with jerseys full of ads for energy drinks and pro gaming gear. Squads either present themselves as something akin to a traditional sports team, or a streetwear brand, or someplace inbetween. FlyQuest looks like neither. The team’s kits are clean, white long-sleeve shirts with hand-painted purple flowers rising up from the bottom. There are even a few sprouts on the FlyQuest logo on the chest.
“What is it we want to stand for?”
This kind of image is exactly what Sugita had in mind when she took over as CEO this year. Her first task was figuring out what she wanted the team, which was founded back in 2017 and is owned by Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens, to stand for. “It all starts with our why,” she explains. “What is our purpose? What is it we want to stand for? That’s what gives you direction.”
Her own personal interest in environmental issues was the driving force behind the go green tagline, which manifests itself in a few ways. There are the jerseys and the ikebana displays, but also more proactive initiatives that involve raising money to save wild sea turtles, and a plan to plant trees based on in-game performance. Every time FlyQuest gets a win, for instance, the team has pledged to plant 100 trees. (Sugita says the team is also trying to cut back on waste at its headquarters, by eliminating single-use plastic bottles and using plant-based cups, among other things.)
“It’s bigger than esports.”
It’s a branding exercise, sure, but it’s also one that is already having an impact on the culture of the league, just three weeks into the season. When FlyQuest played against Cloud9 and Dignitas, both competitors joined in on the pledge to plant trees. This past weekend, FlyQuest faced off against Evil Geniuses who went a different route by donating a certain number of books depending on how they performed in the game. (EG came out victorious.) Sugita says that the other teams reached out to FlyQuest wanting to be part of the initiative. “We feel honored that our partners in the LCS want to share in what is very meaningful to FlyQuest,” she says.
Sugita says some of these ideas received pushback internally. She had to fight for the unique jersey design, for instance, as some were worried that the team wouldn’t look like an esports squad, or that the players would feel uncomfortable covered in flowers. But she says that right now all of the players and coaching staff are on board, and that it has made the team closer as a result. “They’re more invested in what we’re doing,” Sugita explains. This ties into the team’s other goal: winning. Currently FlyQuest sit right in the middle of the league standings with a 3-3 record, but the team’s ultimate goal is to qualify for the world championships at the end of the year. Sugita believes that the team’s new focus won’t be a distraction, but instead help create a culture where process is as important as results.
“It’s bigger than esports,” she explains. “You win and you use your opportunity and your privilege and influence to do good, and help others, and inspire others. That’s what leaves a legacy in esports. All of that translates to winning.”