For young adults growing up in North America, the 17th birthday is an awkward one. It's sandwiched between turning 16 years old -- the age when most people learn how to drive -- and turning 18 years old, the age when people turn into legal adults. But in esports, 17 is the minimum age a player can load into the Rift as a professional player. This rule was enacted before the 2014 competitive season, which means nowadays, 17 is the one birthday professional League of Legends hopefuls look forward to the most.
On May 8, 2014, Johnny "Altec" Ru celebrated his 17th birthday by failing to qualify for the League Championship Series with Cloud9 Tempest. Evil Geniuses' AD carry Peter "Yellowpete" Wüppen emerged victorious, looking stronger than Altec as his team racked up a 3-1 victory in the promotion tournament.
Two weeks following the loss, Evil Geniuses announced Altec as its new AD carry.
"I liked playing competitively with this team, but what's even more important to me is its success," Yellowpete said in an announcement at the time. "After closely watching the tryouts period, I believe that this is a change that can have a positive effect on the team's performance."
The reason for the change?
"Despite just turning 17, Altec has long been praised for both his mechanical prowess and ability to dominate lanes," the announcement read.
Essentially, Evil Geniuses were banking on his potential.
At every one of Altec's LCS stops -- Evil Geniuses, Winterfox, Gravity Gaming, NRG eSports and Cloud9 Challenger/FlyQuest -- analysts and pundits eagerly awaited what was promised in early 2014: North America's next breakout AD carry star.
Although Altec didn't perform particularly poor on these teams, when exactly he would rise to stardom was a question stuck in perpetuity -- it surrounded his every move for three years. And at some point, Altec simply existed in the league -- never rising, never quite falling either -- and all the speculation and hype faded into background noise.
Accompanying Team Dignitas' rise in the last few weeks of the 2017 NA LCS summer split, the debate over Altec's place in the league has once again bubbled to the surface.
"Compared to when I've been on other teams, I'm more mature," Altec said after Dignitas' final series of the regular season.
The standard Dignitas anecdote includes throwing games at Baron and inevitably sinking in the standings after a hot start, regardless of roster. The current Dignitas, along with the spring iteration earlier this year, has eschewed this tradition for a late-season push into a definitive playoff team.
"Before, when I was a kid, I could play really well but I didn't have any leadership skills. Everything -- I kind of kept to myself instead of expressing what I needed. I think I'm now able to communicate what I need."
Although the spring roster was more impressive in win rate across the last three weeks of the split, the summer team has only dropped one series more, and has taken out two of North America's top organizations in Team SoloMid and Immortals. After being paired with Adrian "Adrian" Ma in the bot lane, Altec listed their performances against TSM, C9 and IMT as the three series he was particularly proud of this split.
Altec started mid-season in Week 5 over Benjamin "LOD" deMunck, and Adrian followed suit, receiving a starting nod over Terry "Big" Chuong in Week 6 after two weeks to prepare during the Rift Rivals break. And according to both parties, everything just clicked.
"Everyone is super friendly towards each other," Altec said. "Honestly, everything just works really well. Adrian brings everyone together. We go out and stuff a lot. It's just a really great team environment."
The two players joined Dignitas together on June 15, and already have the synergy of a bot lane that has been playing together for years. But in a way, they technically have been playing together for years. Altec estimated that the two have between 500-700 duo queue games together on the NA ranked ladder.
"When Adrian wasn't on the roster yet, we had Big. He made a lot of calls and was the only one who talked a lot," Altec said. "I think that it kind of wasn't the correct playstyle for us. We really needed everyone to have input on it. With Adrian on the team, we feed information to each other of what we can do, what we can't do."
For every bit of praise given to his own play, Altec shifts the credit to Adrian.
"It's really stupid but really funny at the same time," he said. "I have to give Adrian a lot of credit that he's able to practice these champions that the community criticizes him for and he's played really well on them."
Altec and Adrian have proven that they can swap playstyles to suit Dignitas' needs. This has helped draw enemy pressure away from top laner Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho, who previously was Dignitas' main win condition.
With a bot lane that requires attention from opponents, Dignitas can easily spread map pressure between two side lanes, allowing for flexible drafts and more opportunities for the team to win. Dignitas arrived in Week 7 as the most prepared for Patch 7.14, using this two-prong strategy with mid laner Jang "Keane" Jae-young on waveclear meta picks and jungler Lee "Shrimp" Byeong-hoon doing what he does best, farm until mid and late game.
Altec doesn't think that he and Adrian played their best in Dignitas' final Week 9 series, but this statement is neither self-deprecating nor modest. Instead, it's another example of how he and the team are looking forward to make good on a few of those old promises and expectations.