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Arena: Pigeon Rising

A new mascot rises in NA LCS.

On April 22, 2017, a star was born. A feathery hero descended to the stage at the 2017 NA LCS Spring Finals in Vancouver—and, simultaneously, into the hearts of hundreds of thousands of League fans. Quickly dubbed “LCS Pigeon,” he became the hero the NA LCS never knew it needed.

With LCS Pigeon’s sudden appearance causing an outsized fan response, the broadcast team started to wonder if there wasn’t some way we could celebrate our new feathered friend. The most popular suggestion? Making him our mascot. It wasn’t unanimous; there was plenty of support, but also some obvious questions, like, “Why the heck would we make a pigeon our mascot?” Pigeons aren’t majestic, heroic, or badass—shouldn’t NA LCS feature something a little more intimidating?

Eventually, our team realized something important: We don’t see LCS Pigeon as just any old pigeon. NA LCS Fans don’t see LCS Pigeon as just any old pigeon. And we sure as hell know that LCS Pigeon does not see himself as any old pigeon. He doesn’t let himself be defined by genus expectations. When he looks in the mirror, he sees a dragon, mixed with a lion, ascending like a phoenix. That’s what we decided to home in on. He’s majestic in his own right—bold, impervious to danger, and possessing an unquenchable thirst for the spotlight. Like NA, he doesn’t mind being an underdog, and he’s going to take his best shot at the big timers. Disrespect him at your own peril. He’s quite simply like the old gods: strong and wrathful.

We decided to use him in some of our graphics, potentially to pair with sponsorships, but mostly to entertain and celebrate NA LCS fans. We thought about using him like Fox Sports uses Cleatus the Football Robot, or Disney uses Mickey. We likened his mentality to Looney Tunes’ Henery Hawk; he’s scrappy, and goes toe-to-toe with Foghorn Leghorn despite being 1/50th of his size. In other words, LCS Pigeon needed to be an appropriate blend of obliviousness and bravado. We wanted him to be gritty, determined, brave, and sometimes memey—just like NA LCS fans. LCS Pigeon made various other appearances throughout the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. He appeared in a social tease for the 2017 Summer Finals in Boston, made occasional cameos in the background of NA LCS Tonight, and even went toe-to-toe against Huni as a mid laner for Team America in the NA LCS Civil War event. But we wanted more. We wanted something tangible. Oh, and we wanted him to don a badass suit of armor.

So, the team turned to 3D Motion Graphics Artist George “RedRaptor5” Ahlmeyer. RedRaptor5 is frequently seen in various locations of the esports back office, sketching animals of all sorts. He practices, he shares, he sketches, he posts. His affection for the craft is exciting, so the team decided to give RedRaptor5 first crack at modeling the LCS War Pigeon.

RedRaptor5 doesn’t do halfway. He took the time to read through books about pigeon anatomy endlessly sketching pigeons and pigeon parts on post-it notes. Any visit to his desk and you’d see the makings of a mad ornithologist: beaks, feathers, talons, and eyes, every detail in perfect proportion. After seemingly lifetimes of practice, he was equipped to – theoretically – build an entire pigeon pixel by pixel. RedRaptor5 also tackled the question of outfitting our new warrior with a shiny suit of armor.

As we sized up the shape and body structure of our pigeon, we had a constant design North Star: LCS Pigeon (who we now were calling “George”) needed to be badass and fully prepared for battle. Team Pigeon sat together and thought about what that would look like. We found inspiration in Demacian lore and the heavy armor Demacian soldiers wore, borrowing elements of both to help guide George’s visual identity.

We were feeling confident about our designs, but how would we debut him? What would be his grand entrance? And could this pigeon fly?

When it comes to putting graphics into real and live environments, nobody on the esports team has the expertise or passion of Justin Restaino. Justin was the driving force behind the Elder Dragon that swooped into the 2017 Worlds ceremony in Beijing. We knew he was our guy if we wanted to get our war bird airborne, so the team enlisted him to be the wind beneath George’s wings. In addition to ideating on design, Justin worked with outside production partners to make our vision of an AR battle bird a reality.

The best part of working with Justin is that he has no shame, just check out this video of him choreographing George’s flight path and behavior on the LCS stage.

Why Rift Rivals? Exactly this: Rift Rivals is the greatest manifestation of the enmity between the NA and EU LCS, so the NA team decided to unveil George at Rift Rivals to give the NA players a serious competitive advantage. We want EU LCS fans to cower in fear. We want them worried. We want them to experience pigeon envy for the first time. NA fans understand George. He’s plucky, and like us, is resilient and built for the long haul. There’s a deep empathy and bond between NA LCS pros, NA LCS fans, and our dear LCS Pigeon. What better way to introduce a grudge match between NA and EU than with a ceremonial appearance by the most feared bird of prey we know?

We are very excited to be able to bring in this strong personality to our broadcast team for our fans. In an exclusive interview, George told us that the fans were the main reason for his decision to move from Vancouver to our NA LCS studio. That, and the ability to beat down EU.

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