FEATURE

Swiffer: The Man and the Mythos

It’s easy to reduce the League of Legends career of Simon “Swiffer” Papamarkos to a bunch of numbers.

Five years as a professional player. Four Oceanic Pro League titles. Six international appearances. He boasts an enviable record – one many an aspiring OPL player will seek to replicate.

What the statisticians won’t tell you, Leaguepedia won’t have tabulated, and Twitch chat will have forgotten is the flavour behind the figures. During his career, Swiffer inspired a widely used hashtag, battled his ego and the ego of others, and was instrumental in building a thriving OPL team from scratch.

He’ll be remembered for his talent in the midlane, but it is his immense personal growth over the past five years we all need to admire.


Swiffer 101

Swiffer’s involvement with League of Legends predates the OPL. As early as 2011, he was toppling turrets on Summoner’s Rift alongside Zack “Rusty” Pye and Chris “Papasmithy” Smith. Back in those days, if you wanted to make it in OCE, you had to play on the NA server and fight through the ping.

The League of Legends stage at PAX AUS in 2013

By 2013, Swiffer’s grind had begun to pay dividends. He was the midlaner for a team that was, he argues, second only to Team Immunity.

“We played against Team Immunity at PAX in 2013,” he recalls. “It was my first big game – a semi-final… and I got a pentakill! But we lost. It was so hype.” You can hear the pride in his voice. There is something else – a yearning for a bygone era.

“After they competed in Germany in 2013, there were some issues between the players on Team Immunity, so they swapped out their jungle and mid for Spookz and I. That’s how the first iteration of the legendary… wait, that’s a bit conceited to say… Chiefs team was formed.” It also marked the beginning of the longest lasting duo in professional League of Legends history.

Spookz and Swiffer and Spookz.


#NoSwifferNoClue

By 2016, the Chiefs (as the Team Immunity roster was now called) had established themselves as the best team in the OPL. With Swiffer at the helm, they had won both splits in 2015 and represented Oceania at two international tournaments. At the 2015 Season International Wildcard Tournament in Turkey, the Chiefs even came within two game wins of qualifying for the World Championships. They couldn’t put a Q wrong.

Confident his team would continue to dominate without him, Swiffer spent the majority of split 1, 2016 on holiday in South America.

“I couldn’t really follow too much of the OPL while I was away because it was 50-50 as to whether or not I had internet,” recalls Swiffer. “However, I would always know how the team was doing based on the messages I received. If everything was going well, I wouldn’t hear from them at all. Radio silence. If things weren’t going well, they would message me and ask how my holiday was going.”

Swiffer’s phone must have been lighting up. The Chiefs experienced a considerable slump in performance, prompting the circulation of the hashtag ‘No Swiffer No Clue’ – which may have exacerbated anxiety felt by the struggling players. For Swiffer, it had the opposite effect.

“When I came back to Australia, I didn’t feel any pressure to perform. I was so confident in my ability at the time, that I knew I would be able to live up to the hype surrounding my return. It’s kind of cocky to say, but I thought ‘I’m just nuts, so it doesn’t really matter what anyone says.’ It fuelled me rather than put pressure on me.”

“The No Swiffer No Clue meme actually became very prevalent, and when I came back, we beat Legacy who were then at the top of the table. I didn’t play very well, it was just that the team played well and the trust was back. The wins served to perpetuate my mythos.”

The Chiefs faced Legacy again in the grand final of Split 1, winning 3-2 and almost being reverse swept in what this writer considers one of the most exciting series in the history of the OPL.

“At this point, there were two champions that I had never lost with competitively – LeBlanc and Twisted Fate. In that final, I lost with both of them and thought ‘this is shit.’ I was quite shaken. To me, they were free win champions.”

The Chiefs then competed at the 2016 International Wildcard Invitational in Mexico. “It was the worst we had ever performed at an international tournament,” recalls Swiffer. “Perhaps part of that was because I had a massive ego and I was snide. Or snarky, even. It’s easy to admit now, but at the time… oof.”


Incongruence

After the tournament in Mexico, the Chiefs decided to move into a gaming house. Swiffer looks back fondly on the Pyrmont apartment into which they moved. It was the first time he had lived out of home. However, the experience was marred by conflict between the players.

“We had a rough patch in the middle of the split and it culminated in us trading Derek “Raydere” Trang to the Dire Wolves in return for Quin “Raes” Korebrits for the semifinals.” Swiffer’s tone indicates that he is struggling with this topic. “We had hit a point where the conflicts that existed weren’t going to be resolved, and we thought it would hinder our success considerably.”

“I feel terrible about the whole thing. I view it as a failing on us as teammates to properly lift Derek up when he was slumping a little bit.”

“We were all in a position where we wanted to win and it was cutthroat, but we weren’t the teammates that we should have been. It was not the most constructive team environment.”

The Chiefs won split 2 of 2016 and competed at another international tournament – this time in Brazil, However, for Swiffer, the crash course on interpersonal relationships and the importance of a positive team environment was more valuable.


The Sin-derella split

Having won four consecutive splits in a row, the Chiefs were viewed as an unstoppable force, and Swiffer was considered to be the best player in the OPL. He even competed at All-Stars in Barcelona. It seemed as though no team could stand in their way. Swiffer agrees.

“At the beginning of split 1 in 2017, I thought we were in the best form we had been in since the end of the previous year.”

And yet.

“It didn’t show on the rift, and we were eliminated by Sin Gaming in the first gauntlet Riot introduced for the OPL.

“I mean, we had rocky seasons before but had always managed to pull it together in the play-offs. We weren’t able to do it that time. Then, we came back for the next split and lost to Dire Wolves in the final.”

“And that was the end of that Chiefs line-up.”

“The feeling was… surreal. It was the first time that I hadn’t won something in the OPL. I remember when the game finished and we were in the room, and I just laughed. I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought ‘what is this?’”

Chaos ORDER Theory

At the beginning of 2018, news broke that a new team – ORDER – would replace Regicide in the OPL. Regicide had struggled to gain a foothold in the OPL since promotion from the OCS the previous split, so their departure from the competition was unsurprising.

The real surprise was seeing Swiffer’s name on the ORDER player roster. As the marquee player and one of the original members of the Chiefs, his brand seemed inextricably intertwined with the club, a la Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok with T1.

“After the year that 2017 was, a few of us wanted to do something different,” explains Swiffer.

“When you’re winning, you are willing to make certain compromises. When you’re losing, well, there was a bit of fracturing in the team.”

During the off-season, Swiffer entertained offers from various OPL teams, but it was ORDER’s General Manager, Jake “Spawn” Tiberi, who won him over. “With Order, I was given the ability to pick who I wanted on the team, to create a brand, to do… everything,” recalls Swiffer. “To have creative control over what you want to do – that’s a wonderful opportunity.”

With this new found power, Swiffer assembled the Avengers of the OPL – a team of carries that quickly became known as the Super Team. There was not a pre-season power ranking in sight that had ORDER below the top three. I was curious to know whether the team felt any pressure to live up to the expectations of the public.

“It didn’t add pressure. People couldn’t see how poorly we were performing in scrims,” explains Swiffer. “When we first came together, there was no cohesion. It became a bit of a meme because we would laugh about how bad we were, while simultaneously being touted as this team that would shake up the OPL.” You can hear the mirth in his voice.

He looks back on the challenge to bring together the ORDER line-up with amusement, but it also marked a shift in the way Swiffer approached the game and his role within it.

“I realized pretty quickly that having everyone playing carry roles, as a dynamic, didn’t work at all,” he recalls. “So I shifted my play style and took a back seat to become more of a supportive mid-laner. Instead of trying to take all the resources, like I would have in the past, I looked for roaming opportunities and tried to facilitate others.”

With Swiffer adopting a more supportive play style, the team rallied and placed 4th in consecutive splits.

“I didn’t get as much joy out of the game by playing in this way, but I was given responsibility and I had to make it work the best way I could. It was a necessity.”

In 2019, Swiffer’s leadership skills were again put to the test when both players in ORDER’s bot lane departed for other teams. Instead of trying to attract the outright best players in their role, Swiffer looked for players who could develop under the ORDER brand and who would gel with the existing team members. His new found understanding of team dynamics resulted in ORDER’s acquisition of Jayke “Jayke” Paulsen and Ronan “Dream” Swingler. In Swiffer’s eyes, this would be the dawn of a new ORDER.

Indeed, the team posted standout results, but not for the reasons he had hoped. ORDER recorded a 43% win rate with, noticeably, six losses in a row. Against all odds, a series of fortunate results saw them scrape into the Gauntlet… and what proceeded was a win streak no-one could have predicted.

“We got rid of a lot of the volatility in our drafting phase and backed our team fighting,” recalls Swiffer. “Everyone played with a newfound focus. It didn’t matter if we won or lost – there were no expectations.”

This approach helped ORDER topple Mammoth, Avant Gaming and Chiefs in consecutive days to set up a grand final meeting with the Bombers. ORDER lost the final, but won a permanent place in the memory of OPL fans.


EXCEL

In Split 2 2019, ORDER finished in third place. Their loss to Mammoth in the gauntlet marked the end of Swiffer’s professional playing career. Under Swiffer’s leadership, ORDER never placed lower than fourth in the OPL. In fact, across his whole career, neither did Swiffer. Next year, he will coach EXCEL Academy in the LEC. Until recently, neither move was being considered, let alone considered a certainty.

“My plan was to continue playing for ORDER while I resume studying. I want to study again so I can start exploring other branches of my life,” explains Swiffer. “Riot’s announcement that they were pulling some funding from the Oceanic league made me reassess that decision. I’ve put a lot of time into this game and I didn’t want to feel like I was going backwards. That’s how I would have felt if I’d continued as a player in this league.”

Upon further reflection, Swiffer decided he didn’t want to continue playing professionally at all. “I really enjoyed the glory of being a player, but over the past few years I have enjoyed the ideas behind the game more than playing the game itself,” he explains.

“I don’t know what kind of personality shift happened or why – maybe it was due to a lack of winning. Now, I find it immensely rewarding to watch younger players develop and implement new ideas.”

Summation

“Firstly, I want to thank everyone on the Chiefs. At the time we were together, I wish I could have seen how my teammates propped me up and helped me to have such a successful career,” he says.

“I wish I hadn’t been so egocentric when we were winning, and had recognised everyone else’s efforts rather than taking them for granted.” From a man who once thought he was god’s gift to the rift, this statement is reflection of Swiffer’s personal growth since the inception of the OPL.

“Thank you also to Spawn for giving me an opportunity to seize control of my own destiny. I’m sorry that we didn’t have as much success as we both would have liked.

“I’d also like to thank my family, my dad for his unwavering support and advice, my mum for being an ever-present, guiding force in my life and my brother for always reminding me to follow my own path. In that same vein to my fans both past and present, thank you for your support. Ultimately without you guys there would be no league so thank you for sticking by me.”

Let’s run the numbers one more time.

Five years as a professional League of Legends player.

Four OPL titles. Six international appearances.

One unforgettable OPL player – Swiffer.


Swiffer’s story will continue in Europe. Follow his journey on Twitter.

ProducerJosh Swift
Ellis Longhurst
Ellis "BicycEL" Longhurst is a games journalist who has been covering the OPL since 2015. On the rift, she can be found missing hooks in the bot lane and accidentally stealing her ADC's CS. She also moonlights as a Pokemon TCG caster.