Xaifou FuHongtian Dominates the Top Lane While Studying Abroad
On August 14th, 2021 Xiaofu FuHongtian flew over six thousand miles from the Xinjiang province in China to Valparaiso University. Halfway through his degree in mechanical engineering, FuHongtian had decided to capitalize on an opportunity to study abroad. Unfortunately his timing could not have been worse. The global pandemic had already prevented him from obtaining a visa to make the journey for over a year.
Upon finally reaching America for his senior year, he felt glad to begin his studies, but also excited for another opportunity: Valparaiso’s Esports program. As a long time League of Legends player, FuHongtian was excited to maintain part of his life back home by joining the team. “I’ve played League of Legends for about 7 years now,” FuHongtian said. “I started playing the game because my friends did and we can play together.”
FuHongtian’s experience and talent instantly made a big impact. He also brings a different approach to the game coming from a different player region. “Chinese players tend to be much more aggressive,” Coach Chase “Blade” Ludington said. “So much so that it is a completely different way of thinking about the game. When Xiafou is on Sett [his preferred champion] and in a strong position, he is mechanically gifted enough that he can basically 1v9.”
On the team, FuHongtian plays an interesting role as a top laner. The position often takes 1v1 fights and winning them can make the player significantly more powerful than their opponents.“I used to play mid lane, but I felt like I didn’t have any control,” FuHongtian said. “In the top lane, I feel much stronger and I can control the whole game so I switched.”
League of Legends offered a constant in his life, but there was much to adjust to in a new country including language, which he believes to be the most difficult adjustment. “Joining the team was very interesting. The first time I met them they were all very friendly. I am thankful for how much they taught me in English and in League of Legends,” FuHongtian said.
After practice, FuHongtian can get a reprieve from his second language. He often socializes with four other Chinese students studying abroad in the mechanical engineering program. Additionally, when he finds time in between classes, his senior design project, and League of Legends, FuHongtian purchases ingredients to cook dishes traditional to China and calls his family and friends on WeChat to make himself feel comfortable in a new environment.
In the fall season the team went 3-5 and did not reach the playoffs, but Coach Blade attributes the losing record to growing pains and is optimistic about the spring season. “We have a lot of new players this season. Only three of our nine players on the team are returning. There were a lot of unknowns about how the group would blend. In the spring our goal is to beat that 3-5 record and hopefully make the playoffs.”
FuHongtian is also confident in improvement. After experiencing his first semester in America, he feels he can better balance school and League of Legends. “Next season I want to help the team win more,” FuHongtian said. “Sometimes I am playing less because I am so busy with my classes and senior research, but I always try my best.”