How it's Made: FlyQuest's TreeQuest initiative blossoms

The FlyQuest Go Green campaign this spring resulted in the planting of 10,000 trees, not counting the League of Legends community's response and donations that came from that. Multiple teams in the League Championship Series also helped out. Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Provided by Riot Games

The members of FlyQuest milled around the Riot Games smoothie bar in black jackets with no sign of their 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring jersey in sight.

It was another day during the week of LCS media days, where teams came into Riot's Santa Monica studio to take headshots and other broadcast assets while also being interviewed by members of the press.

There had already been one accidental revealing of an embargoed jersey sponsor on the first day of media day, and teams were taking stronger precautions on Day 2. Yet, by the end of the day, FlyQuest bot laner Jason "Wildturtle" Tran showed a few members of the media that it wasn't a sponsor that FlyQuest were hiding; it was the entire design itself.

FlyQuest had moved far away from their traditional green-and-gold uniforms. The new design: a white jersey with a series of violet flowers running up in a diagonal across the front. The FlyQuest logo was surrounded by a circular floral pattern, and there was a green stripe down the sides of the kit.

Days later, FlyQuest's new jersey and the organization's environmental focus of "Go Green" for the 2020 competitive year was announced. Aided by a 2-0 start to the spring split, FlyQuest quickly took the LCS social media channels by storm with their tree-planting initiative. TreeQuest was underway.

Months later, with 10,000 total trees planted, TreeQuest is one of the most successful and innovative esports company initiatives to date.

TreeQuest is the latest part of FlyQuest's "Showcase Greatness" mission, which has previously focused on women in esports, collegiate esports programs, enhancing internal team staff experience and nurturing storytelling in esports.

"This year, we decided to focus heavily on environmental issues, a la Go Green, mainly because as part of Showcasing Greatness, we believe everyone has the ability to affect real change for our planet," FlyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita said, "and we wanted to facilitate ways for us to address important environmental issues together."

With their 2020 direction decided, TreeQuest was born from a brainstorm session with Michael Choi, FlyQuest's COO, FlyQuest president Ryan Edens and FlyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita. The FlyQuest team wanted to do something that would have a visible and quantifiable impact on the environment while also finding a way to tie it to the team's performance on the LCS Arena stage.

The first draft of TreeQuest looked almost identical to what was launched by the team. A kill by a member of FlyQuest on the Rift translated to one tree planted. Each Ocean Drake taken by any LCS team was another 10 trees planted. A FlyQuest victory meant 100 trees.

By the end of their 2020 LCS debut week, FlyQuest's results had already resulted in the planting of 240 trees.

"During our brainstorm session we said let's plant trees and tie trees to kills, to wins, and Ocean Drakes; the 'FlyQuest Drake,' or Ocean Drakes, creates nature, and that fits what we're trying to do," Sugita said. "We made Ocean Drakes inclusive of all teams because we are all here to showcase greatness together. We believe that this is a great way for us to show gratitude for the players working hard to make Summoner's Rift a greener place."

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The next step was finding an organization or partner to help with the physical execution of the project. Sugita and FlyQuest chose One Tree Planted, a non-profit environmental charity focused on global reforestation that does its own $1 to one tree initiative. One Tree Planted pools its own donations, has partners grow saplings, plants them during the rainy season and then reports back and monitors environmental impact while maintaining growth.

It was a perfect fit for FlyQuest's plans.

Coupled with the jersey reveal and FlyQuest's strong Week 1 LCS performance, TreeQuest immediately captured the attention of the LCS audience and other LCS organizations. For some, like Evil Geniuses, it spawned their own scholarship and book initiatives. Others reached out to Sugita and FlyQuest directly to see how they could match tree donations or get involved with tree planting.

"We set out to be a platform to help others, and if we can get others to join us, then we will be very happy about that," Sugita said. "Dignitas and Cloud9 reached out to us to see how they could get involved with TreeQuest. With Dignitas, we decided to go a very friendship-centric route, and with C9, we decided to go a rivalry route, pitting their Cloud Drake against our Ocean Drake. Team SoloMid matched our trees in their match."

This also extended to the LCS audience, who took to social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit with tree jokes or their own donation responses. Sugita said there was some pushback from the community initially, but it was small and quickly overwhelmed with support from fans, players and other organizations.

"One thing we did see some of was that flowers didn't really have a place in esports, or even traditional sports," Sugita said. "To that, we answered back with, 'Who says it doesn't?'"

FlyQuest also saw an immediate buy-in from their own players, who leaned into TreeQuest despite it being a completely different framework and aesthetic than the more classic, traditional sports looks from other LCS teams.

"They completely embraced it, something that we're very thankful for," Sugita said. "There are a lot of clips of the communications during the game that are released after LCS matches of our players yelling things like 'Trees! Trees! Trees!' during teamfights and 'For the trees!'"

In addition to the floral-patterned jersey and other environmentally-themed merchandise around TreeQuest and Go Green, Sugita also drew on her personal background as an ikebana, or Japanese flower arrangement, teacher to bring another dimension to FlyQuest's environmental focus. Ikebana dates back to seventh century floral offerings on altars. In the early weeks of the LCS when teams and fans still attended live games at the LCS Arena, Sugita gave ikebana lessons as part of one of FlyQuest's tailgate parties, another departure from more traditional t-shirt making or cornhole and carnival games.

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FlyQuest made the LCS finals and finished the split with a total of 10,000 trees planted as part of TreeQuest. As for the upcoming LCS summer split, Sugita hinted at another environmental initiative in the works while reflecting on TreeQuest's overwhelming success.

"Quarantine and social distancing affects our work dynamic as well as relationships with third parties involved such as merch vendors, but overall we are still full steam ahead," Sugita said. "We were very sad not being able to do something really cool for Earth Day with the community, but hopefully we will be able to by the end of the summer split."