Understanding esport greatness with League of Legends

eSport / Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

What is esport?

I think it’s about time to talk about esport. So if you don’t know what esport is:

  • First, good job for finding this article and being open-minded.
  • Second, it’s simple, it’s a competition on diverse video games.

So basically it’s the equivalent of sports competitions but for video games. When we talk about esport experience, we don’t talk about the player experience (like we do for a video game) but about the viewing experience. The competition aspect matters but the entertainment matters, even more, we don’t just watch a “let’s play” of a game (someone casually playing a video game) we watch a show, a fight, with players or teams legacy… And we’re always invited to support one of the teams of one of the players. Esport is not a new way of competition, it’s a new way of entertainment.

So, if you watch sport for the beauty of sport, the muscles (all these alphas males and females), and the human performance, you will most likely don’t find what you want in esport. But if you watch sport for supporting a team, a country or players you like, for the impressive comebacks, the underdogs, the element of surprise, the show and everything else: esport is most likely for you. On all these points, esport is more advanced than sport, is more evolved, is just better. The rule of the sport or the game are not permanent and evolve with time and with the game. The game is more complex and can go where no-where close human ability can go. The game can ask for strategies, knowledge, reflex, precision and so much more.

Finally, not all games are suitable for esport. You can easily understand why solo games or story games are not really fit for esport (even if something called “Speedrun” exists which consist in finishing the game the fastest way possible, but the games are not played like they are supposed to, and it’s commonly not considered like esport). When we talked about an esport game it needs to be a multiplayer game where the base of the game is (at least) two teams or two players facing, that being said, what makes a great esport game? A lot of things and no one really agrees on what. So I am gonna explain why, for me, the most popular esport game, League of Legends (also called LoL or League) has succeed to popularize esport.


The phenomenon League

Before anything, it’s a show

I think to understand how big League (or LoL or League of Legends) esport (and esport in general) is, you need to watch the numbers of course, with more than 50 millions viewers for last Worlds (but 49 million being Chinese viewers), it’s phenomenal. And more than that it’s not big only recently, even if you most likely hear about esport for the first time this year or last year, it’s not that new. esport naturally appear with video games but democratize 4 or 5 years ago (article written in 2018). To prove my point, you need to know that for the League of Legends Worlds of 2014, Imagine Dragons (yeah the radioactive guys) create a song fully for the competition (even if it was re-use after, it was a command from RIOT Games, the studio which has created League of Legends). The music video has today over 120 million views on youtube. Imagine Dragons has even played the song on stage before the final game of the competition.

One of the big points of League esport is that it’s not only a competition worldly broadcast, it’s also a show. It’s a commemoration of the game, of the players and of the company. It’s really similar to what we have in the traditional sport for Football (or Soccer for the one who still uses the imperial units) World Cup or the Superbowl. It’s a show, it embraces everything, create a story about players, about Legends like Faker who is in one of the best team in the World and who is considered like the best player in the world. A player can celebrate the event by watching the Worlds live in real life in a massive stadium with thousands of others fans, at their home or at some meet-up (like theatres or bars which create a special night event) or in-game with some special cosmetic items (to support their team) create for the occasion.

But it’s also a game

Talking about the game, League of Legends is the perfect esport example for many reasons and one of them is as simple as its name. “League of Legends”, the name alone has all this background about competing (League) and story-telling (Legends).

This game feels esport right from the start, either you are in a game or you are in the launcher waiting for a game or drafting your team champions. This separation might be minor for you but it implies a lot for the competitive experience. The game doesn’t try to create a continuous universe where you will be always in the game like MMORPG can do, where the game continues even if you are not here. For League, the game is an experience, some matches you will play in the reality, as a performance. Still on the launcher, before being on the game, you will pick your characters (called Champion) and ban others characters you don’t want to play against. This purely strategic aspect, before the game, put you in an esport environment even at low level.

At the time where I write this article, I didn’t even reach level 30 which is the minimum level to play Ranked games (the competitive mode of League of Legends) and I am already convinced by the competitive aspect of the game. In this game, people want to win, even in Draft pick or Blind pick (non-competitive modes of League of Legends), I have noticed it by playing with my friends, who care about winning a lot even if it literally doesn’t bring them anything more they didn’t have in their hundreds of previous games. I have also noticed this desire to win by playing alone and the seriousness players naturally take while playing this game, by being demanding to themselves, but mostly to others players plays (let’s be honest).

I think the best way to understand League of Legends esport is by watching and playing it. Both activities put you in a competitive environment, either with seriousness and the impact of the event or with good UI (user-interface) in and out of the game.

In League, legends never die, they keep playing improving and grinding. You, as a player, will try to become one of them.