February 3, 2013 by The Ascending Staircase
Note: this was actually written yesterday but I’ve only just had the chance to publish it.
Get ready to play – Season 3 of League of Legends Championship Series is about to begin amid much excitement and anticipation. Not sure what that is? No, neither was I until today.
League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) video game created by Riot Games; the Championship Series is its competitive league. Dubbed eSports, the gaming industry are beginning their global conquest which may one day rival competitive physical sports and so far, they’ve done pretty well. I’ll put it into perspective for you; Season 2 of the Championship Series managed to gross 8.2 million viewers on their live internet stream, and South Korea’s OGN finals, which was also the number one search on Google in the country for a week, sold its 8,000 stadium tickets in just 43 minutes. People give up their jobs for the opportunity to play in the league, with Riot Games offering competitive salaries to the best players in order to encourage them to do so, as well as impressive cash prizes for winners of high-profile tournaments. A few of the best players are worth millions.
It has become so much more than a cult or a hobby. For some people, it is their life.
In fact, it is estimated that there is only a matter of years before eSports (so aptly named in our 21st century culture! Anything that is anything these days never seems to begin with a capital letter, but with a vowel) make their way onto mainstream television. Perhaps what we are experiencing here is something not unsimilar to the rise of football and the English football league.
With Season 3, like with the seasons before it, came changes to the League of Legends game that are experienced by all gamers, just like football experiences new signings and sometimes better technology (like goal line technology, for example). The start of a new season is a massive event for both competitions. Fans who play the game and watch the Championship Series experience the same emotions as football fans; achievement, adrenaline rushes, hope, loyalty, and sorrow if all is lost.
My brother, who is a big fan, calls it ‘amazing’. He plays almost every day with his friends. The game, he claims, has taught him skills such as micro and macro-management and has also improved his reaction times. The best players have these skills in abundance. Like football, professionals practice every day for hours on end, they work as a team to win, and they acquire their very own loyal fans. Rivalries, eerily similar to football, between teams can become deep-rooted and severe, though in Europe most teams are typically of mixed nationalities and so this opposition is less intense than those in China, South Korea and America.
Children, possibly due to our increasingly protective society, are becoming more likely to stay inside and play video games with their friends rather than play football outdoors, and that is a forum for which League of Legends caters for. There is still the capacity to have a rivalry with that team who lives on the other side of town and the chance to grow in skill at something that leads to feelings of satisfaction and achievement. Once you reach a certain stage in the game, you can personalise your play by excelling in a particular position, just like in football. Not only children, but many adults across the globe share in this experience; the only natural course for the eSport would be to develop and expand.
However, similar issues are rising within the world of eSports that were encountered when football rose to popularity and became professionally played. Women seem to have a minimal role within this world, with very few professional female players, commentators or even journalists; it is an issue that needs to be carefully approached and quickly resolved so that the sport does not develop in such a one-sided way. Racism is another highly concerning issue within the League of Legends world, as is hacking. Riot Games does their best to police this and stop ‘toxic’ players running amok by giving gamers the ability to report rogue players. Too many complaints can lead to tribunals and the distribution of warnings, time bans, or even a permanent ban. Still, it is difficult to stop those people who are banned from making new accounts and wreaking havoc once again; game profiles are not typically assigned to an identifyable face. Clearly, with this new phenomenon comes problems that need addressing.
After trying the game myself, I was surprised by how engaging it is. Of course, unlike football, no physical exercise is undertaken yet eSports such as League of Legends seem to have their own advantages, which help to cast aside the image of ‘geekiness’ that is so closely associated with excessive video gaming. It is also worth noting how closely the rise of eSports seem to mirror the evolution of football; perhaps what we must consider at this crucial time in their development is the mistakes of football, which we can learn from in order to create a better, fairer gaming community for all.
After all, one day you may turn on the sports channel to find the League of Legends Championship Series staring back at you.