League Of Legends' Rise and Effects on Video Game Culture
League of Legends is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) created in 2009 where 2 teams consist of 5 players all with unique and different characters battle it out in 3 lanes. The goal of each team is to push down each lane, fight and ultimately destroy the enemy team’s nexus or ‘Base’, thus winning the game. Games typically last between 20-50 minutes and professionally are played in best of 3s, and 5s. League of Legends has developed not only as a dominant video game but also pushed the entire culture of video games further and redefined video games genre altogether. Games like Overwatch, Starcraft, Counter Strike, Playerunknown's Battleground and Heartstone have all been impacted with the rise of League of Legends and it's impacts.
A New Standard: Art/Lore
The Art and Lore (a body of knowledge) of League of Legends has set an amazing standard of creativity that video games of it's like must compete with. League of Legends has initiated an overhaul within the video game industry for more and better art, story, animations, and more. Each character has it’s own unique visuals, animations and story line within the world of Runeterra (League of Legends’ continent). Riot has also created several visual remodels or skins of each character for players to buy with real world money. Each character and skin receives a ‘splash art’ which is a wallpaper sized portrait of the character used in-game, on websites, and as merchandise.
Similar to big franchises like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, League of Legends has created worlds for their consumers to delve into and merchandise to buy, such as figurines, posters, and even a board game. Is the visual creation of a fantasy world out of one's imagination not art? Art itself is created from one’s mind no matter how crazy, take example ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ Hieronymus Bosch, 1480-1509 which was a distinct piece of it’s time with it’s nonsensical compositions and symbolism. Bosch's triptych shows just exactly how lucrative art can be. “Video game designers are storytellers not with words but art.”
In 2016 a new giant entered the video game industry, Overwatch, created by the gaming industry titans Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft and Starcraft. Overwatch is a multiplayer shooting game with unique characters with skills and abilities. The mechanics of Overwatch were that of a shooting game with a League of Legends/MOBA influence, similar to Valve’s popular third person shooter, Team Fortress 2. Overwatch took the video game world by storm in no time launched ahead of League of Legends as the most popular video game with it’s initial release surge, but fell back after the year’s end. “So what makes the newest video game giant so good?” Overwatches’ great art, design, and competition.
“Artists create with the intention of creating art, designs design with the intention of selling their design. At a basic level, intention is what separates art from design and craft. Artists intend to express, designers intend to craft."
Video games are a combination of carefully crafted designs and beautiful art. Whether it be landscapes, characters, or stories video games are art, design and an experience. Blizzard has had to carefully craft their Overwatch game to be on par if not even better than League of Legends. Video games are no longer just code, or simple pixel graphics; they’re highly complex, evolved, and immersed worlds. “As a genre, video games take our minds on journeys, and we can control and experience them much more interactively than passively – especially when they are well designed.” (John Maeda) Their evolution has shown where games are no longer just inside the game, they’re in the world, animations, art books, costumes, and more.
League of legends honestly isn’t an original idea. It was based off DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) which a modification of Blizzard's Warcraft III. It’s essentially the original concept of League of Legends, and was revamped, updated, and re-released as DOTA 2 in 2013. It is the biggest competitor to League of Legends to this day. Since League of Legends’ creation and success in the video game industry League of Legends has sparked additional clones and revamps since it’s time. With it’s constant updates, new characters, and new content league of legends has maintained is dominance over competitors and other video games. League of Legends has had to undergo multiple redesigns and big updates to be where it is today and keep its consumers happy as the game progressively develops with its new characters, visual updates, and animations.
The E-Sports Revolution
Electronic Sports better known as E-Sports, is the biggest growing industry created by the rise of competitive video games. Players rise to the top and become professionals, get sponsorship from companies, play a part of professional organizations, and become celebrities within the world. Events like the Legends Championship Series (LCS) (Major League of League of Legends) and the World Championships sell out within hours and are held in massive stadiums across the world like Madison Square Garden (NY), Staples Center (LA), and the Seoul World Cup Stadium (KR).
Players as young as 16 are recruited and develop into amazing players and compete at international levels. They live in houses, typically a short drive away from studio headquarters, that are dedicated to gaming mixed with a healthy lifestyle. They are known by their ‘Handles’ or In Game Names (IGNs) such as Faker, Bjergsen, and Doublelift to their fans. Those that are popular enough reach the celebrity status achieve great followings and big sponsorship deals. The career of an E-Sports athlete is short, no longer than 5 years, mostly because the industry is still new and talent is still developing, but companies provide alternatives careers such as journalism, coaching, analysts, ‘shoutcasting’ (broadcasting live matches) and more to players after their retirement, like other sport industries.
League of legends never began as a revolutionary video game, the game needed time, it had to grow, and it had to fail in order to become the popular industry it is today. The roots of E-Sports date back to setting records on Pacman and Tetris, but the kickoff of E-Sports began with Blizzard’s ‘Starcraft’ a real-time strategy game where players collect resources, build their bases, and characters to ultimately fight to conquer one another to win. Popularized in South Korea this game grew insanely popular in the early new millennium. Even having a dedicated TV channel in South Korea, Starcraft shook the video game world and brought the rise of an industry but could never break out on the international level as League of Legends has done today. In 2010 Blizzard created it’s sequel Starcraft 2 which was able to grow with the rise of E-Sports at the turn of the decade but eventually was overshadowed by the dominant League of Legends.
While Korea had Starcraft, the United States had the Counter Strike series. Initially released in 2000, revamped in 2004 (CSS) and again in 2012 (CSGO). CS is a tactical 5v5 shooting game where the objective of one is to plant a bomb to blow up one of the target sites while the other team's objective is to defend the sites. The Counter Strike series was able to stay competitive in the video game world by being consistent. The original Starcraft and Counter Strike had a distinct following. These games were simple enough for other developers to create modifications of the game for other users to play and that continued with its sequels.
In 2016 ELeague was created by Turner Broadcasting. ELeague is is a professional Counter Strike Global Offensive League (CSGO) that is broadcasted on National Television on TBS. Even with the national broadcasted league CSGO teams participate in other leagues held by different companies. CSGO does lack the story and art of modern day video games, but alternatively stays competitive with its history, following, and simplicity.
Streaming and Entertainment
How exactly has League of Legends exploded into existence since its creation? Scene below is Michael Santana also known is Imaqtpie, sitting in his living room home in California playing League of Legends. He makes over 100,000 a year alone by doing this, that’s without his sponsors or other sources of income. All because of the over 25,000 people a day that come to watch him play and talk on the popular video game streaming site Twitch. Imaqtpie is one of the many professional video game streamers in the industry who make their livings by playing video games, interacting with their thousands of followers, and accepting donations and answering questions. These streamers earn their living by entertaining through the webcam, some often throw philanthropy events or stream-a-thons to raise money for charity. They are essentially the internet celebrities of video games.
Twitch was launched in 2011 and bought by Amazon in 2014 for nearly 1 billion dollars. Twitch became the premier streaming platform for video games since, coinciding along with the rising growth of league of legends, CSGO, and others. Streaming and video games go hand and hand, companies like Riot and Blizzard make negotiations with Twitch to broadcast their games live on channels. Over a million people come to watch people play video games, play Pokemon go, and even just walk around in the real world (IRL) every single day. Most major video game events are streamed on Twitch. With live streaming becoming all the craze of Facebook, Twitch is still growing. Twitch will always have an upper hand on Facebook because it’s a community, not just your group of friends.
The latest hot game on Twitch is Playerunknown's Battleground created by Bluehole Studio and released in Early Access (Beta) in March of 2017. Currently the game has sold over 2 million copies in just over a month. The ridiculous sales of Battleground is attributed to multiple factors, it’s video game genre, art/design, and twitch. Playerunknown's Battleground is a massive multiplayer online survival game where you are thrown into a map forced to search for weapons and medicine and fight to survive, all while poisonous gas encircles everyone closer to their opponents. The latest trend of survival games has been exploding recently with such title as DayZ and H1Z1. However, survival isn’t what powered Battleground to it’s level as of now, it was battle. We all grew up reading books and watching movies of dystopian genre filled hunger games-esque stories. That is what makes these Battle/Survival games so appealing to our generation.
Playerunknown's Battleground immerses the player into a realistic world for them to fight and battle. The experience of having only one life churns the blood and adrenaline of players knowing that one bullet behind their back could put the out of the game and at a lost. It’s either flee or fight and Battleground uses that powerful reaction as the center of its game. On Twitch Playerunknown's Battleground has 150,000 viewers watching in the screenshot shown, surpassing League of Legends with 130,000. Twitch has contributed significantly to Battlegrounds because who doesn’t want to watch a player duke it out with hundreds of other just like the Hunger Games? “Video games are one of the many ways that the Internet has changed how a generation of young people socialize and view entertainment” It’s exciting watching players fight and immersing ourselves with them without having the pressure of playing.
Communities and Outside the Game
League of Legends is apart of a growing industry, culture, and community. With video game forums, fan art websites, and even sport websites taking note of the game's’ status. Conventions like Comic-Con and PAX are filled with panels and booths dedicated to the games and tournaments are held there as well. Even locally League of Legends has created collegiate leagues and supported clubs around the nation in colleges and high schools. Internet cafe’s usually found abroad in Asia are community hubs for players alike. Colleges even grant scholarships for League of Legends Players to play at their schools. The days of staying after school to play card game have evolved.
Card Games Aren’t dead they’re just digital now. The old games of Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, and Magic the Gathering are in the past and the nostalgia is as alive as ever. With the recent rise of Yugioh and Pokemon mobile games we see how powerful nostalgia can be as an incentive to play a video game. Hearthstone takes the old card games and recreates it around the World of Warcraft world. The millions of players of World of Warcraft in the mid 2000s now can relive in nostalgia with Hearthstone, the most popular card game currently, release in 2014. Twitch has significantly contributed in the popularity of Hearthstone as it was created as Twitch was on the rise back a few years ago.
League of Legends has developed not only as a dominant video game but also pushed the entire culture of video games further and redefined video games genre altogether. Games like Overwatch, Starcraft, Counter Strike, Playerunknown's Battleground and Heartstone have all been impacted with the rise of League of Legends and it's impacts. Video games are being exposed to modern day culture even more now than ever and their becoming apart of everyone's life. Whether you are a viewer, a casual gamer, or a hardcore fanatic video games are a booming industry and culture within themselves.