The Rise of Esports
By ROB FLAKS
Jericho students have always expressed a diverse fandom and appreciation for many sports, and in the last few years more and more students have gravitated toward Esports, the umbrella term that encompasses all forms of competitive video games. The most popular of these games is League of Legends (LoL), with 67 million monthly players and the most established competitive scene. The game pits 5 players on each of 2 teams on a square map with the goal of destroying the other team’s nexus in order to win the game. It also has a ranked mode by which players compete against others in their division to move up the standings. The divisions include: bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, master and challenger. Each division below master has 5 subdivisions and players must earn their stripes to advance to the higher tiers. The pro players are drafted from the high end of Challenger Division making sure that the most skilled players square off in competitive play. These teams often have sponsorships from companies, and are paid a minimum wage from Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends.
There are two leagues for competitive play. The Challenger Series is for up-and-coming teams, and League Championship Series (LCS) is for more established franchises. The professional scene is divided into 4 major competitive regions: North America (NA), Europe, Korea, and China. Most Jericho students who play League of Legends watch NA LCS, the North American division. There are 10 teams each with its own name, sponsorships and dedicated fans. The most popular team among Jericho students is Team Solo Mid (TSM). Jericho senior and passionate TSM fan Wen-Long Z. said, “I’ve been playing this game for about 4 years and I’ve been cheering for TSM for as long as I’ve been playing. It’s been fun watching my favorite team grow and get better while I did the same.” Even though TSM lost the NA LCS final this year, Wen-Long remains optimistic that TSM will do better next season. “They got beat hard by CLG [Counter Logic Gaming, a rival team] but with the roster changes I think next season will be much better,” said Wen-Long.
Another factor of the game’s popularity is the ever-changing nature of the game itself. The game has been out since 2009 but began peaking in popularity around 2012. Long time player and senior Daniel B. said, “Since it’s an online game, it’s patched often with new champions, new items, graphic overhauls and it really helps to keep it fresh. The interface is very clear and easy to understand and learn.” When the game launched it had 40 playable champions and now has 128.
The scope and popularity of the competitive scene has mirrored the growth of the game. The first season Worlds Championship was played in Jönköping, Sweden with a 200 person audience. The season 3 championship was played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles before a crowd of 18,000. The season 4 championship was at the World Cup stadium in Seoul, South Korea and attended by a crowd of 90,000,with 27 million people also watching via streaming services such as Twitch, Azubu and YouTube. For comparison, the 2014 Major League Baseball World Series had 15.8 million viewers and the 2014 NBA final had 15.5 million viewers.
With its growing popularity as a game and competition, LoL Esports shows no sign of slowing down. With Riot Games projected to make 1.3 billion dollars this year, it seems as though people will be watching, playing and enjoying League of Legends for years to come.
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