League of Legends paves way for eSports

Miss Fortune: League of Legends offers players over one hundred different champions to play as. “Miss” Sarah Fortune is just one of them, and like all champions, comes with a deep backstory.

Adam Vlach

Being good with virtual weapons and magic pays dividends – millions, to be exact.

ESports, which are essentially certain video games played competitively, are emerging, and the industry is being led by a game that draws almost 30 million players every day.

League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena game, or “MOBA.”

“It’s essentially just this map, and you pick five characters that you want to play with, and after that it’s essentially a tower defense game,” said Nate Purcell, a junior computer information science major.

In tower defense games, the goal is to stop enemies from reaching a certain point by putting obstacles in their path or fighting them. In League of Legends, the goal is to cross the map and destroy the opponents’ nexus.

“There’s three main lanes on the map, and you either go into a lane with a partner or you go in by yourself, and you essentially try and get into the opponents’ base and destroy the opponents’ nexus,” Purcell explained. “That’s like the last piece that you have to destroy. You destroy a whole bunch of towers and other structures along the way to get to it.”

Each player plays as a “champion.” Different champions have different strengths, weaknesses and abilities.

“I don’t read a lot of lore, but champions are supposed to be like warriors from their local cities,” Purcell said. “There’s a lot of lore behind it.”

Purcell said that League of Legends is very competitive and “absolutely” an eSport. He said it does take a lot of skill to be good, though.

People will play in championships around the world and can win hundreds of thousands of dollars. The prize for winning the 2014 League of Legends World Finals was $1 million.

Purcell said that people watch others play it year round, though.

“When I was watching it the other day, just live, there were over 450,000 people watching it live, just on Twitch. And they still stream on other streaming stations,” he said.

Companies also pay to advertise on popular players’ channels, buying ad spots for the site or banner ads that scroll across the screen. Some players will endorse advertisers over commentary while playing.

Companies will also sponsor entire teams. The winning team of the 2014 World Championship was “Samsung Galaxy White.” The team “Samsung Galaxy Blue” took third place.

Two American colleges – Robert Morris University and the University of Pikeville – consider League of Legends a varsity sport and offer scholarships for it.

Purcell said he thinks eSports will become more prominent in the United States, but it will take time.

“I think it will get there,” Purcell said. “It will be a while because nobody’s super ambitious about making video games a big deal. It’s just weird. I think it’s just our culture is going to take a little bit of warming up to it because you look at places like Korea and they had like an entire football stadium full of people just watching the world finals.”