My Trip to the 2015 League of Legends World Championship
With over 64 million monthly players worldwide, League of Legends, a real time strategy game developed by Riot Games, has taken the world by storm. So when it was announced that the League of Legends World Championship Quarterfinals would be hosted in London for the first time on the 15th – 18th of October, the response was nothing short of ecstatic, with all 12,500 seats in the Wembley Arena selling out in less than two minutes. Luckily, with the reaction time of a Shaolin monk, honed by countless hours of misused youth in gaming, I was able to grab tickets for the event and get a first-hand view, from the heart of the action.
Three hours before the event and despite the typically British weather, the outside area was already packed – with thousands of fans swarming to meet their favourite players, casters and personalities. Many of them dressed up for the occasion as their favourite characters: with the quality of their outfits ranging from cardboard clad warriors, to angels with fully mechanized wings and LED lighting. Seriously, some of these outfits would give professional costume designers a run for their money! It was quite a spectacle and for a game perhaps known for the negativity of its online community, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming with likeminded individuals talking, debating and laughing about the event and video games in general.
I was able to catch an interview with Oscar Postlethwaite, a university student and League of Legends fan. Upon asking him where he had travelled from, it came as a surprise to hear that he had come all the way from Edinburgh for the occasion – even more so when he said that ‘my travel time was nothing compared to some of my friends, these two here came from Sweden and I have met others that have travelled from the USA, Korea and China’. Further into the interview, it was revealed that Oscar and his friends had never met before in the real world, rather they had played the game online together for many years and had formed virtual friendships. It was touching, that a video game could have the power to connect in such a way; enabling friendships and even relationships between people around the world.
However, there was no time for sentimental thoughts as Oscar and his friends were swiftly lost in the stampede of fans as the doors opened. After squeezing through the entrance myself, I was struck by the set design of the arena: spotlights darted around the venue, while inspirational montages flashed up on a colossal screen at the front.
It wasn’t long before the event kicked off and in Eurovision style the presenter took centre stage. Armed with cliché performance lines and painfully substandard jokes – he alerted us to the nearest fire exits and introduced the teams. Firstly, AHQ e-Sports Club (AHQ) entered, they were the underdogs. It was David to Goliath or for a more contemporary analogy, Bristol Rovers to Barcelona. When the tournament favourites SK Telecom T1 (SKT) joined the stage, the crowd erupted as their star player, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, took a slight bow towards his adoring fans.
As the pre-match interviews and formalities concluded, the players took their seats and it was time to get underway. The first and second games were unsurprisingly one-sided with SKT outplaying their opponents both mechanically and strategically. It was in the third game that the competition heated up and a bead of sweat could be seen on Faker’s brow for the first time, as AHQ gained a slight advantage in the opening twenty minutes. However, SKT soon closed the gap and after only two hours, the dream underdog story had ended. Unlike the biblical tale, David needed more than God on his side, as AHQ were defeated convincingly and removed from the competition.
Whilst the game I saw was particularly one-sided, watching the League of Legends World Championships at Wembley was an incredible experience: the atmosphere, production quality and sense of community made the event truly unforgettable. As such, whether you are a hard-core gamer, hardened by years of Doritos and Mountain Dew, or just interested in watching the game for the first time, there is nothing quite like seeing competitive League of Legends live.