A World of Upsets: League of Legends 2018

Millions tune in to watch world championship

Let me ask you something, do you know what Esports are? Essentially, Esports is competitive gaming. Throughout an array of different games, both new and old, professional players around the world compete in leagues and competitions for enormous cash prizes. From CSGO and DOTA 2 to new titles like Rainbow 6 Siege and of course, Fortnite, the pantheon of Esports titles range many genres of games to suit any player’s skills. The most popular genres are Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs), first-person shooters, and sports games, with League of Legends leading the charge. Until the arrival of Fortnite, a third-person battle royale game, League of Legends consistently held the number one spot for viewers on Twitch, the primary streaming site for video games. These Esports almost always model themselves after traditional sports, especially when it comes to playoffs and major tournaments. Naturally, a game with as much popularity as League of Legends holds a landmark tournament each year to celebrate the talent of each region to determine which team is the best. Enter the League of Legends World Championship.

Taking place October 1st to November 3rd, 2018, the top three teams from the five major regions, North America, Europe, China, South Korea, and Taiwan, as well as ten teams from various “wildcard” regions compete to determine the best team in the world and win the Summoner’s Cup (and an incredible monetary award). The first Worlds tournament for League took place in 2011, culminating in a historic final between Fnatic and All authority in which Fnatic took the victory. Since then, when “only a few hundred fans watched live,” the popularity of the game has skyrocketed and millions tune in to watch the World Championship each year. The season 3 World Championship was held in the U.S. and resulted in a sold out Staples Center in LA, California. Increasing in popularity year upon year, last year’s tournament peaked at 80 million concurrent viewers during the semifinals of the tournament, where players competed for a total prize pool of $4,946,970. Now on its eight iteration, the viewership and prestige of the tournament is certainly set to impress in 2018. 

After that historic inaugural tournament, there have been certain trends that have been established in League of Legends history. Asian teams have won six of seven championships, Korean teams are the most dominant region, not missing a single worlds final match since 2012, and North American teams traditionally underperform, with the last NA team to reach the semifinals occurring in 2011 when the tournament was only between North America and Europe. 

Today, October 21, 2018, stands as a historic day in League of Legends history as all of these facts have been broken. The tournament to date has been a year of upsets, where kings fall and underdogs reign supreme. For the first time since their entrance into the tournament, the Korean representatives have all been knocked out of the tournament prior to the semifinals. Also a North American team has reached the semifinals for the first time in seven years, and only one Asian team remains in the tournament. After the series of upsets that occurred this past weekend (Oct 20-21) where tournament favourites RNG and KT Rolster have fallen, the semi-final matches feature two European teams, one North American team and one Chinese team. The matches will take place October 27th, with European representative G2 Esports taking on the Chinese team Invictus Gaming, and on October 28th with the original champions Fnatic taking on North America’s remaining hope, Cloud 9. 

But, aside from the immense feeling of community and entertainment that Esports offer (just like any other traditional sport), why does Esports matter in university? Universities around the world offer scholarships and incentives for varsity athletes to play traditional sports, but some universities are adopting Esports teams as well. 

Some prominent Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of British Colombia, along with an expansive list of American universities, offer scholarships for Esports. Interestingly, Riot Games, the creators of League of Legends, holds a collegiate league for university players to compete for prestige and substantial scholarship dollars where UBC stands at the top of the pack. In 2015, the team beat out Simon Fraser, Texas A&M, and Robert Morris University on their way to winning the $180,000 in scholarships. While this community is certainly niche compared to the massive audiences that traditional sports draw in, both in universities and throughout the rest of the world, it is becoming ever clearer to the general public that Esports are not only real, but are a medium of entertainment that should be remembered as it continues its growth for years to come.