League of Legends’ Appeal: The Growing Community
League of Legends was created by Riot Games, founded in 2006 by Brandon Beck and Marc Merill. League of Legends aka LoL launched in 2009 and has grown drastically. The website boasts that 67 million people play LoL every month. Despite being free to play Riot Games is rumored to make over $100 million dollars a month through League of Legends products. A staggering number of gamers flock to Summoner’s Rift which begs the question, what makes League of Legends so popular? This article will examine how LoL as a MOBA differs from other types of video games, the basic aspects of the game and the appeal of each of those aspects to gamers. Players quickly become attached to the comfortably changing gameplay, the promise of fair matchmaking, the in-game characters and the community which surrounds the game.
League of Legends is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). When people hear “online video game” they often associate the term with MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) like World of Warcraft aka WoW. WoW is a sandbox game. Players personalize their avatars, choose their class, race, back-story, missions, and ultimately shape their own experience. In online RPGs players can customize their avatars while in MOBAs like LoL they can not. League of Legends players are confined to the limitations of the game type, there is no alternate ending to the game or side missions. Ten players queue up, are divided into two teams, choose their champions and those champions are summoned into an online battle arena where they try to kill the enemy team’s nexus. World of Warcraft and League of Legends are part of two different game genres. These game types affect users’ experience and shapes how they interact with the game. People play WoW and LoL for different reasons, so what is the appeal has League of Legends over RPG game types that’s made its following tower over that of its online video game predecessors?
People like repetition with variation. Humans are creatures of habit; we like to have new experiences but we also like comfort in things we find familiar. League of Legends fills this niche. Every game has the promise of something different. Players are matched with other players to form teams. Everyone has the potential to make new friends and if someone so happen to dislike another player they’ve met, the odds of them meeting again in such a large community is highly unlikely (unless they are in challenger).
The players change from game to game but the game’s basics do not. The champions, items and battle arena are static. Summoners are only really allowed creativity in what runes/masteries they choose to use and the culmination of items which they buy in game with the in-game gold they earn. But that’s just looking at LoL‘s physical limitations, League of Legends as a strategy game is ever changing. The Meta is a set of invisible guidelines which governs how people play LoL. The Meta is based on efficiency. Players stick to the Meta because they want to win their games as easily and consistently as possible, but the Meta is always being tweaked. Riot Games frequently introduces new patches which shift power structures within the game, making certain champions/strategies more or less viable on a weekly basis. League of Legends is a game of adaptation, skill and co-operation. LoL is much like chess; at the start of every game each player must assess their resources and constantly harness their analytical thinking along with their practiced mechanical skills to use those resources as effectively as possible.
“Tier lists and Meta exist for a reason”- Sky Williams.
That being said, no player can deny the satisfaction of successfully breaking the Meta (winning a game by playing a champion in an unconventional way). It’s all part of the surprise aspect of League of Legends. Every game is a box of chocolates.
League of Legends tries to make the game fair to all its players by matching Summoners together based on their skill levels. This system works more often than not, but there’s always the chance someone ranked in bronze could find themselves “lane-ing” against a diamond player’s smurf account (people in higher ranks of the game sometimes make new accounts to see if they can climb their way back up the tiers).
Oddly, when faced with an opponent who appears to be much better at the game, players still have hope for winning. Why? Because no matter a player’s rank or elo, everyone starts a game out with their one champ, two summoner spells and limited amount of gold. LoL is an even playing field. The only thing a player can accumulate to help them win games is knowledge. There are no advantages money can buy other than a confidence boost from owning the coolest skin on your team. Strategy is key.
LoL prides itself on its characters. Every champion Riot introduces has a persona which players can love, hate or permaban. Characters often embody archetypes found in other cultural texts. Two examples are Pantheon the Artisan of War and Orianna the Lady of Clockwork. Anyone who admires the ancient Roman Empire or loved the movie 300 is bound to give Pantheon a try; he looks like he’s plucked straight out of Sparta. Orianna on the other hand is a robot with a Pinocchio-like lore who loves to dance the ballet. Riot takes old character stereotypes and tries to give them a new twist. Even in a gaming environment people can find ties to their other interests, each character fits into a cultural niche or literary genre.
Players cannot customize their own avatar but they can become attached to a certain character or “main a role.” This inability to alter champions creates fluency and helps players’ ability to understand the game. Having a favorite champion is much like having a favorite character in a television show and players can bond off of their shared love of a champion/role. Although two players may have nothing in common outside of the game, LoL provides them with a platform to connect over; a blank slate. Everyone plays the same game with the same champs and are driven by the same purpose; winning. It’s always interesting to see how each player approaches that goal and to meet others who prefer to play the game in a similar style or in a different style but with your shared favorite champions.
There’s a long standing joke within the LoL community that it’s the most toxic culmination of people on the internet. Peoples’ inner trolls often show when the Meta is too viciously enforced. Players put more value in success than fun. Is this wrong? Yes, but if you think about it, this is the reason so many people play; League of Legends is more than just a game, it’s an investment. Players care about their ranking, they’ve invested time and emotion into the game.
Players sometimes have a hard time waving off in-game negativity, but that’s okay! Because League of Legends and MOBAs aren’t just a game with an avatar and fake personas, it’s a demonstration of yourself, your true skills. That’s why we love LoL. When we’re frustrated at a teammate it’s sometimes just misdirected anger. It’s not about that player being unskilled and losing the game, it’s about our incapacity to climb over that difficulty block, pull through and carry the game to victory for ourselves and for our team. Play style and demeanor are reflections of one’s own mechanical and analytical skills. Players tend to view their team as other real life individuals and not faceless champs. If they find themselves frustrated they’ll associate it with that anonymous person. We are the Summoners controlling champions on the Fields of Justice.
League of Legends is twofold. It’s a game of adaptation and skill. Players can grow as they play; they get better at certain champions and learn new strategies to win. LoL has a ranking system so people can track their progress and strive to be better for themselves and for their teams. LoL is also a game of co-operation and friendship. League of Legends as a community has grown to encompass millions of people and will continue to grow. It’s become more than just a game; it’s a hobby, a social outlet, and a sport! Though at times we may be divided on opposite sides of the Rift we all share one thing in common– a drive to better ourselves– and in that we can find mutual understanding.
Many players take League of Legends out of game and use its inspiration to make a career as an artist, profession player or streamer. LoL is so influential it is being played competitively around the world in LCS. Just as players have their favorite champs and roles, they also find pride in cheering for their region’s home teams on the world stage! Valuing a game so highly isn’t bad so long as we don’t let winning consume the knowledge that we only win as a team and when we learn from our mistakes.
League of Legends brings people of all kinds together in a co-operative environment. Unlike in WoW, solo queue players in LoL can’t choose their raid party and every game is a raid, a shared struggle, a mission. When I say LoL provides players with a platform for understanding it’s because everyone is playing the same game; the Rift is the same for everyone. When a player has an afk on their team even the enemies can empathize because they’ve also shared that experience. LoL is more than an escape from reality through virtual play because it unknowingly helps players grow both emotionally and mentally. People get frustrated by the game because it so heavily permeates their real life development, but there’s always the prospect of the next game! Players get a fresh start every game, to be better and to get better. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn on the Rift. I hope to see you there!
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