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League of Legends’ Appeal: The Growing Community

LeaguRiot Game's Logoe 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.

About MOBAs

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 WoWWoW 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?

Summoner's Rift, the most popularly used battleground in League of Legends.
Summoner’s Rift, the most popularly used battleground in League of Legends.

Comfort

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.

Fairness

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.

A League of Legends splash art.
A League of Legends splash art.

Characters

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.

Community

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.

Fans cheering at the LCS!
Fans cheering at the LCS!

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!

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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47 Comments

  1. I’m not an avid watcher of e-sports but it seems to have grown in popularity in what seems like a very short amount of time.

    It’s odd, having to watch someone else play a game used to be the worst part of playing games as a kid. You’d sit there partly wanting your friend to succeed to see what the next level would bring, but you also wanted them to die so the controller would find its way back into your hands.

    Life or level. The one golden rule which was absolutely enforced with extreme prejudice. Hogging the controller would ensure you were never invited back to that kid’s lounge room.

    • Slaidey

      The one player game struggle is very real! LCS is weird to watch at first because we are so accustomed to playing ourselves but once you start to remember player’s names it slowly gets easier to pick favourites. Now when I see one of my favourite players make a big play I feel good for them and am often wowed by the fact I could never pull it off myself, haha.

    • I enjoy watching players on Twitch but I doubt I could get all excited about it in a stadium, all seems a bit ra ra American to me.

  2. Tha Wig
    0

    I play League a lot but it’s only because most of my friends play it too. It’s a really addicting game when you have a group of your buddies playing alongside with you. Otherwise, I could never see myself playing it as a lone wolf. The community, at least in ranked que, is awful, and the current meta doesn’t allow one person to single handedly carry a game since it is so team focused now with a lot of the recent changes to the game. I’m going to college soon, and I know I’m rarely going to play League anymore then since most of my friends will be at different schools.

    • Slaidey

      Surprisingly, I’ve had the opposite experience you think you’re about to have. I didn’t socialize much with certain friends until I moved away to university and every day after classes we’d all hop on League to unwind and talk to eachother on skype while playing. Maybe not on a scheduled basis, but if your program isn’t too intense I’m sure you won’t have to give up your quality time spent with friends on the Rift entirely 🙂 GLHF in your program!

  3. League of legends today is better than it ever has been.

    • Yeah! The first couple years in the games development there were champs we could 1v5 and win games.
      Years ago, you could solo kill an entire team, push the turrets and win.

      In today’s LoL, it’s been balanced more for team effort, map awareness and strategic combat.

      This is why some people don’t like this game anymore, because it’s based on team effort rather than snowballing one champ and winning the game

  4. I’m really nervous about moving from the TERA community over to the League community. People in TERA either keep to themselves, or are generally nice. I know people get super pissed off in LoL from the streams I’ve watched e___e;

    • Grace Maich

      The community is the worst part of the game (and part of why I stopped playing shortly after I started playing against other players). I’ve seen people get super pissed at amateurs not doing well in not matches, even though losing against bots doesn’t matter.

      That being said, if you can get 2 or 3 people you know irl to play on a team with you regularly, it can be a lot of fun and you can drown out the voices of any randoms (and be a little less likely to deal with trolls). It is a really fun game with a lot of variety in gameplay but if you have a hard time dealing with the community it can be a little intimidating.

    • Slaidey

      There are a few places you can go to find friends to play LoL with if you don’t want to try solo queue and run into toxic people. There are lots of facebook groups and other organizations to match you with people of your skill level, interests, etc. who would love to help you learn how to play! Games are especially fun when with a friend, and if you run into someone mean there’s always the mute button 🙂 Good luck if you ever choose to venture to the Rift!

  5. Generat
    0

    The rush of getting a lot of kills is the only thing good about it.

    • Slaidey

      What about comeback games? I especially love the thrill of pushing past a bad early game with your team to pull it together and secure a win!

  6. Hamrick
    0

    League is the king of games at the moment

    • Yup, pretty amazing. No real competition either, 8x larger than it’s next “competitor” (dota2).

      Take for example the soft drink market: Coca-Cola has around 60% market share, Pepsi Co. has around 20% with the remaining 20% in other off-brands. Coke is 3x as large as Pepsi. LoL 2.5x larger than dota than Coke is larger than Pepsi.

  7. i stopped playing about a year ago but reading that it’s getting bigger makes me wanna play again…too bad friends don’t play anymore though.

    • Slaidey

      It is truly amazing how big the game has grown! I didn’t know about streamers until I started playing LoL and ventured to Twitch.tv. It’s fantastic that the community is so large and generous streamers can make a living just by doing entertaining game play commentaries.

  8. I’m so sick of games that use real money for progression. Same thing that happened in WoW.

    • Slaidey

      I agree! I always used to want to play games like WoW and other RPGs, but the commitment of a monthly paid subscription was a major turn off. I started LoL instead because my friends appealed to my frugal side, opening the conversation with “it’s free” haha. It’s great that Riot Games made it so all essentials to the game can be bought with IP (which is accumulated through playing the game) and only extra unnecessary –and rather flashy– things can be bought with RP (real money). Buying RP is my way of supporting the game’s existence and saying thank you to the makers. That being said I don’t buy skins often, and I definitely think their prices could be lowered 😛

  9. I’m starting to get decent at the game. I baught the beginners package that included a few different champions and i currently play Annie mid or Master Yi jungle, i also have Jinx but i dont play her that much.

  10. Augustine Toledo
    0

    The creator of this game really did a good job sucking players in this game and never spitting them out…. I have seen and heard about so many people playing this game and this game only for maybe about like 3 yrs or more…

    I almost got sucked into games like these but luckily I got out of the addiction, these games are pretty much a kind of a cheat to be honest, its so fun to play that some people never stop playing it, nice strategy to the guys that created games like these lol.

    • Slaidey

      Video games are becoming quite the addiction! It’s interesting how people play so many games non-stop though they are all very different. It might be an interesting study to see which games consume more of peoples’ time: sandbox games, MOBAs or even old school games like Pokemon and Zelda!

  11. League is amazing.

  12. Ilene Crespo
    0

    LoL was fun 4 years ago

  13. reading this while installing league of legends and im excited!

  14. blakeman
    0

    I really wanted to get into this game. Luckily I’ve played DotA before

  15. Pretty good explanation about the small finer points to what draws people in! familiarity definitely keeps people coming back and the mixture of people all wanting the same goal is strongly opposite of a game like WoW (Where people have many different paths to obtain personal achievement)
    Looking into some of the other games, do you think other MOBAs just don’t do it as well as LoL? There are now many different MOBA types but for some reason they don’t do as well as LoL, it could be timing of when LoL released but it may be a variety of factors. Any thoughts?

    • Slaidey

      Honestly I think LoL has grown bigger than other competitive MOBAs just because of the community. Sure, in game there are lot of salty people, but out of game the community is exceptionally supportive. Riot Games doesn’t seem to mind being a platform for other people’s passions. They sell their own merchandise but they have also recently launched a youtube show call /ALL Chat which showcases community member’s websites based around the game, art, videos, music, and cosplays! It’s encouraged me to submit artwork and I hope to be featured on their show someday. It’s not just about us supporting the game, because the game supports its players too. They don’t seem to call people out on copyright laws often, and the “Rito” part of the company is good humoured; it always makes me laugh.

      I haven’t played Dota2 but the design and animation in LoL seems cleaner, as in, LoL is easier for new players to understand. It might be more popular because it’s simpler.

  16. The core of this game is teamplay, and thus, the game is the most funniest when you play it with friends.

  17. I’m more of a DOTA person but I completely understand the appeal of League and I’m glad its getting more people into e-sports.

    • Slaidey

      E-sports events really do look exciting, I’m sure many people travel great distances to go to see LCS in person! I’d love to go some day.

  18. I love LoL because of all the possibilities it can offer. So many different champions and a couple of different playstyles.

    • Slaidey

      I think it’s great that the game is so versatile some champions exceed content creator’s expectations. Some champs can play many roles but not all of them well, and I’m sure few people expected to see the new champion Ekko (a supposed mid) being played in LCS level jungle roles!

  19. Derek Jackson

    “People like repetition with variation:” insightful, and perhaps the most common attribute of modern popular culture trends. We listen to the same basic beats, watch or read the same basic plots, and greatly enjoy mod-ing our weapons on Battlefield.

    • Slaidey

      It’s a certain kind of formula we enjoy isn’t it? The same equation but with different elements to keep it fresh.

  20. I have been playing League of Legends for almost three years and one of the things that keeps me on it is the way how the developers always keep the game up to date. There are always updates and community wide events that help improve the game and whenever a bug or glitch occurs, the developers announce it.

    Everyday at school, my friends and I constantly talk about this game and the esports scene. My only take off of the game is how the community acts. My brother told me that he played a bit of LoL in 2010 and voice chat was still a thing. Unfortunately, that did not last that long.

    • Slaidey

      It is definitely vital in competitive play to stay up to date with the meta and patch changes. When I get the opportunity to play with a friend who hasn’t been on in a month or more it always feels like there are a multitude of things they are doing that are counterproductive because of a recent change (be that because of newly introduced items or a champion rework). Last month for example, it must have been strange for a casual player to get on and see Mordekaiser, a once top solo AP tank, down in bot duo as an ADC, haha.

      • That’s right!
        My friends were going on and off about how Mordekaiser can now be played as an ADC because of the 5.17 patch. However, he is constantly banned when I play. Much more champion changes will be done in the future including Poppy, Taric, and many more.

  21. I can’t help but feel like people who have never played LoL or any other online multiplayer game might have trouble reading your article due to the jargon you included, like ‘elo’, ‘afk’, ‘streamer’, for example. Other than that I think that this was a very insightful piece.

    Personally, I beta tested Heroes of Newerth, one of the early competitors to League of Legends. I preferred HoN to LoL because at the time, paying $30 for access to all present and future characters just seemed more honest to me. And yet here we are, with the free to play model beginning to dominate both mobile and PC platforms. Presently I have nothing against LoL, but watching people play DotA 2 is infinitely more interesting because of the ability to “deny” creeps.

    • Slaidey

      I agree it must be hard for non-gamers to understand some of the language, but I hope the base points are still compatible.

      That’s very interesting. I was skeptical upon first playing LoL too because it was free but even with someone as frugal as me, they’ve got their money’s worth in RP. It’s hard not to reward the company, even by buying something unnecessary, when you get so much enjoyment from it. I’m not familiar with Dota2 (LoL is my first moba) it looks a little harder to understand for beginners. LoL’s high elo players often try to deny creeps to their enemy laners but that mostly consists of just pushing the wave to the tower so it’ll kill them before the enemies get back for the xp.

  22. As a League player, I have to say watching high level competition for the game play aspect is quite the dry experience. I find much more fun in the storytelling aspect of it all, as teams and players have their own background and personalities that make each unique.

    • Slaidey

      At first, watching LCS didn’t make sense to me. Why watch a game when I could just go play myself? What got me into it was getting to know the players, picking a team and watching them grow. You’re very right in saying the best part of watching professional play comes from the storytelling behind the game itself. When it comes to just game play it’s hard to get excited since much of what they do does not apply to low elos (like when the lane-swap meta started).

  23. My roommate of two years in college constantly played this game. I’ve heard all of the lingo and listened to him for hours trying to convince my friends and I to play. I never have and probably never will, but I still respect how large and important it has become.

  24. It’s great to see league of legends growing the way it is. It is really helping expand the esports scene with it’s popularity. Just an all around great game for many to enjoy

  25. Nayr1230

    I played for five years from 2011 to 2015, and while I’ve seen the numbers in the community quintuple since then, and the graphics and gameplay have been retooled to make it a more pleasurable experience, the one thing this article doesn’t cover is the negative community. And it is extremely prevalent in the League of Legends community. They say you attract similar flocks, but I like to think I’m a pretty positive person, and 9/10 games I would have a negative experience.

    It got to the point where my anxiety would flare as I would be preparing to be matched into a game, and eventually I had to ask myself “am I really enjoying playing this game, or am I playing out of habit?” And I already knew the answer.

    While I love that this article tries to hail all the positive aspects of this honestly great games, it misses out on alerting potential new fans of what they might be getting into.

    • Slaidey

      That’s unfortunate to hear, I went through a similar experience and had to take a few months away from LOL to recollect myself after several extremely toxic games. Although the negativity in League is sometimes overwhelming I decided not to focus on it in the article because toxicity goes hand-in-hand with any competitive or online communities. I’ve never played Call of Duty but if I ever did I would expect no less than to get bad mouthed by a bunch of preteens. Some people live for trivial conflict and others get caught in the cross-fires but that can be found in most anonymous or competitive environments.

      What helped me get over my anxiety playing and being confronted by trolls was re-shaping my mindset: realizing I shouldn’t value toxic people enough to let them shape my mood. Seeing everything that happens in the game as somewhat ironically humorous also boosts how enjoyable the experience will be (because the ones feeding are also usually the ones flaming). Thankfully there are also game modes like blind pick, aram, urf (etc.) that take the competitive edge off… and mute buttons, ahah.

  26. I think the league community has become better because Riot come out with punishment with people speaking abuese language and you can mute someone in game. However, I think it is super fun to play with couple friends and try to relax after a long day.

    • Slaidey

      With their new system Riot has notified me when players get instantly reprimanded which is nice, but I agree it is always better with friends. Although there is an option to mute people I usually end up enduring it anyway in fear they’ll say something useful when it really counts, haha.

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