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eSports: Is It Just A Game?
By: Leon Zhi Wei Chen
Photo: Investors’ Chronicle — Source
A standoff between two teams, each with 5 members, SKT (Korean team) and EDG (Chinese team) are playing one of the most anticipated matches of the year. SKT is down 10k gold, with 0 kills to EDG’s 9. Losing 1 of 3 infrastructures that create an opening for EDG to end the game, SKT is in an extremely dire spot, especially if they lose one of the key objectives, Baron, which would provide a buff for the final push to end the game. With 1 infrastructure down, EDG goes for the second one while Baron spawns in 1 minute. Within this timespan, SKT tries their best to protect the second infrastructure, while preparing vision near the Baron, setting up their ambush. Baron spawns, EDG moves towards the topside of the map while SKT is completely in the dark. 4 members of EDG take a step too far forward and SKT Wolf appears from the shadows. Immediately charming 3 of 5 members, all losing control of their characters. Followed by SKT Huni silencing 4 of the 5 players, now all unable to use their abilities. SKT Bang comes out of stealth, unleashing hellstorm onto all affected players. Then SKT peanut layers on with extra CC (crowd control), knocking up 4 of 5 players, ensuring the immobilisation of each player. Finally, the “Unkillable Demon King” SKT Faker lands his ultimate ability that damages and immobilises 3 members. Within 11 seconds, the entire team is wiped, SKT gets the Baron and begins one of, if not the greatest comeback of worlds history.
Moments like this are why eSports is rising in popularity. As of 2021, Insider Intelligence estimates 26.6 million monthly eSports viewers, up 11.4% from 2020. Heavily influenced by the pop-culturization of the industry, where gaming continues to integrate into popular culture with the backing of multiple mainstream celebrities, while also creating celebrity-like status of their own. Video gaming streaming platforms such as Twitch and Youtube Gaming bridge the connection between players and teams with their fans, arguably a much stronger bond than any other industry’s celebrity and their fans. Merchandise are produced constantly, not only from gaming companies but also from eSports organizations such as FaZe clan, an organization that has heavily integrated into Hip-Hop and Street culture. Though specifically, League of Legends is paving the way for many others to follow, really expanding the industry and its company, to be more than just gaming.
The scene described above is one of many key moments in Worlds championship history, something that really sets the game apart from many others. In fact, Worlds 2021 is going on right now, where Stage 1 of the championships had viewers watching a total of 35.1 million hours, 17.4% higher than the previous year. Though this was an accumulation of multiple strategies that led to the success Riot Games — the company behind the video game — with one of them being their entry to “Monday Night Football” like territory. Weekday broadcasts garnered more interest and greater loyalty to the viewership demographic, ultimately creating a fanbase that has a strong allegiance to League of Legends.
Now with the soon to be released Netflix series Arcane, depicting the origin story of two characters from the game, League of Legends is slowly becoming more than just a video game. The popularity of the series could also influence the expected growth of the video game, thus affecting the growth of the viewership in eSports as well. That leaves us with the question, is eSports just a game or is it much more than that?