Why League of Legends matters just as much as football, baseball or basketball

gilbert_leagueoflegendsLeague of Legends is the most played game in the world, with 32 million active players each month. Being one of those players, I can confirm that playing this game creates an intense desire to see it played competitively by the greatest gamers in the world.

The League Championship Series, or LCS, just started its fourth season a few weeks ago. Accommodating both American and European brackets, it pits dozens of teams against each other day after day, week after week until the World Championships. Last year, more than 36 million people viewed the League of Legends World Championship, a bafflingly large number considering how little those who don’t play or watch League of Legends know about it. I believe LCS should receive just as much press and recognition as its physical counterparts (football, baseball, basketball).

First, all viewing takes place through online streaming. It does not require some premium television plan. This, combined with the fact that playing League of Legends is entirely free, allows for an incredible ease of access. Now, with only online streaming, one may think the production value is subpar. This is not the case, either. Each match features talented commentators and is housed within a state-of-the-art arena with hundreds of enthusiastic fans.

 

 

It could also be argued that watching it is actually more significant for its fans than for fans of basketball, baseball or football. Watching pros play League of Legends is a surefire way to get better yourself through watching pro strategy, positioning, etc. A physical sport, at a pro level, requires innate physical strength or stature. Regardless of how much a fan watches, he will never in his wildest dreams be pushing aside linebackers or sinking three pointers over Kobe Bryant. It’s more a fantasy than a learning experience.

Just last year, the U.S. government recognized League of Legends as official employment and began granting work visas to European or Asian players wanting to migrate to American teams. This is a step in the right direction for recognition of this legitimate event. Millions of dollars are generated through ads, subscriptions and sponsorships. It is time for fans of traditional sports to eliminate the stigma of E-sports from their minds.

Sports are more than just entertainment — it’s about the drive to be a great player and a great competitor. The Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA Finals should take notes on the rapid success of League of Legends, because so many people, including me, are excited about it.

Reach the columnist at iagilber@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @izzyg25