Riot Games is an American-based Chinese video game publisher that was established in 2006 and is a subsidiary of Tencent Corps. The $927 million dollar company was founded by: CEO Brandon Beck, and President Marc Merrill, two friends that aspired to run the most player-focused game company in the world. Their main office is located in Santa Monica, California near esteemed competitor Activision Blizzard the creators of the massively popular MMORPG World of WarCraft. They currently have additional offices around the world in places like St. Luis, Dublin, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Istanbul, Moscow, Sydney, and Taipei. Riot shares many business models and philosophies with Blizzard including a healthily competitive work environment for both companies. Because of this Business Insider named Riot Games #4 on its list of top 25 technology companies to work for in 2013. Riot Games is different than any other video game company in the world and resembles a sports league in some ways like the NHL or MLB. This is because they have only produced a single game in their illustrious history. League of Legends released on October 27, 2009 in North America and Europe and quickly spread around the world. League of Legends otherwise known as LoL, was developed as a sport and is played by over 67 million users every month and the number continues to rise globally. Currently Riot is considered the fastest growing manufacturer of high quality online games.
What is really exciting about League of Legends is that the game was built from the ground up to be a sport. It’s a competitive five-on-five, team-based competition and can last from 35 to 45 minute matches. Riot streams all professional games around the world through the LCS (North American) and OGN (South Korea) networks. These games are streamed across multiple online sites in real time. These networks are complimented by the spectator crowed located at the tournament venues around the world. There are full seasons, playoffs, and championship games hosted on these private networks. Many other web sites like Twitch TV and YouTube offer replay videos at no cost. The game is well on its way to crossing the bridge between team sports and video games, with a healthily increasing audience and diligent live spectator crowd. League of Legends has become the world’s most played PC game, surpassing World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and MineCraft combined. The game eclipsed more than a billion hours of game time in a year, which is an incredible testament to its success.
The game is very complex but is presented in a very simplistic way so that it is easy to learn, even from the beginning tutorial as a level one Summoner. The audio portion of the game is barely noticeable because it so seamlessly integrates itself with the surroundings of the game in intricate fashion. Pings are a system of warnings that can be issued by players in the game and come in the form of four varieties. The four options are: going here, help me, missing enemy, and danger. These four simple commands can be used in very strategic ways to change the flow of the map dramatically. Awareness is the key element of this game and the audio supports all the important local events happing across the map. Destroyed turrets, defeated champions, and base infiltration are all notified by the in game announcer audio. While this audio usage is not innovative it is objectively simplified in such a way that it never interferes with the flow on the fields of justice but enhances the experience. The musical score in league of legends comprises of two individual songs and is turned off by most players who spend a decent amount of time in the game. The game has never been about music at its core. The alert notifications and champion sound effects must be turned on though because they are pivotal elements of gameplay. Champion sound effects are numerous in this game and can designate many different situations to be prepared for. The game requires extreme dexterity and control over time periods that can last between less than a second. Because of that champion sound effects are usually quick and concise lasting no longer than a second at most.
League offers over 100 unique characters with simple to use abilities that can each be mastered much like riding a bike. This makes the game simple to play because there are really only four main commands (keys: qwer), which are placed in an easy to use place on the keyboard in synchronization with the game mouse. Many players would compare it to a chess like unit game that requires careful planning and strategic coordination. The main difference being that it requires a team to win a game and not an individual player. The game is free to play but offers extra champion outfits and upgrades in exchange for money, this usually amounts to the longer time spent playing the more money contributed. Riot utilizes the free to play method perhaps better than any company currently on the market. By allowing free use of the product they can invest on creating spectacular content that their fan base is excited for, unlike many console games where players become disgruntled about purchasing DLC. By giving players nearly unlimited access to gameplay with no charge except to enrich the experience, LoL can be played by anyone with a computer. Those even with limited operating system have the opportunity to play the game on Riots impressively low settings options. Like most sports though equipment and quality of the gear makes a huge difference. There are still some phenomenal teen players out there who use “nerfed” computers and can still compete against those with better upgrades. The game is especially popular among student aged children and young adults which has seriously opened the debate of video game addiction, a much more prevalent issue in todays society. This is another similarity to Activision Blizzard and the various controversies regarding World of Warcraft. Online gaming addiction is responsible in the case of 13 deaths across the world. This addiction affects thousands of gamers and no real research has been dedicated to this serious and recent trend.
While there is plenty of controversy and questions regarding the future of eSports, some things are certain. Sports franchises usually must avoid negative attention to wade through layers of public scrutiny and cultural awareness. Addiction and sports can both be mentioned in the same grey area of what defines a game. League of Legends entertains millions while pushing the boundaries of globalization and competition. Riots dedication to its pro and casual players makes it the most prominent video game company in recent history. Video games and developers have been front news media on many websites regarding the portrayal of female characters in games. Riot has been ahead of the curve for some time on this topic though and already offers a huge cast of iconic female characters. League of Legends leads the charge for video games in 2014 with players from across the world mingling in competitive spirit. The company is about to release its highly anticipated “Summoner’s Rift” update arena which could be compared to creating a new stadium in real sports. The new LoL is going to be an upgrade in visual displays making sure to retain the core elements of the original game. The mini map used in many games to locate surroundings is as important as your character display. One of the big noticeable differences between newer and experienced players is that “noobs” are considered narrow sighted not being able to fully process their surroundings. Because the fog of war is so important in this game, extra vision is perhaps the main strategy in the whole game. This tactic is known as warding and it creates small areas on the map that can forecast an incoming flank from an enemy. This rule is frequently ignored in the North America region because buying player upgrades is considered more essential for conflict. Using the “Ping” audio and utilizing correct warding placements can result in very complex team plays. Other important visual heads up include visual pings and nearby invisible enemy alerts. The HUD is Diablo like in its simplicity and shows limited but important information. One of the innovative display formats in league is the ability to see what your opponent is purchasing for items. The relationship between champions and item builds can be very mathematical and many debates ensue about the viability for different meta builds. Being able to counter build enemies or synergize team builds is dependent on keeping track of the game progress periodically. It is important to note that the game added meaning to the word meta by refereeing to the way champions fluctuate over the weeks and months and how well they do among the pros. Riot patches and updates the game regularly, so some champions are considered flavor of the month like many real life sports team players. Pros and players stream everyday with millions of non-player viewers being added to streams regularly. Would any of this have ever happened if not for a book about Hobbits and a game with a turbulent past like Dungeons & Dragons?
Jon Robinson “’League of Legends,’ eSports growing” ESPN.com, Aug 8 2012
Jenna Pitcher “Samsung White wins $1M League of Legends 2014 World
Anonymous college administrator “Students and Video Game Addiction” Insider Higher ED, Dec 13 2012 https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/12/13/students-and-colleges-vulnerable-computer-gaming-addiction-essay
Paresh Dave “Online game League of Legends star gets U.S. visa as pro athlete” Los Angeles Times, Aug 7 2013 http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/07/business/la-fi-online-gamers-20130808
Eddie Makuch “US government recognizes League of Legends players as pro athletes” Gamespot, 12 July 2013 http://www.gamespot.com/articles/us-government-recognizes-league-of-legends-players-as-pro-athletes/1100-6411377/
Marshall Lemon “League of Legends Topples World of Warcraft as Most Played PC Game” The Escapist, July 11 2013