League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena video game, or in short, a MOBA. It is currently the most played video game in the world, with 80 million active users monthly. In League of Legends, players assume the role of an unseen “summoner” that controls a “champion” and battle against a team of other players playing different champions. The goal is usually to destroy the opposing team’s “nexus”, a structure which lies at the farthest side of each map, which is protected by defensive structures.
Due to the game’s sheer popularity and its complexity, while being entertaining to watch, League has an extensive professional scene, with leagues in North America, Europe, Korea, China, Hong Kong, and many more. Each regional LoL Esports league is comprised of approximately 10 teams that compete against one another year-round over the course of two seasonal splits. All of these teams compete in the regular season to qualify for the international competition called Worlds, short for League of Legends World Championship. Last year, 57.6 million unique viewers watched the 2017 League of Legends World Championship. This year’s competition is heading to South Korea for the first time since 2014 as the 24-team international competition kicks off on October 1st to compete for the Summoner’s Cup, on top of a 5-million dollar prize Pool.
Worlds has been dominated by Korean teams for the past 6 years, in which all of those years have had a Korean team lift the Cup. This time, however, Korea are not the favorites heading into the tournament. Royal Never Give Up, a team from the Chinese LPL have dominated every single international tournament this year, beating many Korean teams in tournaments like Rift Rivals and Mid-Season Invitationals, which is a mid-season version of Worlds, to put it simply. The Chinese Asian Games team that grabbed gold medal this year also mostly composed of Royal members. Spearheaded by their star AD Carry Jian “Uzi” Zi-hao, they currently top the pre-tournament power rankings over Korean teams such as KT Rolster Bullets, Gen G, and Afreeca Freecs. However, KT comes in as a close second in the power rankings. With Ko “Score” Dong-bin as their captain, their intelligent but explosive playstyle offers plenty of competition to their Chinese counterparts. Europe is the third most likely region to make a splash at worlds with their 1st seed in Fnatic, an old European powerhouse, but their chances at reaching the top stages of the tournament seem slim, simply due to the sheer amount of competition the Korean and Chinese teams offer.
Worlds is a tournament packed with action, drama, comebacks, along with Cinderella stories that happens every year. Although e-sports always gets written off as a minor sport, but when you experience the emotional rollercoasters play out on the world’s biggest stage, it’s hard to dismiss Worlds as a minor event.