League of Legends: A Look At The Most Played Game In The World

by Jack Gardner on Jul 26, 2012 at 02:00 PM

What is League of Legends? How does one play? What makes it a great eSports spectacle? I cover some of the basics of the game and sit down with a League of Legends fan for some insight into the community, the game, and its professional players.  

League of Legends has caught on fire in the eSports community and beyond over the past year. Riot Games’ title has been featured in the world’s largest tournaments, such as Dreamhack and the MLG Pro Circuit. League of Legends has become so popular that, according to a survey of the playtime of 21 million Xfire users, it is currently the most played game in the world. To throw some numbers around for comparison, World of Warcraft, the great PC MMO juggernaut, had a little over 600 million hours logged into the game from July 2011 to June 2012. Players logged over 1.3 billion hours playing League of Legends in that same timeframe. That’s the equivalent of about 148,402 years.

What draws people to spend that much time on a game? For an insider’s perspective, I turned to my personal friend and League of Legends eSports super-fan Kendall for her take on the game, the pro teams, and the attraction to the game. 

Would you consider yourself a big League of Legends fan? 

Yeah, I would consider myself a big League of Legends fan. I watch the major tournaments. Occasionally I watch minor tournaments when it is the weekend and I am not doing anything and I usually watch at least one streamer every now and then during the day or a couple times a week.

You also play League of Legends. How much would you say you play every week in addition to watching games?

Probably an average of two games per night, and those usually run about 45 minutes. So about two hours a night.

Could you try and describe what you find so appealing about the game?

I think that I play because I enjoy the strategic aspect of the game. The mind games – because it is a PvP game, you are always messing with your opponent’s head or trying to outguess your opponent. It has – and this is what initially attracted me to the game – a very simple interface, in that you only have four spells, but the ways you can combine and use those spells is where you can shine. For example, I play support the most. So with the support champions, I get a lot of pleasure out of finding new and different ways to use their abilities, either as just attacking the enemy, or defending my own team, or slowing down the enemy, or trying to find different ways to do that which are more creative. 

I think that I watch for a lot of the same reasons, so that I can understand different strategies. It’s a fun game for me, and it is a way for me to take my mind off of graduate school, which can be very stressful. It’s a way to sometimes rage, sometimes get extreme satisfaction out of something that isn’t work. Yay escapism!

What are some of your favorite teams or players or tournaments to watch in League of Legends?

Well my boyfriend and I are planning to go to the season two finale of the League of Legends Circuit. We are actually planning on going in person to this tournament, which I think will be quite an experience. 

As far as favorite tournaments, the thing is – I suppose it is clear cut, but it is not as clear cut to me because I don’t obsessively look at the tournament circuit – there are games which count toward League Points, so those are the bigger tournaments and you get all of the major teams competing at those. You get to see the big-name teams competing against each other. Those are obviously really exciting matches. 

As far as my favorite player, I play support most in the game, so I really enjoy watching Nhat Nguyen play. He’s a pretty consistent streamer and he plays support and it is fun to watch someone play the position that you play. Scarra is a really good AP mid [spell-based hero commonly assigned to the middle lane –Ed.] who I enjoy watching because he explains all of the aspects of his gameplay. 

As far as a favorite team, I really like because they are kind of amazing, but I also like TSM.Evo and CLG’s North American team.

Do you think we can expect to see more teams from more areas spring up in the coming years in the eSports scene?

To some degree, League of Legends has very much a global presence already. I think that they are testing a Brazil server right now. They just launched in Turkey; I think last weekend or two weekends ago, they had a Turkish launch. I mean, one of the top teams is from Russia. There is very much a global presence. A lot of it, obviously, is dependent on Internet speed and computer presence. But I think that in a lot of places where there are computers and an Internet speed that can handle it, people that are interested in computer gaming and that type of computer gaming are playing League of Legends.

We talk about how to the game could be improved, Dota 2, and link to the greatest game of League of Legends ever played after the jump! 

What changes could be made, in your opinion as a player and a viewer, to bring the game to a wider audience?

It is really hard to explain League of Legends to somebody that doesn’t play it. It is really hard when you first start playing; I remember there being a steep learning curve of trying to figure out what each of the champions does, and you definitely get a lot more satisfaction when you understand what each champion does. Riot is definitely making an effort to increase their champion pool, which I think adds a lot for people that are interested in the game, but I think it also makes it a lot more difficult for people who are just starting off, watching it as an eSport or playing it. There is more content, so it is harder to master. It’s like, “Oh, that’s Maokai, he will snare,” or, “That’s Malzahar, he will suppress.” I think that knowing what each player will do and what each character does, gives you more understanding; you enjoy watching the eSport more because you know what is happening. Otherwise, it is just a bunch of random spell effects. 

I think making it more accessible, making the champions easier to understand, making their abilities easier to understand, will bring it to a wider audience. League of Legends is a far cry ahead of Dota 2 and Heroes of Newerth, in my opinion. I tried to play both and I was very unsuccessful.

That leads into my next question. Do you think that the success of League of Legends in relation to Dota 2 or Heroes of Newerth is related to the ease of accessibility in understanding what is going on in League of Legends? 

The thing is that I started off playing League of Legends, so the interface feels really intuitive to me. I am sure somebody who started off playing HoN would feel like the League of Legends interface is really counterintuitive. From that perspective, I don’t know if I am really a good judge. I think you’d have to have an independent setup where you had one player start playing League of Legends and HoN simultaneously…. I don’t know. But I think that the spell effects, what team the minions are on, what team the players are on, the enemy health bars, etc. is a lot clearer on League of Legends. It is a lot easier for me to understand what is going on. Whereas in HoN, I don’t always know what team I’m on or which team the person I am hitting is on. So, yeah, I think that League of Legends has an advantage over HoN and Dota 2, from what I saw of Dota 2 in that respect. But also, I have not played nearly enough of those games to feel that I’ve mastered them.

Do you think that when Dota 2 comes out with all of Valve’s backing it will be able to compete successfully with an established game like League of Legends?

I am not sure. I really enjoy League of Legends. Part of the reason I’m going to keep playing League of Legends is that I suspect that my friends will keep playing League of Legends, and I don’t particularly want to learn a whole new game. I don’t know how much of the League of Legends community that is true for. As long as League of Legends continues to have a good matchmaking system – quick matchmaking, which I think is really important – and a big enough community within which to play, I think it will be competitive. I don’t know what Valve’s backing is really going to necessarily accomplish beyond what Dota 2’s name by itself hasn’t already. DotA is considered in many ways the precursor to League of Legends, and I think people that play League of Legends acknowledge that. I don’t know how Dota 2’s full release will affect the community. I already have a Dota 2 beta key, and I suspect that a lot of LoL players already have a Dota 2 beta key. I’m not playing it. But that’s just me.

What would you say if you were trying to convince someone that they should play League of Legends?

The thing is, it is tough to pick up, but it is really fun and strategic once you are at a higher level of play. It takes a bit to pick up on what all of the characters do, but I don’t know if I could really convincingly argue for it. It is such a time commitment! [laughs] But it is a fun game. It is a really fun game. It is free-to-play, so you are not losing any money investment. I think that is probably where Dota 2 has a leg up on League of Legends; they are going to release all of the champions to everyone. In League of Legends, you have to unlock new champions. But it is fun and free and entertaining.

How about if you were making the case for people to watch a League of Legends stream or tournament? Is it the same argument, or different?

eSports are trying to make their stance as being [similar to sports], right? So you are going to try to draw comparisons between sports and eSports. When I first started watching rugby when I went to New Zealand, I had no idea what was going on. Australian-rules rugby was even worse because that is just…I don’t think even people that understand rugby understand how Australian-rules rugby works. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but I stuck through it and I really enjoyed watching it and cheering for, you know, I was in New Zealand so I rooted for the All Blacks, which were the dominant team in rugby at that point. You get satisfaction out of rooting for your favorite team. You should watch for that reason.

Do you have any advice for first-time players?

Learn what last-hitting means. I think that is one of the single most important concepts in the game and they don’t really explain it in the tutorial. It is something that makes a huge difference. Watching streams helped me improve my play and pick up on things that I didn’t necessarily realize the importance of, like warding and letting my AD carry farm and all of that stuff. I would encourage somebody who is picking it up to play a few games, play the tutorial, and then maybe watch some streamers and see what you can pick up. Obviously you won’t be enacting pro plays in your first game, but you can definitely learn things like last hitting, really good spell combos, etc.


A big thanks to my friend Kendall for taking the time to answer my questions. Below you will find one of the greatest games of League of Legends ever played.


Coming soon: A brief tutorial on how to play League of Legends.