“League of Legends” Tournament, Supanova Gold Coast, April 2014- original photograph by author.
“Don’t confuse mercy for weakness,” these are the words that I heard over and over as I played my first ever “League of Legends” Game today. I am not much of a gamer, however, with the help and guidance of my twelve-year-old stepson, I somehow had a victory. I can’t say this initial experience was fun, it was too fast and too confusing but it has given me a healthy respect for the ease in which the two male gamers in our household play this complex team game. I also now have some insight as to why they love playing this ‘MOBA’ – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
Up until earlier this year, I had never really heard of this game. “Minecraft” was the preferred game being played in our house (I am yet to play that one). My son used to tell me how much he enjoyed playing “League”. He would mention it was a team sport and that some teams compete for huge prize money. My first actual viewing of a game was at the Gold Coast Supanova Pop Culture festival in April, 2014. I was really surprised, at that time, that so many of the crowd were so obviously “into” it. The game was being played by two teams, each with four members. The teams sat on opposite sides of a huge stage, each member’s head popping out from behind a computer screen. Not much to watch really, for the uninitiated but the roar of the crowd and the sheer numbers following every move on the big screens did make me realise this was indeed a popular “sport”. It had all of the hallmarks of being at a live soccer match or MMA bout: roaring crowd, knowledgeable of moves; instant replays; half time interviews; presentation of trophies and fulltime interviews. Doubting what I was really seeing and hearing (I was astonished that an audience would actually cheer the outcome of a computer game), I made my way to a young organisor to ask a few questions. “My son says that these winners are vying for a prize of $50,000 and a trip to compete at the world championships to win US$2 million. Is this true?” I was assured that all of this was the case.
“If the game is free, how can they come up with this amount of prize money?”, was my next question. This is what I was told: “Oh that is because of the micro transactions.” My querying, dumbfounded, unknowing look in response, compelled him to further explain. “The game is totally free. You don’t have to pay to play or compete. There are 121 characters, ‘champions’. You don’t need to pay in real cash to play as a ‘champion’ because you can win points and buy them with that. Though there is an option to buy them, if you don’t want to wait and earn points. Most players will play on average as 14 to 16 of the characters. You can customize the look of your character. To do this you buy a ‘skin’. Most players buy about six to eight skins – cost varies $5 to $10. Last year total revenue for purchases from around the world was US$628 million.”
“Wow,” was my response. (That is a lot of micro-transactions).
I am not yet a convert to this “League”, though I will give it another try because I enjoyed being part of the action and “in the know” with a game my children love.
Which games are popular at your house?