#11: Steve McNeil – LOL Addict
Uh oh. It’s happened again. About once a year I stumble across a game that just devours my time. Civilisation Revolution had me studying strategy guides at 3am. Minecraft has stolen literally thousands of hours of my life. But now there’s a new game in town. They’ve not even made me give them any money. It’s completely free, every game’s different, and it’s so deep that you can spend the rest of your life learning more about its almost limitless customisation options. If you, like me, have a tendency to go ‘all-in’ on games and you’ve not yet worked out what game I’m talking about, walk away NOW. There’s no going back.
Still here? Alright, on your heads be it. I’ve warned you. The game that you need to get right now, if you want to feed your addiction like a glue addict with a paper bag and a knock-off Pritt Stick, is League of Legends. Oh God, it’s SO good.
For the unversed, basically, in the main gameplay mode, you’re one of 5 people on a team, trying to smash the bejesus out of the opposing team’s turrets, en route to their base, which you also want to smash up good and proper. This in itself sounds simple enough. And it is. A couple of quick tutorials and you’ve learnt the basics. But there’s SO MUCH to learn.
There’s currently 126 characters, known as ‘Champions’, to choose from. That’s a lot. You don’t need to buy them, as there’s a rotating roster of free ones to pick, but if you get into it (and you will) you’ll want to invest in the ones that suit your gameplay style best, so you have access to them at all times. You’ll also want to own them because, as you become more proficient at the game, you can upgrade them. With each new level, you’ll be able to add an additional ‘Mastery’ to them, in either offense, defense or utility (magic stuff). You’ll also be able to purchase ‘Runes’ with the Influence Points you accrue from playing, again offering minor improvements to your Champion.
Jump into a battle, and you can tweak even further. You can pick 2 spells from a list of 13 to have at your disposal from the beginning and, as soon as you begin playing, you can cash in any gold you gain from kills at the local shop, to add further benefits to your strength, defense and so on by wearing armour, purchasing weapons, buying potions and so on.
Alright, you might be thinking – that’s a lot of customisation but, basically, if I find a character that suits my playing style, I can find out what the best customisations are for all this stuff, kit myself out, and then – with a bit of practice – I’ll be all over it. And you will be, for a bit. At the lower levels, this should be enough to get you going.
HOWEVER, it’s not quite that straight forward. Remember those 125 other characters you haven’t picked? You’ll be playing alongside 4 of them, and your character will need to compliment each member of the team to maximise its chance of success. And, on the other team, there’s another 5. Each of which has been customised to suit THEIR player’s style. And, as the game progresses, they’ll make their own choices about what to buy from the shop. And you’ll need to respond. In real time. To ensure you’re able to go toe-to-toe with whichever of those Champions you face, in whatever configuration they’ve decided upon. Even aside from all that, each champion has 4 unique spells, so before anything else that’s 500 different ways you might get the stuffing knocked out of you.
This might all seem overwhelming, but it really isn’t. By the time you’ve got good at the lower levels, you’ll have begun to recognise key strategies and gameplay behaviours that make sense in many situations. But the glory of the game is in that virtually infinite complexity, every game offering a truly unique challenge.
It’s why it’s one of the most popular games in the burgeoning e-sports arena. Professional teams compete worldwide on League of Legends for their piece of a prize pot that is now in excess of $2million. A similar game, Defense of the Ancients 2 (or ‘DOTA’ to fans) has a prize pot this year approaching $15million – that’s more than the Cricket World Cup or the Golf Masters. It is INSANE but, however you feel about it, playing computer games is now an actual career for the world’s best, in the same way as it can be with football or tennis.
Sadly, at 35, there isn’t a hope in hell of me ever competing with, let alone beating, these lightning-fast almost-children, but I don’t mind. I’ll never be any good at football but I like to watch a match. And though it’s inconceivable that I’d ever be allowed to compete professionally on LoL, I can still enjoy it as a spectator sport thanks to the comprehensive coverage by the game’s developer, Riot Games, on Twitch. If you want to tune in and see what all the fuss is about, you can check out the current schedule on http://euw.lolesports.com/schedule/2015-08-03 then head over to http://www.twitch.tv/riotgames
See you there! And apologies for ruining your life, but you’re going to have SO. MUCH. FUN.