It’s two on two, senior Jack Lewis and his teammate against two opponents. Lewis waits in the back, taking care of the “minions” surrounding his partner, who attacks the two enemies.
That’s when it happens.
The two opponents kill Lewis’s teammate. Lewis is alone with no one to help him. Fate is against him and the chances of survival, slim.
So he runs straight into the thick of the fray, knowing that he will very likely lose his life.
Ten seconds later, his enemies die instead.
All right. I’ll admit it. Lewis wasn’t actually in any danger. But his “champion,” Caitlyn (the character he played), was.
Welcome to the world where Lewis not only plays champions but is one. Welcome to the world of League of Legends.
Developed and published by Riot Games Inc., League of Legends (LoL in Internet-speak) is a free-to-play online multiplayer arena battle video game in which players—called “summoners”—take the roles of champions in a five vs. five, 20- to 50-minute struggle to destroy the opponents’ base, or “nexus.”
Sounds simple, right? Well that’s where the simplicity ends.
With 112 champions to choose from (all having different stats and abilities) and 189 different items (such as weapons, armor and potions) to buy to boost said stats—not to mention that both champion and item stats are constantly tweaked by Riot—LoL is a complex game.
For example, if you wanted to increase your health so that it would be harder for an enemy to kill you, you could choose to buy Warmog’s Armor for 2830 gold (a currency gained by killing enemy champions and minions), which would boost your health by 1000 health points and give you a bonus health regeneration stat.
Not only are the character and item choices vast, but the strategy, or “meta,” behind LoL is just as confusing.
There are three lanes that lead to an enemy’s nexus, and based on the type of champion played [Tanky goes top, Attack Damage (“AD”) and Support go bottom, Ability Power (“AP”) goes middle and Jungler doesn’t go through any lane] the player chooses one of these lanes to charge through and destroy the turrets protecting the entrance.
“I’m still surprised that people get into this game,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of info you need to know to play.”
“To become decent, it took me three months of playing,” sophomore Maxwell Shukuya said. “You have to learn to intuitively know which items are best for which champions.”
Even with the knowledge required, LoL has a huge fanbase.
According to Riot games, as of 2011 LoL has had 12 million daily active players and over 70 million accounts registered, making it the number-one played video game in the world.
And it’s in this vast world that Lewis is a champion. Literally.
Lewis was introduced to the game in 2010. At the time, he was playing a similar game called Defense of the Ancients. He saw an ad for LoL, decided to try it out and was instantly hooked.
But it wasn’t until this year that his true potential emerged.
LoL is split into two overarching game modes: normal and ranked. Normal games are for players levels 1-30 or anyone looking to play uncompetitively.
Ranked, on the other hand, can be played only at level 30 and is a competitive game in which summoners are ranked into five leagues—Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond—which are further divided into five divisions, I to V (V being the lowest and I the highest) and a sixth 50-person-max Challenger league.
Once a summoner has reached level 30 and chooses to play ranked, he or she plays 10 preliminary placement matches to be placed in a league and division and then continues playing ranked to reach higher leagues and divisions.
After four weeks playing ranked, Lewis reached Diamond I.
But Lewis’s prowess didn’t stop there. He soon found he could get paid for playing the game he excelled at.
“I knew that some people coached,” he said. “So I looked for coaching jobs online.”
However, Lewis couldn’t find any coaching jobs. Instead he found a more suspicious means of income: “boosting.”
Another entry in LoL’s vast dictionary of jargon, boosting is when a player allows another better player to play on their account to increase the number of wins they have, and move them up in ranking.
“I was iffy about boosting since it violated Riot’s terms and conditions,” Lewis said. “But since I couldn’t find anything else, I said ‘Screw it’ and tried it out.”
To date, Lewis has made $64 boosting others’ accounts.
But boosting and coaching aren’t the only sources of income for LoL players.
“Top players stream their games live for people who want to learn new strategies or enjoy watching others play,” senior Nick Fesler said. “I’ve seen streams where 10,000 people were watching.”
Streamers get paid through advertising that sites put on their videos. So the more viewers, the more the ad works and the more the streamer earns.
But there is an even more lucrative LoL occupation: the professional LoL player.
These players compete in tournaments hosted by Riot and the League of Legends Championship Series. In fact, the grand prize for the spring playoffs was $50,000.
But unlike tournaments in basketball and football, in which physical ability is of the utmost importance, LoL is all about strategy and mental focus.
“You’ve got to be patient and wait for the right timing and moment to attack,” Lewis said. Otherwise you run the risk of not just losing but angering teammates.
And that is the main problem that many Country Day LoL players see with ranked.
“I stopped playing ranked because there are a lot of toxic players,” sophomore Grant Miner said.
“I’d be playing with a lot of people who were way above my level, and they’d destroy me and call me a ‘feeder.’”
In LoL, a feeder is someone who “feeds” the other team kills with their death.
“It’s just not a great community,” Miner said. “You have to have a thick skin when you’re doing badly.”
“If you or someone else messes up, there are people who continuously say ‘you suck,’” Fesler said.
While other students don’t like ranked, Lewis continuously plays it. Of the almost 900,000 players ranked in North America, Lewis is in the top .18 percentile, ranked at 1462 at press time.
Returning to the game, at 42 minutes all had seemed lost for Lewis’s team. The enemy had destroyed the defensive turrets protecting their bottom lane.
“I’m kind of new to this champion. I started playing her two days ago,” Lewis says, as he kills three more champions.
But then Lewis’s champion is killed as he and his team rush the middle lane. His teammates massacre the other team and attack the nexus.
Lewis, satisfied, leans back in his chair and watches the chaos ensue on screen as he takes a sip of his ice-cold soda.
“Yeah, we’re probably going to win now,” he says coolly.