League of Legends

GC League of Legends players are pictured at a recent practice in the bottom floor of Parkhurst Hall. Next month the team will play the University of Massachusetts for a chance to compete in the national League of Legends College Championship

For the past several years, video game fans around the world have become increasingly enamored with e-sports, the act of watching and playing video games in a competitive setting. 

With online broadcasts of amateur and professional tournaments reaching an estimated 225 million people in 2015, e-sports has quickly become one of the most popular pastimes for teens and young adults across the world. Between scores of dedicated fans, dozens of players from across the Peach Belt Conference, and one oversized projector screen, last weekend the Georgia College e-sports team accomplished something that has never been done in the history of the NCAA.

“This is the first conference championship for this league at the NCAA level - the Big 10 is hosting the second conference championships in a month and a half,” said Al Weston, Georgia College’s Assistant Athletic Director for Communications and an early catalyst for its first-ever e-sports team. Since the beginning of this academic year, Weston and his counterparts at the Peach Belt’s 12 member schools have been forming and supervising official teams for League of Legends, an online multiplayer fantasy game played by an estimated 100 million people each month. At this weekend’s inaugural League of Legends tournament, Georgia College capped off a 7-2 regular season with an impressive finish in the final round. 

“We did a lot of practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in preparation for the weekend, and obviously it paid off because we ended up getting second place,” said Anthony Cheang, a freshman math major from Martinez. “The first two games of the finals, we got it handed to us - I’m not going to lie. UNG [the University of North Georgia] knew exactly what we were going to do at all times … We actually gave them their first loss of the season, because before that they hadn’t lost a game. They beat us overall, but we like to think that we beat them in our hearts.”

Created by game developer Riot Games in 2009, League of Legends quickly became one of the most popular video games in the world. Featuring characters called ‘Champions’ that battle opponents with a combination of spells and medieval weapons, the game’s 2013 world championships drew more global viewers than the MLB World Series, the NBA Finals, and the final round of the Masters golf tournament. Although the team’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of UNG denied Georgia College from hoisting the first-ever Peach Belt League of Legends Championship on their home turf, the Bobcats are still alive in their quest for LoL glory. When the 12-person team returns from GC’s spring break this week, they will do so with an even more important match on the horizon.

“We were pretty happy with the result; it would have been a huge upset for us to knock off North Georgia,” said Noah Greene, a freshman mass communication major from Roswell who plans to pursue a career in e-sports broadcasting. “We’re playing the University of Massachusetts at the beginning of April, and if we beat them we’ll go to L.A. [for the national League of Legends College Championship].”

In narrowly missing out on the first ever NCAA-sanctioned e-sports championship, the GC League of Legends team (or GCLOL, as they’re known on team apparel) played an integral role in establishing a competition that will only continue to grow. Although team members say it is unlikely they will be able to beat UMass next month, Greene said the experience of blazing a trail for other gamers has brought the team together more than any single match.

“Definitely the ‘team’ part, and getting to play in a team game,” he said of the best part of competitive ‘League’. “A lot of video games are single-player and you don’t really talk to people. [It’s] being able to have that group that talks a lot when we’re playing and hangs out outside of the game.”

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