PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Roar of a 'League of Legends' Crowd

The atmosphere of any live sporting event is a unique slice of that sport’s spectator culture. Where does eSports, and specifically League of Legends, fit in?

I’m sitting near the front row at my first live eSports event. It’s the League of Legends North American Regionals quarterfinals featuring Curse vs CLG, and the stakes are high. One of these teams has a chance at attending the World Championship in South Korea. The other is going home. The two teams file into their rows of computers on stage, while a huge screen starts a countdown to this pivotal match. From somewhere in the back row, up in the bleachers, comes the sound of a vuvuzela.

The atmosphere of any live sporting event is a unique slice of that sport’s spectator culture. Baseball might be about hot dogs, cracker jacks, and long breaks between plays. Hockey might be about chants or throwing octopi onto the ice. They can be heated affairs with hostile rivalries between opposing fans, or they can be calmer affairs dedicated to the appreciation of a match well played. Where does eSports, and specifically League of Legends, fit in?

The first thing that I noticed when entering the movie studio lot is that Riot approaches their North American matches in a different way than usual sporting events, specifically in terms of the food and drink selection. More specifically, they were not serving beer at the game. It’s telling that alcohol consumption and sporting events are so bound together in my mind. Sports spectatorship can be a raucous event, heavily fueled by alcohol. I had assumed that in the pursuit of cultural legitimacy, a rowdy game of League of Legends would be well stocked with booze.

Of course at some other events, Riot does serve alcohol. I suspect the minimal drink offerings have more to do with the venue and its lack of a beverage license than to catering to the event’s young audience. What came first when selecting a venue was a location amenable to the production of a high production event, not an opportunity to mirror traditional sports concession stands.

The high value production atmosphere made the event more like a game show in some ways than a competitive event. In between matches, a “hype man” came out to rile up the audience, tossing out branded plushies, building excitement among the fans. The play screen in the center stage would air League related YouTube videos, and with commentators on an elevated stand behind the crowd, each match felt very much like a performance. There were no jostling drunks or human waves rippling through the crowd. It was limited, but strategically so

On the other hand, most of the audience openly and loudly cheered for their team of choice, waving signs showing their support (or some League of Legends in-joke). Coming off a boot camp training session in Korea, the CLG hype was real and the meta drama of the event could be felt in the crowd. After CLG’s painful 3-0 loss to Curse, their interpersonal conflicts leaked over into the internet with trash talk coming from fans and other League personalities as well. The conversation surrounding these live events can feel like the trappings of professional boxing or even pro-wrestling.

Last year at the League of Legends World Championship, Riot sold out the LA Staples Center. It was the closest that eSports has come to mimicking the live spectator culture of traditional sports, but its fate is far from decided. The diversity of the crowd, both its gender and racial makeup, was greater than I imagined, but it is still something that the eSports scene struggles with. Likewise, live spectatorship could take on the antagonistic fervor of a heated soccer match, and maybe this is the extreme, the quiet and restrained applause of a golf audience. There is a separate culture not just among players, but among viewers, which is still being shaped today.

What gives me the most hope for a healthy and vibrant spectator culture? As the first match came to an exciting finish, everyone in the crowd stood up to applaud uproariously. Whereas before there were noticeable chants for CLG, there was general jubilation for a match well played. In the heat of the moment, when the game takes on its most realized form, when one of the star players stands up, huge smile on his face and nearly throws his headphones off in excitement, the crowd is a unified whole, embodying a passion for skilled play. I have written a lot of about League of Legends, especially its growing, shifting, indeterminate eSports culture, but in that moment more than any other, I felt part of something grand and enduring.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.