Let me paint you a story. I'm familiar with fandoms. They're not a new thing. However, when you go to a huge convention and you see that probably a quarter of the people play League of Legends, it changes your perspective. When every non-Riot developer talks about LoL, it opens your eyes to just how pervasive the game is.
There was another unified thing about everyone I talked to who played LoL: All of them hated jerks. None of them were intentional trolls, and everyone loved the game and wanted to make it better. All the Riot staffers I talked to preached the same mantra: "It's all about the fans." It's clear that their attitude has paid some pretty big dividends. There's a lot of you guys, and you're all pretty awesome.
Why not talk about NA LCS regionals?
Astute observers will note that I didn't cover the tournament, so I have to add a disclaimer. The tournament was frankly uninteresting, and I didn't want to write a lot of false hype. There were a few gems among the matches, but the majority of the games were blowouts. If you don't want spoilers, don't read the next paragraph and go watch the VODs.
TSM and C9 won all of their games 2-0 until they faced each other, then C9 won 3-0 in the finals. VUL blew out DIG 2-0 in the third place match. Most of these games were over before 20 minutes (even if they lasted longer).
None of this is Riot's fault; it's just sad that the tournament ended up that way. I was just really sad that there were no big comebacks or amazing swings -- it was about as exciting watching the matches as it was reading that paragraph above. So no tournament news, guys. Sorry.
The real news is the fans. It's not really new, of course. We already knew that League of Legends is the biggest game in the world. However, in today's gaming world, that means something totally different. It's one thing to have a big game, and it's another to have such a big game that probably half the cosplayers at PAX were wearing something related to LoL.
Everyone had a different story to tell about how he or she played. Most people played fairly casually, but they all had different experiences to tell. Because LoL is kind of an accomplishment-based game, I got the impression that most folks really wanted to be better, and I've mentioned that, at least up to about gold level, you can get there with a little effort. I talked with one platinum player and joked about his fanatical obsession. He admitted that he'd had way too much time to play in college.
Everyone was super cool. If you, dear reader, think that the LoL community is caustic and full of rabid 14-year-olds, you're mistaken. I realize that the community I meet IRL is going to be much different from the community in-game, but even in-game the troll factor has diminished since honor was introduced. There will always be bad apples, but there are those in every game.
Comparatively, I've been pushed around in lines by players of other games. I've had people from other gaming communities act like unapologetic jerks in person. In fact, among the competitive gaming circles, League of Legends players were the most cordial, friendly group of people I've ever interacted with IRL. Other competitive games do not have this same sort of camaraderie, and it was really nice to have a virtually zero-trashtalk environment when talking with LoL players.
Riot has a culture
I've noticed that the employees of larger game studios have internal cultures. I've talked with a few in online interviews, I know a few people who got into the business, and of course I met quite a few at PAX. The culture of Riot Games is "community first."
Riot's devs care more about you guys enjoying their game than virtually anything else. Their community management policy is "all hands on deck." I didn't think to ask if that meant everyone has had some training in community management, but I suspect the answer is yes.
I talked with quite a few people from Riot -- mostly e-sports people, thanks to the tournament -- and every single one of them emphasized how important the fans were. I know some of that is PR spin. Game companies want themselves to look good, after all. When I look at other companies, though, I compare and see that Riot's people as a whole seem so much more focused on the guys and girls playing their game that it's really night and day. Some companies treat users like statistics; others treat players like children they're trying to lure in with candy. Riot treats customers like people and tries very hard to please them. This, I think, is the key to its success.
Probably the worst part about PAX is how little time I was able to spend with pro LoL players. It's sort of unfortunate. Part of it is my fault (I was really busy at PAX), but part of it was just that they were really difficult to get in touch with. I had zero luck even seeing a pro player on the con floor.
Outside of the con, I did manage to see a few (I think the TBD roster was staying at my hotel), and I had a very brief conversation with George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis, but I did not really get involved with pros that much this year. Maybe next time?
The things I really took away from the experience is that Riot is made of pretty cool people, that you guys are really cool people, and that Morello is pretty funny when he's totally drunk.
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