Something about electronic dance music makes it the perfect soundtrack to League of Legends. Maybe it's that pounding bass. Maybe it's EDM's steady, rhythmic backbone. Maybe it's the energy inherent in EDM that makes it the soundtrack of choice for many of League's professional players, streamers, YouTubers and even Riot Games itself. Or, maybe it's simpler than all of that.
"League is just cool as fuck and so is EDM."
That's Marshmello, one of the contributors on Riot Games' latest project, Warsongs, an album of 11 League of Legends tracks each remixed by high-profile or emerging EDM artists. It's available right now to download or stream in the US for free via Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, Google Play, iTunes and the League of Legends website.
"I feel like a majority of gamers already listen to electronic music because it's such a diverse genre," Marshmello says. "Some may want to listen to some heavy dubstep while others might jam out to some tropical house. It gives the players a chance to play whatever it is that they want to hear during battle."
Warsongs features remixes from Marshmello (obviously), Arty, MitiS, James Egbert, Mako, Hyper Potions, ProtoShredanoid, Jauz, Minnesota, Dan Negovan and Vicetone. Some of them are lifelong gaming fans, like Ruben den Boer and Victor Pool, the Dutch producers known as Vicetone. As childhood friends, the two grew up playing Pokemon and FIFA. When they were 16, they played FIFA so often after school that they were one of the top 10 teams in Europe, den Boer says. Today, they're mostly into Fallout 4 and Metal Gear Solid 5.
Oddly enough, they don't play much League of Legends. Still, they respect the game's appeal and its connection to EDM.
"I think the player base in general is pretty young and dance music is very much embraced by the new generation," den Boer says. "Most importantly dance music can provide those bigger-than-life epic feelings and have a lot of energy, which fits the pace of the game. An old classic rock song for example, while we love that genre, wouldn't feel right when playing League, whereas a drum 'n' bass track is a lot more fitting. The themes and energy just match perfectly."
Victor Pool strikes a pose with his favorite League champion, Annie (and Tibbers).
Jauz, otherwise known as Sam Vogel, is a lifelong gaming fan, too. He stopped playing League when he was "a kid" -- he's 21 now -- but he started playing it again after diving into his Warsongs remix.
"I've been a gamer my whole life, and when I was a kid some of my first introductions and influences as far as electronic music were from gaming, whether from inside the game itself or watching videos of people playing video games that had electronic music in the background," Vogel says. "So for me, EDM and video games completely go hand in hand. I've always wanted to do something that combined the two, so this opportunity was really exciting to me."
Jauz, Vicetone, Marshmello and the other musicians didn't come together on their own to release a compilation of remixed League of Legends songs. Riot Games led the charge and the studio's creative producer Tyler Eltringham helped wrangle all of them into one album.
"Electronic music done right hits that sweet spot of setting the mood for some hardcore gaming, while still having the potential to elicit some feels," Eltringham says. "Competitive League in particular is one of those experiences where you sit down with your friends and you commit to this battle together, and I think EDM makes such a great soundtrack for that experience. You get this driving, progressive anthem pumping in your ears that pushes you forward and keeps your head in the game at just the right energy."
This isn't Riot's first foray into non-gaming products. It's released albums, comics, animated videos, interactive stories and tie-in games in the League universe. It's all part of Riot's plan to make that digital world a living, breathing place for its players. There are more than 100 characters in League (and counting), and they each have a role to play in the game -- and in its lore.
"Things like stories and soundtracks help us breathe life into these characters, and give them a background and place in the universe that justifies that emotional connection you feel when you start to really identify as an Ekko player, or a Jinx player, or a Poppy player," Eltringham says. "We're still exploring ways to do that, and whenever we try something new -- a comic, a music video, a story -- we're listening to the community."
And the community will probably be listening to Warsongs today.