Heads up, homeguards! If you’ve been hidden in a bush for the last few months and haven’t heard, let me have the honour of enlightening you about the event that’s pretty much blown the minds of our blessed blight summoners. This very weekend, the UK will be holding one of its most exciting and unexpected esports events to date: League of Legends is bringing its Championship Series to Wembley Arena, for the first and hopefully not last time. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say the show is going to be unbelievable – hundreds of fans under one roof, and some of the best esports teams around. What could be better than two days of excitement and astonishing plays? Spirits, production values, and noise levels are guaranteed to be high.
Despite this being an incredible first for the UK, it wasn’t the announcement of the event itself that really got my attention (don’t get me wrong, I’m still going and I’m as hyper as an over-active child). No, what really piqued my interest was the response that the announcement sparked. The first round of tickets sold out speedily, and a second round did just as well. Despite our homeland hosting the LCS being an utterly unanticipated event, within hours of the announcement groups were being made agreeing to travel down together. Offers of floors and sofas to sleep on were all around social networks, and local fans were offering advice on the easiest ways to get there.
The community grouped together rapidly to share information, resources and tickets. New connections were striking up around me faster than I could keep track of. For some the response time was almost surprising – there’s been a strong assumption that esports has been a bit left behind in the UK. However, a cursory glance at what our fans had to offer made me wonder if we might have more in us than we’re credited with. The communities that have built around LoL in the UK are surprisingly large and numerous, incredibly active and overwhelmingly supportive. It’s the crowd support that will really make this event, and it’s time to take a look at just how far we’ve pushed.
It doesn’t make sense to talk about Wembley without shining a well-deserved light on our own homebrewed esports scene. From university teams to tournaments at high-profile events there’s an event available for everyone, everywhere. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’re quite on the semi-pro path yet either, as there are amateur cups and casual LAN events popping up around every corner. The NUEL host LoL tournaments for university teams.
There’s a whole host of events to cater for all tastes, and the interest in them is rising. These competitions don’t just teleport into position though; behind every one, there are a huge number of volunteers now putting in hours of preparation, administration and organisation. It’s their love of LoL, esports and their willingness to make something great purely for the enjoyment of others that is the driving force behind these incredible shows.
One of the major providers of these events is MCMeSports, who have been hosting tournaments at MCM expos with attendance numbers between 10,000 and 103,000! Some of their volunteer staff had time to talk about what they do, and their enthusiasm for their work is infectious. Stage manager Felixize is full of praise (undoubtedly deserved) for both the volunteers and the fans:
“It’s a small team of fans who want to see the community grow, and we’ve been given an amazing opportunity […] We all work really hard in the run up, and at the events, and we feel like it’s this response that allows us to keep going.”
A big effort has been made to ensure the events are inclusive: there are spaces available to allow casual players to have a turn, or brand new fans to have their very first try. The audience spaces are large and open allowing viewers to come and go as they please, the tournaments are streamed online, and audience participation is encouraged between matches.
“We’ve tried to not only focus on the pro players but also on everyone who plays the game.”
Of course, it’s not just about the events teams – while we appreciate the organisational teams that work hard to make these events special, a big part of the atmosphere comes from the teams that enter, the hosts, the casters, and above all the viewers that turn up or tune in to support them. Having been to a few of these events and watching streams of many more, there’s always a sense of support and enthusiasm from the cast and crowd that really makes being there feel special. If there’s one in your area and you can make the time for it, I highly recommend being a part of that audience; it’s almost like a team of its own. As caster BloodPenguin put it:
“It’s always awesome to find people who have the same passion for the game as you do.”
We may be culturing an impressive grassroots networks for competitive play, but enjoying the game doesn’t just end with playing it – the UK also has a growing community of creators, making content and crafts of all kinds. From youtube videos and livestreams, articles and artwork, there are more than enough extracurricular activities to sink your teeth into. Whether you’re spending weeks writing the perfect guide to item building or throwing your doodles onto Tumblr, chances are the UK community has a space for you.
One notable area of UK content creation lies in videos. Instructional videos, animations, parodies, montages and highlights have all found a home and an audience. We can claim an increasing number of LoL based youtubers with a variety of content. Creating these videos takes time, skill, and some serious dedication, but the general consensus from creators seems to be that it’s more than worth it to ‘simply put a smile on other people’s faces.’ So rest at ease, summoner, your LoL enjoyment doesn’t have to end when you log out! Some channels worth checking out include Keyori, Obamacare (admittedly not ALL of the team are from the UK…), WhatTheMoose, and RossBoomSocks.
But we don’t stop at written or video content either. Determined not to be outdone, the UK cosplayer scene has seen a surge in numbers and is likely to continue expanding. The League of Legends Cosplay UK facebook group has nearly 600 members, and many more exist outside of that circle. Individuals and groups in elaborate costumes can be found at events all around such as LFCC, LAGC and the various MCM shows, who this year hosted a dedicated showcase for LoL cosplayers in London:
“We filled the cosplay showcase up with over 100 cosplayers, the audience was so packed we couldn’t see any of the floor 15 metres back from the stage!”
Beyond appearances at events and a way to organise the meetups there, a strong network has emerged to help facilitate photoshoots, connect makers with photographers, encourage prop and costume commissions and most importantly bring together like-minded people with an admirable interest and some enviable skills. It’s an encouraging and welcoming space, offering feedback, tips and companionship to everyone involved.
Not everything is about events and projects. Sometimes it’s enough just to find someone who loves the same thing you do. To have access to information about the game, people to discuss it with, and a place to feel like part of the group. Spaces such as the LoL UK Community have been started to make sure players have a united front – it stemmed from a ‘surprise to find no organised groups’ and a a lack of ‘central community co-ordination’ for our LoL players. Obviously this need wasn’t imagined, with nearly 1,500 members the page is continually growing, and the admin I spoke to feel that the response has been positive:
“Most people are excited to see that there is a growing community for League in the UK.”
If online interaction just isn’t enough for you, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s more! There are also a growing number of viewing parties springing up helping fans to congregate together to cheer on their favourite teams. There’s something great about adding a little atmosphere to your LCS appreciation, and viewing parties have so far proven popular and friendly events. If you’re unable to attend Wembley yourself, why not see if you find a viewing party near you or organise one yourself!
It’s not just casual connections that are being forged either. Aspiring professional players, journalists or managers are finding help with each other. Manager IPG Coldbolt described the fulfilment of contributing to the community growth in a way I’m sure we can all understand:
“The feeling, to know that you are helping someone achieve their dream or give them the best experience possible.”
How about you?
Every day someone starts a new project, steps up as a volunteer, or stumbles across a new place in the community. No matter what the addition you’re bringing, someone out there is waiting for it. If you feel like you have something to offer, you might be surprised how many people respond. The best thing you can do to begin? Well the most straightforward piece of advice that came from my tour through the community was from League Central editor LoLBanelor:
“Don’t be afraid to go up to people and introduce yourself.”
Every single community member, organiser, creator, editor, artist… literally everyone I have spoken to at events or through interview has made sure to mention just how welcoming, enthusiastic or supportive the community has been. A phrase that came up nearly every time was ‘shared passion,’ and an interest in finding like-minded people was frequently mentioned. No matter what your talent, if you have that passion there will be someone willing to help you get going; if you need a support, the only thing to do is to jump in and find them!
There’s no right way to get involved with the community, and there’s no one big draw. People come in to the community for all sorts of reasons, but the end result is the same. The talent, willingness and commitment of the UK LoL crowd hasn’t just created truly remarkable content and events – it’s nurturing a fan network that is fostering friendships and supporting new talent. The UK is carving out a well-established base for itself in the world of LoL, and it can only keep growing stronger from here. I don’t think we show these forerunners enough gratitude for carrying our community forward.
We may be smaller than other countries, we may have had our teething problems, and we may still feel a little disconnected. Despite all that, there’s no question that we’re is ready for Wembley and for much further success in the future. So strap on your boots and buff up everyone, we’ll see you there!
“With the opportunity of LCS in Wembley we will be united.”
With thanks to our contributors:
- TheHiddenGFX, Lustriga, Felixize: Staff @ MCMeSports (Backdrop Gaming)
- D0ju, Helioghost, Shabby Dee: LoL UK admin
- RossBoomSocks, Obamacare: Youtube Content Creators
- BloodPenguin: Caster (amateur and semi-pro games)
- LoLBanelor: Content Editor
- IPG Coldbolt: Manager
Read more about League of Legends in our related articles here.
Do you have a LoL group, project or page yourself? We’d love to have a look if you leave us a comment