League of Legends: structured for addiction

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(Book Sadprasid/AQ)

Luke Higgins plays League of Legends for about two hours every day. He likes to get that in; it’s part of his schedule. For Higgins, LoL is like a sport. He’s not going to pull a hamstring playing, but he seeks to improve his skills.

“It’s the competitive aspect of the game. It’s something you can hone, over and over,” Higgins said. “My friends that don’t play comment that it’s the same thing over again, but so is chess, so is soccer. Something different is going to happen every time.”

In 2013, more people watched the League of Legends World Championship than the World Series or the NBA Finals. Thirty-two million people tuned in to watch two teams of five play a free online video game for $1,000,000. Times are changing, and League of Legends is in the lead.

The premise of LoL is simple. You and five friends are trying to attack an enemy team’s base, while they do the same to you. You play as a champion, and you try to lead weaker minions. It all ends in a big war. There is background lore, but with over 100 playable champions, it’s hard to keep up.

This type of gameplay is called MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). Other MOBA games have received some popularity, but none quite like LoL thanks to LoL’s superior branding and marketing. In many gamers’ minds LoL is the MOBA game. In 2012, Forbes magazine reported LoL as the most played computer game in the world. Nearly 67 million people play the game with 27 million playing every day.

With each game lasting between 30 to 40 minutes, it’s easy to see how LoL can be distracting.

“I remember [in first year], playing in my room and someone coming in, and being like ‘Let’s go to the cafeteria,’ and [my friends and I] would be like ‘Uhhh, sorry, we just started this game.’”

St. Thomas student Matthew Chaisson has also had the game interfere with his life.

“I can remember back to when first and second year classes were skipped, because I needed to finish this match and we were so close to winning and I was like ‘We can beat this, I can finish this in five minutes,’” Chaisson said. “And I’m there for another half an hour and I’m still not done.”

League of Legends is structured for addiction. Players are penalized for quitting a game too early, which would normally cripple their team in battle. LoL has leader boards with tiers that signify how good you are, and if you quit early, your ranking will go down. Chaisson is in Bronze (bottom) ranking, but Higgins has recently moved up to Silver and does not plan on losing that rank.

“It’s really competitive,” Higgins said. “Once you go in, you’re committing to it.”

Higgins hopes more people join. None of his housemates play it.

“Whenever somebody gets into it for the first time there’s a really high learning curve. It’s not something you can just jump into,” Higgins said. “If you like it within the first 10 games, you’ll stick with it, but a lot of people don’t.”

For Chaisson, what really makes the game addicting is in the simple act of conquering.

“Honestly, I think you just get a huge rush,” Chaisson said. “It’s a team sport essentially so that feeling of winning is satisfactory and you can, a lot of times, you know it feels good to win.”

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