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Thursday, May 13, 2021

In a League of their Own

A battle of keystrokes and mouse clicks is raging on Western’s campus. Players control their characters, leading them into combat against opponents across the world. These are no ordinary players however; this is the League of Vikings, Western’s own home team.

The game of choice is League of Legends, one of the most-played computer games in the world with 27 million players daily, according to parent company Riot Games.

Out of the millions, Western players meet every Thursday to play together and hopefully conquer their opponents.

Senior Michael Chun leads the League of Vikings as club president. Chun has helped the club become one of the largest on campus with 557 Facebook members to its official page. The club is gaining momentum, with up to 80 people attending club meetings and 100 coming to public events, Chun said.

Starting in late spring of 2016, the collegiate playoffs for the game could lead the League of Vikings to the final rounds. The rounds will be played in California on a stage in front of an audience of 500 and a live stream audience of 50,000, Chun said.

Playing in the Collegiate Starleague, an intercollegiate gaming league spanning North America and Europe, the League of Vikings have three different subdivisions that are arranged by skill level that Western students can play in. Teams play a best-of-three series to decide the victor, Chun said.

“There’s Division I, which is very competitive like a varsity sport, and Division II and Division III which are like JV sports,” Chun said.

League of Legends organizes players in a six-tier system. Beginning with “bronze” and ending with “challenger,” each tier is based on how many games a player wins and the statistics that each player accumulates for their teams, Chun said.

Beyond being a space for gamers, the League of Vikings has had a great impact on sophomore Jesse Chow’s social life while in college, he said.

“It gave me some place to belong in,” Chow said. “Sometimes college can be so crazy and stressful and sometimes you don’t know where to find people. I feel like this is a great space for meeting new people and playing League.”

Junior Spencer Carlson, vice president of the club, has been playing League of Legends for about four years and estimates that he logged more than 1,000 hours of gametime.

Illustration by Nicole Swift
Illustration by Nicole Swift

The gameplay follows a five-versus-five format, with everyone playing online, Carlson said. Each person chooses a character and moves them around the map, casting abilities to kill off enemies and destroy their base.

There are particular roles for each player in the game as well, each playing a necessary part in order to win a match, Carlson said. Each player starts at level one and can play up to level 30, Chun said.

“There’s three lanes going from your base to their base,” Carlson said.  “[The roles] are referring to the three lanes. There’s the top lane, which is usually just one-versus-one, middle lane which is also one-versus-one, and bottom lane which is two-versus-two.”

The span of League of Vikings is not just contained within Western, as it also gives students opportunities to compete between universities across the world, Chun said.

Senior Ryan Hayes is a member of the League of Gentlemen, a gold-ranking team in the Division III sector of Western’s Collegiate Starleague teams. Hayes said his specific role for the Gentlemen is to deal massive amounts of damage to the enemy team.

“I played a lot of video games in high school so [my roommates] recommended it to me and I tried it out,” Hayes said. “Most gamers like to play by themselves, but having a social aspect to it is something that really drew me to League of Legends.”

Another member for the Gentlemen is senior Micah Walker. Recently playing the mid-lane role for the Gentlemen last season, he has switched to the support role this season for the good of the team, Walker said.

“At first I was like, ‘Screw this. I don’t want to play this,’ because I would just get completely destroyed,” Walker said. “But my friend just kept getting me to play again and again and again. Then my roommates played League so we would just play all the time, and it became kind of a social thing.”

Chow, also a member of the Gentlemen, made the switch with Walker and now plays the mid-lane position for the team, he said.

With graduation coming soon, Chun will have to step down as club president. As he prepares to hand the reigns to vice president Carlson, he sees potential for the new direction of the League of Vikings, Chun said.

“If they can stick with it and they are really dedicated, this club could be really successful,” Chun said. “Some clubs in Canada have attendance in the thousands and I think we could easily get a couple hundred people to show up.”

With how many people worldwide who are consistently playing, League of Legends is establishing itself as a global source of entertainment. Western’s League of Vikings brings student-gamers together to experience camaraderie.

“Don’t be afraid to come to the club,” Hayes said. “I came by myself the first time I ever went. You just have fun. You don’t have to worry about bringing a friend. You don’t have to be the most social person. Come in and see what happens and you’ll probably surprise yourself.”

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