DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 25: Team Liquid (L) and Team Cloud9 (R) battle during Day-2 of the 2019 LCS Summer Finals at Little Caesars Arena on August 25, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

With COVID-19 forcing many of us into quarantine, lots of people are scouring the internet looking for entertainment. Sports fans have really been left out in the lurch with the NHL, MLB, NBA, Golf, MLS, and NASCAR all on hiatus during the lockdown. In the absence of traditional sports, many people are finding esports for the first time. To help welcome the uninitiated, we’ll be running a series of primers to get you ready to watch. Let’s kick it off with League of Legends.

League of Legends

League of Legends is developed by Riot Games, and is one of the biggest esports in the world today. In terms of size and scope, they’d be the NFL of the esports world. In terms of how the game plays, you’ll probably enjoy League of Legends if you’re a fan of soccer or football.

How the game is played: League of Legends is a five on five team game. Each player starts by selecting a champion from the game’s pool to play as. That pool of champions is currently over 150 characters deep, each with unique abilities and play-styles. The players compete on a map called Summoner’s Rift, with the goal being to destroy the other team’s headquarters, called a Nexus. That Nexus is defended by four rows of defensive turrets, as well as an endless stream of computer-controlled minions. The first team to destroy the other team’s nexus wins.

Detroit, Michigan – August 24: — during the 2019 League of Legends LCS Summer Finals at Little Caesars Arena on August 24, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

How long should I expect to watch: A professional match of League of Legends is broken into two phases. Each match starts with a pick/ban phase, where teams take turns picking the champions they want to play and banning champions they don’t want to see played. Both teams cannot choose the same champion, and this phase generally takes about 5 minutes. The game phase can vary greatly in time, but generally runs between 20-45 minutes. Once competitive play starts, there are no breaks or time-outs in League of Legends. The players will play until the match ends in victory, with the exception of a technical time out for an equipment problem.

The Game Itself

When watching League of Legends, you should expect a slower paced game than a game like Overwatch. The opening minutes of a game of League generally involve players fighting the enemy controlled minions to gain gold for buying items, and experience for leveling up. Once players start teaming up, usually around the mid game, the action really begins. Now teams will focus on objectives on the map, and the strategy will emerge. Teams will typically begin fighting each other actively, and this is where the game can get confusing for new players. A lot can happen very quickly, so watching and keeping up is difficult at first. Listen to the casters and you’ll get through it.

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – NOVEMBER 03: Team Invictus Gaming of China celebrates their winning Finals match of 2018 The League of Legends World Championship against Team Fnatic at Incheon Munhak Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The late game in League of Legends is intense. As the game goes on longer, respawn timers go up. By the time the 40 minute mark rolls around, a player death means it’ll be a minute or more before they’re back in the action. With every skirmish having game-ending consequences, the pressure is very high. You’ll generally see teams revolving their play around Baron Nashor, an ultra-powerful neutral enemy on the map. Whichever team slays the baron gets a major buff for the next few minutes, and can usually use it to end the game.

How and what to watch

Professional League of Legends is broken up into different regions. Each region plays two miniature seasons, called splits. One is played in the spring, and the second in the summer. The best performing teams in the summer split get to represent their region at the world championship, which starts in October. North America’s region is referred to as the LCS (League Championship Series). The LCS is franchised, meaning the same 10 teams typically compete each year, barring expansion or a team leaving.

You can watch LCS play most weekends throughout the spring and summer, and can catch all the action online. You can either follow the LCS YouTube channel, or their Twitch channel. For a full schedule, you can check out their website here.

Looking for something to do while under quarantine? Check out the Shutdown Showdown! It’s a charity APEX Legends tournament benefiting No Kid Hungry. The tournaments are running on Tuesdays throughout April with proceeds going to charity. It’s just $10 to enter and you can enter solo or with your friends. Check it out here!

Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images