Give eSports a Chance?

Today is a big day for me. Tonight the "Spring Split" of the North American League Championship Series begins. Which means, for the next several months, I'll be watching professionals play a game I thoroughly enjoy. I've always been a fan of sports, so this transition was super easy for me. But should you give professional eSports a try?

Is there a competitive game you enjoy playing? Do you think you'd enjoy watching people at the highest skill level play really intense games? Do you think you might be able to learn some little tips and tricks from the top tier of players? Maybe you want to see if you might like a game or not? What better "Let's Play" than literally the best players in the world?

Pretty much every game out there has professional eSports out there now. From Smash Brothers, to League of Legends, to World of Warcraft (Arenas), Hearthstone, Call of Duty, you'd be surprised. There are professional games of "Clash Royale" (a quasi-sequel to Clash of Clans... yeah THAT Clash of Clans). Let that sink in.

So what's your favorite game to play online? Have you checked out the eSports scene? Watch a few games. Find a team you like. You might surprise yourself how much you enjoy it. Some of them (DOTA2 being the big example here) actually have "New Player" broadcasts going on alongside their normal ones, that take the time to actually explain things a little more in depth for people new to the games... It's worth checking out.

So what am I watching?

Personally, I watch League of Legends. Riot Games has a pretty massive eSports infrastructure. There are multiple big leagues around the world, two in Korea, two in China, and then importantly one in Europe and one in North America. The reason these last two are important is because Riot is VERY hands on with these two. The one I focus on (as mentioned in the second sentence of this post) is the North American LCS.

To further break it down, there are two different tables for the LCS. First there's the Challenger Series (confusingly called the NA CS), which are the top teams in North America that *AREN'T* in the Championship Series (the NA LCS). They play a full season online with all of the games available to stream live on Twitch and Riot's YouTube page. At the end of the "Spring Split" (they call them splits, because they are half of the full season) there is a little playoff. Then they have a "Relegation Tournament" where the top teams from the Challenger Series have a chance to play a best-of series against the bottom teams from the Championship Series and the winner plays the next split in the LCS, the loser drops to play the next split in the Challenger Series. Whew.

I don't watch Challenger Series. I do watch the Relegation games though. But the real meat and potatoes is the Championship Series... and that's what starts tonight. It's different from the Challenger Series because *EVERY* game is played live on stage in person. All games are streamed live on Twitch and YouTube. And (importantly for me) all games are archived on YouTube in case you aren't able to watch them live.

These are the best teams North America have to offer. There's a lot of money invested here. For example, one of the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team dropped $2 million a month or two ago to buy one of the NEW teams in the league... not a big, established team. A team that just won their way into the LCS by winning their relegation games. They got 3 big veteran players in the deal, but that's pretty huge. 

Between now and the end of March, each LCS team will play 2 Best-of-Three series every weekend. So there are tons of games. So many match ups I'm looking forward to.

If you're interested, there are a couple really good games potentially on the table this weekend.

  • Friday January 20, 6pm EST: Team SoloMid (TSM) vs Cloud9 (C9) - Cloud9 is my favorite team. TSM is probably objectively the best team in North America right now. The two guys playing in the mid lane here are two of the best in the world. C9 has a new Jungler (Contractz). TSM has a new AD Carry (Wildturtle). They both went to the World Championships last year. This should kick the season off right.
  • Saturday January 21, 3pm EST: Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) vs Team Liquid (TL) - This is a great match to start the day on Saturday. CLG is the third team who went to Worlds last year. They are generally one of the top teams in North America every season. Liquid on the other hand has a problem... a Curse as it were. They literally almost always finish in 4th place (the top 3 go to worlds). Even changing the team name didn't break the Curse. CLG hasn't had to change anything about their roster between last year and this year, which could mean bigger and better things from them this year. Liquid has an enormous roster (5 people play each game, most teams have a roster of maybe 6-7 people, Liquid had 10 last year, they have 8 this year), but the two big pick ups for them are Reignover in the Jungle and Piglet as AD Carry. Reignover has been pretty consistently one of the best Junglers everywhere he's played in the past couple years. Piglet is one of the best AD Carries in the world. He's won a world championship. Can he gel better with his team this year than he did last year?
  • Sunday January 22, 3pm EST: Team SoloMid (TSM) vs Immortals (IMT) - Last year, this was a dream match. Two absolute juggernaut teams battling for the top spot in the league. Immortals are a gutted shadow of the team they were last year. They have some promising players, but their mid laner Pobelter is the ONLY player still on the team from last year. Can his new team mates live up to the standard set for them by last season? Or will the TSM war machine just roll over them and give them a massive wakeup call?

So that's my weekend. What games do you play and what do you think would be fun to watch tournaments of? Let me know in the comments below, and I'll talk to you again next Friday.

 - Chop.

PS) I will go back and add links to these games once they've been played if you want to go watch them after the fact.

PPS) Links added!