Lovers of online game form a league of their own

Some students have abandoned their education to play League of Legends full-time.

Lindsey Fitzgerald
Contributing Writer

Cheerleaders, English majors and engineering students who love a online gaming have found their niche at VCU.

Justin Boswell, a junior in the computer science program, created the League of Legends Club at VCU last fall, a year after he began playing the game. League of Legends is a multi-player online battle arena that is free to play. Games consist of two teams of five battling through eighteen levels. The goal is to destroy the opposing team’s building, called a Nexus. Players work their way through the levels by killing the opposing team’s champions.

The club is an official student organization and is hosting an online tournament that begins this month and will continue through the end of the semester, culminating in a finals tournament with a prize pool for the winning team.

“I really didn’t think the League community around here was that big,” Boswell said. “And I was really surprised by how many people were wanting to get involved and actually trying to help me out to get it started.”

Boswell first read of the League of Legends Collegiate Program on the website for Riot, a video game developer based in California. The program offered rewards to entice college students to start League of Legend clubs at their schools.

Once a club completed the Collegiate Program’s structure challenge, consisting of three parts, Riot would send them free items like lanyards and Riot Point cards, a form of in-game money. Boswell said he started the Facebook page on a whim in order to receive the free Riot items. Within a day the group had a 100 members.

At the first meeting of this semester, Boswell said they rented a room for 50 people and had over 100 show up. The club’s large membership is linked to the game’s status at the moment, Boswell said.
“League’s kind of like at the top of the gaming community right now as far as how many people play this sort of game,” Boswell said. “I think they really just want to get together for a gaming community.”

Rotramel said the community aspect is why so many people show up to the meetings.

“I wouldn’t go to the meetings if I didn’t have friends there,” Rotramel said.

Boswell said that the game’s simple aesthetics make it appeal to a large following.

“The whole art and design behind League is really appealing to people. It’s easy to see,” he said. “The characters are really fun … There’s a lot going on, you have five people fighting against five people … (the) animation is very easy to see, unlike some games like Defense of the Ancients 2.”

Defense of the Ancients 2, or DOTA, Boswell said, is the competitor to League of Legends.

“Theirs is 3D design with shadows and lighting and a lot of texture and moving water,” he said. “A lot of people got turned off by it because it’s really hard to tell what’s going on.”
The advent of competitive play and the professional scene has drawn many to the game. Boswell said League of Legends grew in popularity as e-sports did.

“They’ve gotten recognition through the United States for people to come over with visas to play for teams,” Boswell said. “So it’s recognized as an actual sport now through e-sports in the United States. And they might even be in the Olympics.”

The League of Legends Championship Series Grand Finals was held in Los Angeles on Oct. 4. The $1 million prize went to SK Telecom T1 gamers from South Korea.

Phillip Carter, a computer science major at VCU and member of last year’s team, now plays on a professional League of Legends team. He said the game’s following is in large part due to the relationship between Riot Games, e-sports and League players.

“Riot Games has done an amazing job at creating an e-sports community and following,” Carter said in an email. “On top of this, the game is free and is generally very friendly for casual players, unlike DOTA 2, which is a much more hardcore game in my opinion.”

Carter is a substitute for Curse, a professional League of Legends team, and a player on their secondary team, Curse Academy. He said he is taking one to two years off of school to pursue a career in gaming and is about to move into the gaming mansion with 10 to 12 other gamers in Las Vegas next month.

Boswell said that Carter, who goes by his League of Legends handle “Only Jaximus,” is well-known in the gaming community. With a Facebook following of over 2,200 fans, having him involved in the club in its early stages drew a lot of interested members.

The tournament is the club’s ongoing main event, Boswell said. The tournament begins as a round robin where everyone plays everyone. It later breaks down into quarterfinals, semifinals and a final tournament at the end of the semester.

Steven Dayley, a senior in the computer science program, is the tournament manager in charge of the roster and bracket. This year’s tournament consists of 13 teams ranging between five to eight members apiece, he said in an email. An additional 10 members help with the tournament, referee, record and broadcast the games via livestream.

The club plans to attend a gaming convention in Boston this spring, where Boswell said they hope to organize tournaments with other schools. They are also in the works to get a faculty adviser as they plan to complete the Collegiate Program structure challenge.

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