Have you every heard of eSports? How about League of Legends? If you haven’t, you’re not alone.
However, online gaming and gaming tournaments are becoming big business in 2018. As of June 2016, League of Legends has paid out just under $30,000,000 in prize money. And that was TWO years ago!
League of Legends is an online battle arena game that pits two teams against each other typically in five-on-five matches (like basketball, right?). The fast-paced reactions and a quick-thinking ability that are required to succeed in these games is largely what has made this game so exciting in terms of watching. According to a study by Newzoo, 429 million people will be watching eSports by 2019.
That is a massively untapped market, and networks like ESPN are already showing tournaments on its family of networks, especially online.
Twenty-seven million people play League of Legends on a daily basis. It is no surprise that schools and conferences would begin to take notice and start their own chapters of gaming teams.
The Illini Esports team is made up of current students at the University of Illinois. The members are Charlie Uram (Topopotamus), Brian Yang (Minsoo), Naputtr Chiaravanond (InwProjectONE), Joshua Kim (Xeno), Sunghyun Yoon (KoreanDanny) and Peter Shyu (Ginormous Noob). The names inside the parentheses are their gamer tags, or their online persona. You can also keep track of the team on Twitter via @Illini_esports.
This past year, the Illinois Esports team finished 7-0 in conference play and dominated in its division. The Illini led the Big Ten in kill-to-death ratio (6.2) with Ginormous Noob leading the charge with a 9 KDR. A kill-to-death ratio means that for every time a player is defeated, they defeat that many other players (like an assist to turnover ratio). In the case of the Illini, they defeated 6.2 players for each time one of their team members was defeated.
The Illini drew the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which began last Friday. In its first series, Illinois defeated No. 7 Wisconsin, followed by No. 3 Iowa to clinch the West Division title. The Illini won the first match of the finals against the Maryland Terrapins, but then dropped the next three in the best-of-five series. Here’s the final call from Game 4:
A game-winning call you've never heard before. We promise.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) April 9, 2018
Here's what it sounded (and looked) like in the announcer's booth when Maryland clinched the BTN League of Legends Championship. #LoLonBTN pic.twitter.com/HdtMPnxeaB
Now, the Illini will get set to start the 2018 Collegiate Championship on Sunday. Their first round of play in stage pits them up against the University of North Georgia in Group B. Alongside the Illini and UNG in Group B are George Mason University and Columbia College. The group stage is a round robin format that runs through April 22. The top four teams at the end of the group stage will advance to the National Championships live in Los Angeles from June 7-10.
Can the Illini make it to LA? Their regular season number say yes, but for those that are familiar with gaming — or sports, in general — know the postseason is never easy.
If you enjoyed reading this article, let us know in the comments. We plan on doing more e-sports coverage in 2018-19, and we need YOUR help. Our Austin Jabs and Matt Rejc can take some of the load, but we’d love to have a writer covering e-sports. If you think that can be you, let us know!