We Like (E)Sports And We Don't Care Who Knows: My Experience At Canada ESports League's Championships

Edited By: Joy Jiang

 

As an avid gamer myself, I've always been drawn to video games which focused more on storylines and gameplay. With that, I ended up really enjoying games such as Legend Of Zelda, Harvest Moon, Skyrim, Animal Crossing, and Bioshock throughout my life. The main thing these games have in common is that they are generally single-player, experience-by-yourself type games without a lot of competitiveness surrounding them. The idea and concept of ESports became a prominent part of my video game vocabulary around this year, more so because my boyfriend had started to intensely watch Overwatch playthroughs and tournaments and he would tell me the latest news of his favourite teams and players. Additionally, when Canada ESports League asked if we wanted to partner with them for their League of Legends championships happening on November 19th, I and a couple of other members of Her Campus UToronto were definitely interested in participating. The only issue for me was the fact that I had little to no experience actually engaging in ESports, let alone actually enjoying viewing sports in general. Despite all of this, I was determined to learn the basics of League Of Legends so I wouldn't stick out at the event and potentially understand what was going on. The whole experience of getting to know the game, talking with the final teams, and spectating the tournament with as much, perhaps more, enthusiasm than the people sitting next to me, is something I'm definitely not going to forget. I also knew I had to document my time before and during in hopes to inspire others to participate in ESports.

When the final tournament was a few weeks away, I set my sights on understanding League of Legends a bit before I went to the finals so I didn't end up looking completely lost and having our video editor tirelessly explain everything during the event. I downloaded League of Legends in my residence's cafeteria, with giggles from my friends as I created my account name, "Imjusthereforresearch". The game took quite a while, say a day or two, to fully download and patch to the current version but that's all due to my super slow and old computer. Nevertheless, I managed to get a couple of practice games in before I leveled up to be in matches with real people.

As I mentioned before, I've never really been drawn to multiplayer, capture-the-base kind of games, and I can totally understand why people can be un-enthused by it. After I understood the basic mechanics of the game, I played a few matches that was either five real players versus AI's or five players versus five players. In both matches, I noticed that many players can get super aggressive in the game, getting annoyed when people aren't playing offense or defense properly ("no, really, I'm not a bot I'm just really bad at these controls and have no idea what my character does yet" was something I ended up saying a lot). Another funny thing I noticed is that most of the players just assumed I was a guy. Though women in gaming is a completely different story, being in an online environment where I was practically anonymous -- choosing either male or female characters depending on the match, having an in-game ID that didn't really deduce my gender like "gamergrrl" or "LoLboy" would -- people assumed I was a guy due to video game, specifically League, stereotypes was a weird thing to experience.

After a week went by of me actively playing League and finally getting an understanding of the difference between a fighter and a tank, needless to say, I started to really enjoy playing. I downloaded Mobile Legends, the mobile version of League of Legends, so I could continue playing when I was away from my laptop (and so I could secretly hone my skills during lecture). Though League has little of what I typically enjoy in video games such as a solid plotline that took a bit to get through, the ability to do things on your own, and the whole not dying every time not-AI's ambush you, I really enjoyed this new kind of gaming. Additionally, League makes up for a lack of plotline with having thorough and immersive lore for individual champions, which everyone has access to within the game and outside of it. Therefore, if one really enjoys the story aspect of games they can turn to that to better experience the game. I was really excited to attend the CEL tournaments knowing I had enough background knowledge to both talk to the participants and actually enjoy what I was watching.

The organizers invited me to interview the teams who won the semifinals and would be the two teams battling it out for first place the week after. I interviewed them where the semifinals were held, at Invictus Game Station, and it was definitely interesting to hear their strategies and just their overall thoughts on the game. My biggest fear during the interviews was slowly washed away as the two teams excitedly talked to me about their individual and team strategies and how ESports has affected their lives. Though there were a couple of points in the conversation where I couldn't participate simply because I hadn't played enough to have the full League language down pack, but nevertheless the teams talked to me as an equal and as someone who was also passionate about video games and that I very much appreciated (plus I only found out that I had interviewed a top-tier Leaguer during the interview, so I guess I'm famous as a gaming writer now).

As Sunday rolled around, my video editor Ezra and I traveled an hour North West into Don Mills to attend the finals and even had a table to promote Her Campus! The event was scheduled such that there would be, at the very most a best out of five matches, and would end at three matches if one team won all three games. Many of the collaborators had tables in the hallway adjacent to where the tournament was happening and we were placed next to an artist, Linden Li, and Anda Seat, who was selling gaming chairs for a good discount (I didn't grab one because although they advertised that the chair could fit in a sedan, I was traveling by TTC and I didn't have $150 to drop on a gaming chair at the time). Inside the venue, vendors like Corsair and MSI were selling their tech, DIVRGE had areas set up to play VR games, and an area was sectioned off for folks to play multiplayer games like PUBG, Overwatch, and of course League.

The matches were each at least fifteen minutes long, which is usually how long League matches are. The aim is to destroy the other team's base and because there's no time constraint to winning a match, there are several ways to gain advantage in the game in order to reach the goal, such as grouping up to eliminate the other team for a significant amount of time in order to reach the base, splitting up to chip away at the outer turrets in order to have a clear lane for destroying the base, taking the time to "farm" or kill creatures in the forest to boost your character and your team, etc. There are different types of characters which teams can utilize for a strategic play, such as characters who have high health or high damage-per-second, characters with abilities to heal or boost their teammates, and characters who are able to do better "crowd control" when it comes to dispersing the other team in a group fight. 

Having interviewed the two teams the week before, it was really interesting to see the teams battle it out with each other. I had been rooting for the team King Nidhogg's Dogs, who during the interview mentioned that they practice and study the characters on their own and were solid in who was in charge of what during the game. In contrast, Wild Daddy practices as a group online and in person every week before their matches, and even had an additional team member as a substitute for different kinds of strategy during tournaments. Wild Daddy's group practices were very evident during the first match, where they lead in the most kills and successfully destroyed Dogs' base by grouping up and ambushing the team when possible. King Nidhogg's Dogs fared really well in adjusting their strategy between matches, granting them wins in the second and third round as they were able to understand Wild Daddy's playing style and play phenomenal offense and defense as needed.

I knew I was immersed in the championship when they played the fourth round, where the Dogs' pushed to obtain their third win and win the tournament and Wild Daddy gave it their all to tie and have the fifth match. I had my hands up to my face everytime there was a group fight or when a team was extremely close in destroying the opposite base. I even heard myself cheering and shouting with the crowd as the teams battled it out. The match ended up going to Wild Daddy, which meant the final match would determine who would win. 

As soon as I heard the commentators come back on for the final match, I immediatey rushed from my table to grab a seat near the front. A lot of people ended up leaving towards the third and fourth rounds, however I was excited to see this tournament through no matter how long it was. The final match was aggressive, that much was evident through how the members of King Nidhogg's Dogs were hyper-focused on their computer screens and Wild Daddy crescendoing their shouts to each other with each group push. My eyes darted all across the big screen as the commentators told the audience what was happening at lightning speed. There was a delay of three minutes between what the teams saw and what spectators saw, which is usual for an ESports tournament, so when I looked across to see Wild Daddy getting hugs and high-fives and the Dogs slumped and looking solemn, I knew exactly what that meant. The crowd and commentators were watching what was being broadcasted, but in those three minutes I felt so sad for the King Nidhogg's Dogs team. When the match was officially over and it was announced that Wild Daddy won, seeing the defeated look on the Dogs' faces pulled at my heart strings. I wanted so badly to hug all of them, and I even let them know that their play in matches two and three were amazing after the event was over. I had never wanted a sports team to win so badly, and seeing their defeat felt like the same experience of when a favourite character in a movie or tv show goes through immense turmoil and defeat (I would equate my feelings of King Nidhogg's Dogs to the moment in Sense8 when Hernando broke up with Lito and Lito was distraught because of it, but that's probably just because I'm a dramatic person).

All in all, for someone who has only preferred single-person, non-competitive videogames and absolutely despises any sort of sports tournaments, having a chance to witness an ESports championship in person was such a unique experience, and I definitely hope to attend more for different ESports. The event throughout was packed with things catered to all types of Leaguers, and it was an especially friendly environment for someone who had literally learned the gist of the game two weeks before. For those who are interested in ESports but aren't sure how to get into it either as a spectator or participant, I would definitely recommend trying out League and see how you like it. Though it is a time commitment compared to other games, the logistics and strategies can be similar to other games and is a good gateway to other games (just watch out for the people who get mad when you die several times). We certainly cannot wait for Canada ESports League's tournament for next year, and we hope you can join us next year too.

 

Not me pictured above, but it may as well have been from how intense I was watching 

Not hyperlinked photos provided by: Canada ESports League  Canada ESports League - Website: esportsleague.ca