SKT wins second League of Legends championship

“SK Telecom looking to take down the final nexus turrets!”

The nexus towers are falling. The KOO Tigers’ base is getting destroyed. The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany goes wild.

“And SKT will be your first-ever two-time World Champions!”

eSports: Growing out of its niche

Since its humble beginnings in 1972, eSports has been a completely different “sport” than most think. It is virtual. It is on a computer. It usually does not have anything to do with a person’s physical ability. It is all about psychological and strategic choices.

Since 1990, eSports has risen in popularity. The Internet promoted its growth, with online streaming sites like Twitch allowing those interested to view tournaments and encouraged those interested in the niche.

Since 2000, gaming tournaments became increasingly popular. “Starcraft II” and “Warcraft III” were the keystones of the industry.

Then “League of Legends” appeared onto the scene.

When the first “League of Legends” championships were held, the game itself was not well known. By its third season, its finals had been able to sell out the Los Angeles Staples Center in under an hour. Its popularity brought more people, more teams and more nations onto the scene. In 2014, over 40,000 fans roared in Seoul’s World Cup Stadium. This year, the Mercedes-Benz Arena was the Championship’s venue.


2015 World Championship

And who would have thought that SK Telecom would win the “League of Legends” World Championships again? In 2013, they ruled the eSports world. They smashed their way through their provisional games, the quarterfinals, the semifinals and even the finals.

They began their reign of terror back in their home country Korea, only to seemingly dissolve before the 2014 World Championships. With a new roster and a new mindset, they rushed into the 2015 Championships, and once again, crushed all standing before them.

In an intense game of five versus five, two teams control powerful “champions” that all have unique abilities. Their objective? To destroy the other team’s nexus, the most protected structure in the game, surrounded by towers which deal damage to any enemy unit within its range.

With this in context, two teams emerged to face off in the Finals, both from Korea, SK Telecom T1 and KOO Tigers.

In terms of familiar sports team analogies, SKT Telecom T1 is the Miami Heat in 2013, stocked with All-Stars, including the ever-calm Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The KOO Tigers are the San Antonio Spurs, with no major stars, but a commendable teamwork and trust in each other.

In the end, much like the outcome of the NBA 2013 Finals, SK Telecom T1 prevailed over the KOO Tigers, showing calm and collected methodology.

They won the five game series, 3-1. That loss was the first loss they took in the entire Worlds tournament, which shows that KOO was no pushover team.

Each game kept the crowd on their seat. Each team showed their dedication, practice and synergy, which was why they had made the Finals in the first place.

The game after that loss transformed SKT into a juggernaut of a team, which shocked both casters and the crowd.

They learned from their mistakes in the previous game and crushed KOO’s reactionary defensive strategy, leaving dazed viewers confident that SKT deserved the Summoner’s Cup, the symbol of winning the Championships.

eSports: The Future

The future of eSports holds a lot of promise. Every year, events become larger and more funded.

“I think it’s a niche market … and it probably will be for a while, but I don’t think that will stop it from being popular for those who are interested,” said James Trout ‘15.

According to Trout, the fact that former players can become sportscasters or trainers for new teams gives players some longevity in an otherwise short career.

“A lot of the teams that are sponsored by companies can hire past players to train current players,” said Trout. “So it may grow slowly, but it has potential.”

Only time will tell whether eSports’ future is one of success or if it is merely a small blip in history.

But here and now, it is the career of some, a passion for others and an innovation in the existing idea of team sports.