League of Legends Esports 101: Beginners Guide, Overview & FAQ

League of Legends Academy: 101

League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game released by Riot Games in 2009. Each player assumes the role of a specific Champion or hero with specific strengths and weaknesses. The game mode takes place on Summoner’s Rift, the iconic symmetrical map with 3 distinct lanes for players. The goal is to compete against an enemy team in a 5v5 battle and ultimately destroy the other team’s Nexus or home base. There are different ways to level up your Champion during the match to strengthen your player, and it is a key race against the other team to become strong in order to win battles.

League of Legends was well-received upon its release and has grown exponentially in popularity, with an active fanbase around the world. By July 2012, League of Legends was the most played PC game in North America and Europe in terms of the number of hours played. League has among the largest footprints of any game in streaming media communities on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. It routinely ranks first in the most-watched hours. In September 2016, Riot Games estimated that there are over 100 million active players each month, and in September 2019, the company said that the game boasts nearly 8 million peak concurrent users each day.

League of Legends has a lively competitive scene, which is commonly described as the best global Esport. In North America and Europe, Riot Games organizes the League Championship Series (LCS), located in Los Angeles and the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), located in Berlin, respectively, each of which consists of 10 professional teams. Similar regional competitions exist in China (LPL), and South Korea (LCK). These regional competitions culminate with the annual World Championship.

The 2019 League of Legends World Championship had over 100 million unique viewers, peaking at a concurrent viewership of 44 million, with a minimum prize pool of US$2.5 million. The 2018 Mid-Season Invitational had an overall peak concurrent viewership of 19.8 million, while the finals had an average concurrent viewership of 11 million. League of Legends is the world’s most-watched Esport, with total and peak viewerships that not only outdistance direct competitors such as Dota 2 and Fortnite but other traditional sports events such as the Super Bowl.


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Image Credit: leagueoflegends.com

The original League of Legends game was released in 2009 as a new and improved version of DotA, a popular PC game from the early 2000s. DotA is the original MOBA video game with heroes battling to conquer the battlefield, but League quickly surpassed it as the premiere game in that category.

Riot Games self-publishes and operates the game and all of its aspects in North America. Riot Games has signed deals regarding the distribution of League of Legends in Asia, Europe, and North America. It is most popular in Asian markets like China and South Korea.

The game is distributed in China by Tencent Inc., the largest Internet value-added services company in China. The game has been distributed to Tencent’s growing 300 million Internet user base through its QQ Game portal. This is a major factor why the game is the most popular game in the world.

The idea of a successor to DotA was that it would be its own stand-alone game with its own engine, rather than another mod of Warcraft III. League of Legends was born when a couple of very active DotA community members believed that the gameplay was so much fun and so innovative that it represented the spawning of a new genre and deserved to be its own professional game with an improved game engine.

Riot Games officially opened its office in September 2006, and, as of 2013, has over 1,000 people working on League of Legends. They decided to open up the champion creation process to everyone in the company based on a template where they could vote on which champions made it into the game. This resulted in over 150 playable in the characters at this point.


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Image Credit- leagueoflegends.com

Summoner’s Rift is the most popular map in League of Legends, and across all video games as well. On this map, two teams of five players compete to destroy an enemy Nexus, which is guarded by the enemy team and a number of defensive structures called turrets. One nexus is located in each enemy base on opposite sides of the map, in the lower-left and upper-right hand corners.

These structures continually create weak non-player characters known as minions, which advance toward the enemy base along three paths: top, middle, and bottom lanes. Players compete to advance these waves of minions into the enemy base, which allows them to destroy enemy structures and ultimately win the match. Between lanes are neutral areas of the map known as the “jungle”, set up in four quadrants. A shallow river divides the map between the teams but doesn’t impede the movement of any players.

In future articles in the League of Legends Academy series, I will go in-depth on the strategy within the game, who the best Champions in the game are, how to use them, and who are some of the best League players that you can learn from as well. The series will give you all the information you need to fall in love with League of Legends and learn why it is the most popular game in the world.


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Image Credit: leagueoflegends.com

Each Champion within League of Legends has 5 abilities to use in battle. They have 1 passive ability, 3 normal abilities, and 1 ultimate ability that is earned over time. Champions begin every match at a low level, and then gain experience over the course of the match to achieve a maximum level of 18. Gaining champion levels in matches allow players to unlock their champion’s special abilities and use them in a number of ways unique to each character.

Because champions are individually controlled, they each move independently of each other. Some champions may be faster than others or have abilities to increase their movement, but we will get to those things a little later. Champions are controlled via player inputs from their mouse and keyboard. Movement is controlled by right-clicking with the mouse somewhere on the screen. This will issue a command to the champion they are controlling. The champion will then find their way to that location on the map on their own. If the player issues another command by clicking again, the previous command will be ignored.



Image Credit- leagueoflegends.com

When a player right-clicks on an enemy, whether that be an enemy turret, minion, champion, or the Nexus itself, their champion will begin moving towards that enemy unit. When the champion gets close enough, they will begin attacking the enemy unit automatically. This is known as an auto-attack or a basic attack. Some champions will hit the unit with swords, others with their fists. Some will shoot bows, others will use guns. Some auto-attack quickly, others will auto-attack slowly. Some champions are melee champions, meaning that they need to be very close to the enemy unit before they are able to auto-attack. Other champions are ranged champions, meaning that they can begin to auto-attack the enemy unit from a distance. For some champions, their auto-attack is their main source of damage.

While auto-attacks are mostly the same for everyone, depending on if they are ranged or melee, abilities are what set champions apart from one another. These abilities can do a multitude of things, from dealing high damage to crowd control, which slows large groups of enemies. Some abilities can also target allied units. These abilities can do things like giving allies health back, shield them, or speed them up. All abilities have cooldowns of one kind or another, which limits their use. Most Q, W, and E abilities have short cooldowns, meaning that a player only has to wait a few seconds before using that ability again. Ultimate or R abilities however have much longer cooldowns, usually totaling between one and two minutes. The term commonly used to speak about a champion’s collective group of abilities is their kit.



Image Credit: leagueoflegends.com

If a champion loses all their health, they are defeated but are revived in their base after time passes. Players also begin each match with a low amount of gold, and can earn additional gold throughout the match in a variety of ways: by killing non-player characters known as minions and monsters; by killing or helping to kill enemy players; by destroying enemy structures; passively over time; and through unique item interactions or champion abilities. This gold can then be spent throughout the match to buy in-game items that further progress each champion’s abilities and gameplay in a variety of ways.


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Image Credit- leagueoflegends.com

Across matches, players also earn rewards that are applied to their accounts. Player accounts begin at level one and progress with games played. Player level is separate from character level; both a level 30 account and a level 5 account would begin at character level 1 at the start of a new game. From 2009–2017, the maximum account level was 30, and as players progressed, they unlocked additional content. This system was reworked in November 2017, with the removal of the level 30 limit and removal of the Runes / Masteries system that gave in-game bonuses to players based on their account level. Playing matches and leveling up provides “Blue Essence” to access certain locked features for Champions.

Accounts are given rankings based on the Elo rating system, with proprietary adjustments by Riot Games. These ratings are used in automated matchmaking to make games with players of comparable skill levels on each team.


Esports is a major component of League of Legends and Riot Games does a lot to support the competitive side of the game. The competitive side of League of Legends plays the normal games of League of Legends but use strategies and Champions in unison to maximize their chances of winning. There are major leagues in North America, Asia, and Europe that compete in tournaments during the year for millions of dollars.

The major tournament of League of Legends is the World Championship, which is held annually during the Summer. Each major tournament draws in millions of viewers, and the max amount of viewers was during the World Championship in 2019, with over 40 million people watching. That is more than any regular-season game for major sports leagues.

Leagues & Teams

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Image Credit- leagueoflegends.com

The League Championship Series (LCS) is the top League of Legends professional league in North America and Canada. The league is run by Riot Games directly and has 10 teams which are franchised and owned by organizations. Their season is split into two parts over the course of the year, the spring and summer session. At the end of the season, the top 3 teams advance to the World Championship, where they compete against other top teams from other leagues around the world.

The other prominent leagues in the world are primarily in Asia. The league with the most success at World Championships is the South Korean league (LCK), which features 5 titles and 8 other placements in the semifinals since the World Championship began in 2012. The other major leagues are located in China (LPL), Europe (LEC), South Asia (LMS), and Russia(LCL). All of these leagues qualify for the World Championship and send their top 3 teams just like the United States league.

League of Legends FAQ

What is League of Legends Esports? How do I watch League of Legends?

Esports in League of Legends is the competitive side of the game, where the best of the best compete for millions of dollars. There are lots of fans of competitive League of Legends and has had up to 100M people watch its World Championships. You can find League of Legends on lolesports.com and Youtube as well.

How “big” is League of Legends?

League of Legends is currently the most popular game in the world in terms of viewership on streaming services and a player base on the game itself. As of May 2020, there were 80 million active players worldwide on League of Legends, making it the most popular game in the world. Twitch reported that League of Legends is in the top 3 most-watched games on its platform for 2020 as well.

Who is the most successful League of Legends pro?

At the end of 2019, Faker was the highest earner in League of Legends history and was widely recognized as the best League of Legends player in the world. He has earned $1.3 million from professional League tournaments and is considered the best of the best in the League Championship Series.

What is the biggest League of Legends tournament?

The biggest tournament each year for League of Legends is their World Championship, which is held annually in July. The event draws tens of millions of viewers from around the world as the top teams compete for the title of the best League team of that year, and a prize pool of over $1 million.

How can I play League of Legends?

League of Legends can be downloaded for free from their website, leagueoflegends.com. The game can be directly installed to your computer and requires an internet connection.

When did League of Legends start?

League of Legends was released in 2009 as a follow-up to the popular MOBA game, DotA. League of Legends features two teams of five Champions, battling to destroy each other’s base. The game is continuously updated to this day by its developer, Riot Games.

Are there variations of League of Legends?

Riot Games has released sub-modes within League of Legends but has not released a follow-up game to League. The game remains the most popular game year in and year out, so a new game is not needed for League fans.

Is League of Legends the biggest video game ever?

In my opinion, yes. League of Legends has remained as the most played and watched video game since its release 11 years ago. The game can be learned by anyone but takes a vast amount of time and knowledge to truly master the game and become good. It does not have the same illustrious history as CS or DotA, but I am confident in saying League of Legends is the most popular game to this point.

I live for Michigan State football and basketball, and am a die-hard Detroit sports fan. I am a student reporter for Michigan State sports, and will use that to bring an expertise to my Michigan State and Detroit sports coverage.

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