Imagine going to the Super Bowl without having ever previously seen a game. You would be told that you were witnessing something America loves more than all other sports combined being played at its absolute highest level and you would reply:
“Which is more points: a field goal or a touchdown?”
“Also, what’s a touchdown?”
“A beer costs how much?!?”
And so on. It’s the wonder of sports: We gradually absorb them so completely that it seems faintly absurd that someone else would fail to know there are four downs. (But more like three, since if it’s fourth-and-five you’re going to kick it obviously.)
There is money in esports. The tournament filled MSG’s 18,000-plus seats for two nights in a row with tickets going for $46 and $61. Oh, and 67 competitors have earned at least half a million dollars playing games like LoL, Dota 2 and StarCraft: Brood War.
This is how I felt while watching the League of Legends World Championship Semifinals at New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden. Yes, for two straight nights fans packed the Garden to see which teams of elite gamers—including South Korea’s Sanghyeok Lee a.k.a. “Faker”, who’s generally cited as the Messi/LeBron of the sport—would compete in the Final.
And I was there with them for the second semifinal, despite having not played League of Legends before. I also dragged along my wife, who 10 minutes in revealed she had actually never played any video games before, beyond the occasional round of Dots on her iPhone.
Here’s what we learned watching the multiplayer online battle arena video game with thousands of other people who understood it just a little better than we did.