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Peanut tells me he’s been playing a lot of League of Legends because he was out of a job. Presumably to prove to himself and to other teams that he’s still good and taking the game seriously, and presumably also because he has no other responsibilities (even if his actual job is to play League of Legends) and so he just does what he likes, which is play League of Legends.
After finishing their Riot responsibilities for the day, Caps, Bwipo, and Mikyx made their way down to the small computer setup in the HyperX Arena, where the All-Star Event is once again taking place this year, and played — as you may guess — League of Legends. They are practicing for the 1v1 tournament.
This takes place after Caps tells me he wants to take his health more seriously in 2020. “I’ve been sick a lot this year,” he says. “I don’t really know what’s going on, but I think my life kind of caught up with me — just playing League 24/7 and not really doing anything else. I’ll look into what I need to do to fix this, because it’s actually really horrible. If I get sick, my performance just drops so hard. I need to fix it somehow.”
Of course I believe he’s taking it seriously, but watching him immediately go play games makes me think about how often I tell my friends that I’ll go to the doctor. Throughout the day, almost every pro and influencer rolls through the venue. Faker reads Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which was published in 1962 and documents the effects of pesticides on the environment. Jinsol and Jelly, Korean personalities, ask our photographer to do a second take on their photos. Scarra does a dance as the shot wraps up. Sneaky’s flight is delayed a couple hours.
I tell you all of these things because the All-Star Event comes smackdab in the middle of the offseason, where player names are tossed around like commodities. They are called imports and exports and valuable or not valuable. They are good signings or bad signings, or they are not signed at all. ASE is an event that reminds everyone they are people, and that the whole point of League of Legends or Team Fight Tactics is that they are games that we started playing or watching because it was fun.
All-Star is an event that doesn’t have any stakes. There aren’t really winners or losers in the sense that we normally see throughout the year. I’m not going to say people don’t care — generally I think you’d prefer to win — but this is not an event where people slump into their chairs and cry after a loss (or a win), and it is not an event that has the average fan anxiously biting away at their fingernails.
But it’s an event that does get to the core of why we watch and why the stakes exist to begin with, which is that we find ourselves pulled toward the whirlpool that is fandom. A match between two teams with no one watching (your Solo Queue game) has significantly lower stakes than one with millions watching. And from a fan’s perspective, a match in which your favorite team is playing will matter much more than one where you can’t even name the players. This is why the “sports dad” exists at a High School football game. My theory is every fan contains a tiny sports dad, who shouts inane things that are clearly wrong, inside them.
And All-Star is all about the inane. It’s about the players and the personalities. It’s about the casters and the hosts. The translators and the crew. The fans. The games themselves take a backseat, where they become, more apparent than anywhere else, a medium to deliver the personalities to the viewer. You can become more invested in the reactions and antics between games than in the games themselves. You might not remember who wins the regional 5v5, but you will remember that Sneaky and Bang cosplayed, or that Tyler1 met Faker.
This year, I am excited to watch a TFT event in-person. I want to see which players take the 1v1 seriously and which ones just want to put on a show. I am here to tell you just that is okay. I am here to tell you that there is more to League of Legends than winners and losers.