I couldn’t believe the day Riot Games announced that the North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Finals would be taking place in Toronto.
It was astounding. Not because it’s such a mouthful to say – but because it felt like the first time Canada was getting some recognition in the eSports scene, and that mattered to me. I’m a proud resident of Toronto, a city in Canada, and I don`t really get the chance to participate in or spectate any big tournaments. Sure, there are events like Canada Cup and Toryuken that come around every once in a while, but there was nothing this monumental.
Imagine that: League of Legends, a game I had been playing for almost four years at that point, was going to bring their best North American players to duel it out in front of an audience I could potentially be a part of?! You can probably see why I was so dumbfounded that this was actually going to happen. My head became this weird concoction full of excitement, anticipation, and confusion but there was one thing that was clear to me – I had to be there.
Watching the announcement trailer was one of the wildest parts. I was playing a normal game with some friends when one of them yelled out “HOLY SHIT”, we asked him what was up and he said “BRO, THE [censored] LEAGUE OF LEGENDS CHAMPIONSHIP IS [censored] HAPPENING HERE”. None of us believed what he was saying because it was laughable, so we kept on playing, but then he sent us the link to the trailer and that’s when it hit me. It was happening.
All of us got so hyped up that we accidentally ended up AFKing that game. The CN Tower making a guest appearance in an official League of Legends video doesn’t happen too often, so when we saw it six seconds into the trailer we all started laughing and cheering so loudly. I almost woke up my neighbors, but I didn’t feel bad because I couldn’t control myself.
I’m not that patriotic – I mean I put maple syrup on my pancakes, but that’s about it – so I didn’t understand why I was so ecstatic. Maybe the news of the LCS coming to Toronto unlocked some dormant sports-loving piece of my brain, because I had never been that excited for an eSports event.
On Sunday, August 29, the day I went to the Air Canada Centre to watch live, it was obvious that every other League of Legends fan in Toronto harbored my same emotions. Canada was lit. Looking around the city, on the subway, even in restaurants the impact of the event was hard to miss. Everyone was dressed in their video game themed clothing; sporting Teemo hats and holding Poro plushies. There was this aura of shared excitement that everyone near the ACC could feel, but sadly it wasn’t the only aura in the area.
Walking into the ACC was the worst part by far. My nose still hasn’t recovered. I forgot what the collective scent of people who play too many video games smelled like, but when I entered the main lobby I was savagely reminded that some people just don’t shower. And I mean savagely. I didn’t even notice until I got to the centre of the hallway, and at that point it was too late. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would start smelling like that too, so I had to pull some Mission: Impossible maneuvers to get out of that situation. So, I’m just gonna take a second and say – if you’re reading this and you play video games, please shower. I don’t like that I can tell someone’s a “gamer” because they refuse to bathe. Wash yourself, my dude.
After getting past that barrier of B.O., I was able to actually get a peek into the stadium, and man, my jaw just dropped. Over 15,000 poeple in a packed arena, standing up and flailing their arms cheering for one team and condemning another – It felt like a real life version of League‘s in-game /allchat. It got even more bombastic when the teams came in. CLG and TSM were ready to duke it out, and Toronto was the perfect place for it with all of the hype in the stadium. Watching the games live was a stellar experience. It was live, and it evoked a feeling that’s not there when you watch a stream or a VOD. Everyone was at the edge of their seats wailing praise and insults and the players, shoutcasters, and fellow attendees. The crowd was so untamed that after the matches Yiliang “Doublelift” Peter Peng grabbed the mic and said it was one of the most energetic crowds he’s ever played with.
To this day the event still feels like a dream; too good to be true. It was an amazing milestone, not just for League of Legends, but for eSports and gaming in general. It was in the Air Canada Centre! A place where people sit and watch basketball games and hockey matches, but that day I was watching 10 dudes play a video game. I have to give huge props to everyone who helped organize and coordinate it, you could tell a lot of work was put into it. Sitting at that stadium and watching the North American League of Legends Championship series in the flesh, is an experience I’m never going to forget. A journey full of disbelief, smelly dudes, and hyped fans, and it was in my hometown. Hopefully there will be another event like that, and if there is, you can bet I’ll be there.
Article featured on NO COMPROMIZE magazine.