I am unequivocally a console gamer. I can count the number of games I’ve played on my computer on one hand. That being said, I would bet good money that if I were able to tally the amount of hours I’ve spent playing every individual game, there would be two computer games in the top five.
Those two games would be Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. I started playing SC2 halfway through my junior year in college when my suitemates got me into it. SC2 was the first game I truly became competitive with and I ended up getting pretty decent at it. I tuned into streams of more skilled players, I watched professional tournaments to gain insight from casters, I studied build orders and timing. Eventually the game became too stressful for me, too much work and not enough fun. My friends and I then turned to League of Legends at the end of our senior year and the game provided something that we had been missing from SC2, laid-back fun. SC2 can have you controlling as many as 200 individual units while maintaining production of 10 different buildings all at once, in League of Legends you only had to worry about one on screen champion. Even better, the game was slower, there was down time, checking a text or looking away from the screen for a second didn’t mean immediate death.
Fast forward two and half year to today and I’ve played just over 900 games of LoL. For those who don’t know, the MINIMUM time a game of LoL can take is 20 minutes but games frequently go past the 45 minutes mark. Let’s be conservative and say my average game time was 30 minutes. That’s over 450 hours, or nearly 19 days playing League of Legends. I quite honestly don’t know if there is any other game I’ve put that kind of time into. So what is it about LoL that has kept me playing for so long?
Gaming, for me, was a solitary activity. Most of my friends were just casual gamers and even the hardcore ones played on a different platform (I’ve always been a Playstation guy while they all seemed to own Xboxes). Ideally, all my friends and I would own our own system and would party up every night to play Call of Duty or Borderlands together. The reality is that spending $400+ on a PS4 and some games is a tough sell for a casual gamer, but everyone owns a computer. Even better, League of Legends is a free to play game. In the 450 hours I’ve spent playing, I have yet to spend a single dollar on this game. The barrier of entry into a MOBA like LoL is very low, and it is very easy to convince a friend to give it a try.
League of Legends was fun and relaxing but the main reason I’ve stuck with it for so long has nothing to do with gameplay. After graduating college I moved back to California while most of my friends remained in Boston. League of Legends became the way for us to stay in touch. 2 or 3 times a week we would get in a group Skype call and play a few games together. It was an excuse for us to talk, to catch up, to stay in each other’s lives. I rarely play a game of LoL without at least one friend. It is purely a social game for me in a way that console games have never been. To me, gaming is about laying back and getting lost in something. That is not what I do with League of Legends. A typical game of LoL with friends often involves dozens of inside jokes and laughing so hard I start crying. Do we try to win the game? Sure. Do we care if we lose? Not really.
Perhaps I am still suffering a 3 year hangover from Starcraft 2 ranking anxiety but I have NEVER played a ranked game of League of Legends. I have no interest in ascending the ranks to try and become a Diamond or Platinum level player. I couldn’t care less about my LoL rank. When I want a hardcore, engaging, immersive experience, I play console games. When I want to have a fun night chilling with my boys, I play League of Legends.