The 2022 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational is about to take off. Eleven teams will battle in the first international event of the year, and for the first time, the competition will take place in Korea, which is often referred to as the birthplace of esports.
Also for the first time, Riot partnered with Korean artists to create a track that “perfectly encapsulates” what this year’s MSI is about—and DRP LIVE and DPR CLINE were the perfect fit for the project.
“We didn’t want to just kind of add in Korean elements to a North American-sounding anthem,” said Carrie Dunn, director marketing creative direction at Riot Games. “We wanted [the song] to be of Korea, for Korea, by Korea.”
With “Set It Off,” Riot wanted to “pay homage” to Korea as the host country and the “birthplace of esports,” which led to the creation of a “deeper” partnership with DPR. The artist was briefed and guided through the process Riot has established for its songs, but he was later allowed to “run free” with the song.
During the process of creating the MSI anthem, Riot considered various artists to partner with for the song—and DPR was “at the top of the list,” Dunn said. But before reaching out to them, the team needed to pinpoint the theme and vibe they wanted to convey through the song. That happens once the visuals for the event’s graphics are delivered. “Once we had [the visuals] I started going through Spotify to find my inspiration points,” Dunn said, who found inspiration in a “freestyle” DPR track dating back six years. After some research, it was clear that the energy and range the artist showcased was what Riot was looking for to create a gritty and energetic anthem for MSI 2022.
Riot chose a local artist to create a deeper connection with the event and its fans, but this was just an “experimentation” and a “test pilot” to see if the quality of the product would hit the high standard Riot is used to. “The answer across the board has been a resounding yes,” Dunn said, later explaining this could be just the first time Riot relied on local artists to create a “magical” experience for League fans. In terms of the anthem, Dunn also said “it’s this wild ride that you don’t know where it’s going, but you know you want to be on board.”
Once it found the right people to entrust with the creation of the anthem, Riot connected with them to start the process that would give birth to the third MSI song. DPR LIVE was “honored” for the opportunity and “eager” to curate music that would enhance the players’ experience of gameplay by providing “a specific mood of music that I’ve always wanted as a gamer myself.” Both DPR LIVE and DPR CLINE are League fans and played the game together “from a ways back,” proving that a part of Riot’s onboarding process of artists is becoming obsolete.
“Few years ago, when we reached out to artists, we had to do some explaining of who we are, what we’re about, maybe a little bit of education on esports,” Dunn said. “And that isn’t as required anymore. A lot of times we connect with new artists, and they just say, ‘hell yeah, like, of course, I know what esport is, I know what MSI is,’ and they’re so excited to get involved.”
The first MSI took place in Florida in 2015, with an epic score accompanying the players entering the stage. The first song for MSI was produced four years later when Sara Skinner performed “Bring Home The Glory” in front of a live audience in Taiwan. In 2020, Riot had to cancel the event due to the global pandemic that had just begun. But MSI’s comeback in 2021 was more energetic than ever. Riot presented the theme “Break Out” along with the song “It Starts Right Here” and brought a completely new feeling to the event.
During the 2020 break, Riot had time to reflect on what makes MSI “unique” and “meaningful to the fans,” and it found the pivotal point to be the fact that MSI is the first global League tournament of the year.
Along with the unique format and the standalone teams from each region, the Mid-Season Invitational competition is made “a bit more exciting” since it causes the League community to question what the meta is going to be, who are the players to watch, and who are the actual contenders on the global stage. Teams at MSI need to have the grit, confidence, and intensity to go out and perform. This led Riot to opt for a more “modern battleground” and “grit” identity for the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational.
Last year was the beginning of this new “bolder” phase for MSI, where a neon green was used to “just grab people by the throat to say: this is MSI,” according to Dunn. This year, that vibrant color was toned down to give space for “warmer heat maps” that leave room for evolution and experimentation for future events.
During the first international event of 2022, Riot invites League fans and teams to “take notes.” This theme is meant to emphasize the surprising and unmissable nature of the event itself, where the competition is so “uniquely intense” that “you just can’t blink,” according to Dunn. The teams attending MSI get no second chances, “no do-overs,” and therefore must walk on stage and play with “grit and absolute confidence.”
“Take notes has a double meaning,” Dunn said. “It’s about coming in prepared, doing your homework, studying your opponents, breaking them down to their parts. But it’s also about having that confidence to just thump your chest and say, I’m the one to take notes on. I’m the one to watch.”
MSI sets the international tone for the year. Teams from all over the world collide to crown the team to watch, the one to “take notes” from ahead of the World Championship.
Esports events created by Riot throughout the years have always had a magical element to them, whether that takes the form of an Elder Drake appearing in the stadium or a virtual band dancing on the stage. Even during the pandemic, Riot made sure to include something new, that “little special something” that amazed players and fans alike. And even without dragons and K-pop bands, this MSI is going to deliver a “magical performance” by letting the live performers live the “wonder of the moment” with the crowd.
The past two years affected live events deeply, but the most challenging part for Dunn and her team was not the constant shifting of regulations nor the difficulties that arose from managing various teams. “I think the most challenging part of the past two years has been not having our fans at our events,” Dunn said, adding that “hearing the roar of the crowd” is worth all the hard work they put into creating such events.
Talking about Riot’s success with past events, Dunn focused on a specific secret ingredient that makes the magic happen. “It all comes down to the hard-working, like really creative, really passionate individuals that make up Riot at large,” Dunn said. The “insanely passionate” team of people working at Riot is the key to an endless wheel of creative and innovative projects that are presented to the fans year after year.
The 2022 Mid-Season Invitational starts on May 10 in Busan and will end with an “exciting” finals on May 29, where the two teams remaining will battle it out in front of a live audience.
“Knowing this is going to be my first live event after two years and this is going to be my first event with fans at it, I am immensely excited,” Dunn said. “You don’t have a sport without fans, period.”