Milestone : A Look Back At eSports’s Debut At The Garden

A personal take on my experience at MSG and what the event represents looking forward.

Image via Nintendo

Photo credit to lolesports’s official flickr

The North American LCS grand finals and third place matches took place at the illustrious and, ultimately, the most decorated arena in the world : Madison Square Garden. For the eSports industry as a whole, the booking was absolutely huge, even drawing  the unanticipated attention of traditional sport giant : ESPN.

After a somewhat disappointing presentation of the split right before it, where the NA LCS spring split finals were held at the usual studio in Southern California, the League of Legends fans were roaring for a suitable venue to conclude a crucial split that sooner or later shapes up what appears to be the best World Championship yet in the coming fall. While even its European counterpart made a trip to Spain for their spring split finale, the American fans’s envy only grew stronger. Yet, I think nobody expected Riot Games to land a gig at The Garden. Financially speaking, I can only assume that remaining at their regular studio for the spring finals was the sacrificial lamb for greater things.

Bigger than Worlds

Madison Square Garden covers 76 000 square meters, welcoming a capacity on average of approximately 18 000 spectators. For their first stop for the upcoming World Championship, the group stage takes place in France at Dock Pullman which can greet about 2500 people which is understandable since it’s the group stage after all. Many matches have to be played and, depending on the groups, many are predictable. Thereafter, things get cooking, as the quarterfinals brings us to London at the SSE Arena Wembley where approximately 12 000 spectators will bear witness to the clash of the 8 best teams that the world has to offer. When we’ll be down to 4 teams, Worlds heads to the architectural innovations of the Brussels Expo in Belgium.

Brussels Expo

It spans over 12 side by side convention centers for a coast to coast spacing of 115 000 square meters. The special event hall can allegedly take up to 18 000 people. Then, there were two. With a capacity of 17 000 spectators, it will be at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin that the Summoner’s Cup will be hoisted by the best team in the world of 2015 on Halloween. I give credit to Riot Games for booking these great venues. Although great, for the moment, I find that booking Madison Square Garden remains the even greater achievement for League of Legends.

The Experience

On a more personal level, I attended in person the North American LCS finals. I saw Team Liquid triumph over Team Impulse in the third place match. In turn, I saw their victory’s significance evaporate on the very next day when finally a team that is not named Team SoloMid nor Cloud9 won the title of best in NA. I witnessed in person the newest chapter of the storied TSM versus CLG rivalry in the form of their first ever best of 5, grand final against each other. I was there when Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaha outplayed both Marcus “Dyrus” Hill and Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg in the top lane with his Gnar. I was also there when Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng pulled off his pentakill to seal Game 2 when he played Jinx. I could only jump out of my seat and scream with my friends. As always, the “TSM! TSM! TSM!” cheers were loud and numerous but it was a heartwarming experience to feel the transition to a cheer that I’ve rarely heard or at least heard as loud as I did. Yes. Finally, the “CLG! CLG! CLG!” cheers came through. Not only that but the whole setting was exciting. From screaming the countdown with thousands of people to watching the promos in high definition that send chills down your spine to the matches themselves with outstanding shoutcasting as always, the event held true to the hype.

Closing Thoughts

For me, considering that it was the first time that I attended a live Riot Games show, the company’s rare visit to the East Coast was a fresh experience. More importantly, I was happy to be at the heart of Madison Square Garden embracing the fact that eSports had achieved a new milestone. I knew that the impact of booking such an event at such an arena would once again blur the lines between eSports and traditional sports. It’s definitely a step forward knowing that The Garden, a venue that was a part of so many iconic moments in entertainment history, actually hosted a League of Legends event. With Worlds on its way at astounding speed, the 2014 edition already broke barriers as it saw 288 million cumulative daily unique impressions. On that note, I personally encourage you to be a part of it as close as you can. Go to an official viewing party approved by Riot, get some friends and watch it on a big television or, better yet, be at the edge of your seat in the aforementioned venues. By being at Madison Square Garden, I realized that the difference in the thrill of watching a LoL game in an arena is definitely different. It’s difficult to describe. It simply transcends words. You feel like you’re among thousands of people that genuinely share a passion for professional gaming, you feel goosebumps from the mere atmosphere at dramatic moments and, on a minor downside, you lose your voice in the process.

Photo credit to lolesports’s official flickr

What many believe to be the most competitive World Championship yet, as gaps between regions begin to thin out, why not be a part of that moment? Why not have your jaw dropped in your seat at one of the four venues if a “KaBuM” moment actually happens? Why not be in Berlin to be a part of the hometown crowd of Fnatic if they ever reach the finals? Why not hold a sign in the crowd written “#GOLDENAGE”? I’m aware that the tickets sell like crazy but if you’re lucky enough to seize them, enjoy it like I have and enjoy it to the fullest! Experience the moment when eSports achieves yet another milestone like it did at MSG.

I am Christopher “Wave” Phakjarung and, as always, I sincerely thank you for reading!