For anyone who has ever been to a League of Legends tournament, let alone played the game from their computer at home, I am sure to embarrass myself with the following “revelations.”

I will certainly sound foolish, ill informed, and like a newbie to the League of Legends world. Mostly because I am.

The 2016 League of Legends Worlds tournament in Los Angeles was my first exposure to the eSports world, and it greeted me with unexpected surprises along the way. With these many caveats regarding my newness to League of Legends aside, I present to you the five things that most surprised me at Worlds 2016.

1. The Dedication of Professional League Players


Contrary to popular belief, eSports are far from mindless escapes. Played by teams of five, League of Legends requires collaboration and immense preparation. From strategizing sessions, to actual game play, to reviewing moves made, League of Legends pros spend 10 to 16 hours a day practicing their craft. They are a team, and this is their sport. They play it well through dedicated practice. “These are the best in the world competing in the finals,” Alban Dechelotte, senior manager of entertainment marketing for Coca-Cola, says of the Worlds tournament that the company helped toput on. “eSports create the moment where you discover the talent of people who train hours a day, and you see how far they can go with this game.”

2. The Value Placed on Aesthetics

The opening ceremony kicked off with pyrotechnics, a live orchestra and a large-than-life anime projection, which artistically depicted extraordinary moments of past Worlds. Fans pointed to the art within the game as one of its most compelling features. And indeed, cheering fans had transformed themselves into living and breathing art, dressed in detailed and often handcrafted cosplay representations of League of Legends characters.

3. The Sheer Number of People


All 15,000 tickets to League of Legends Worlds sold out in five minutes. Waiting alongside thousands of eager fans for the doors of the arena to open, I spoke with Danté Dawson, a longtime League of Legends fan and player. He marveled at the crowd. “To think that we sold out the Staples Center – such a huge venue where so many legends have come and filled the seats – and then this game does the same thing… that’s mind-blowing," he said. "We used to be the ‘nerds,’ the kids at home playing video games. Now we are just as big as anyone else.”

4. The Sense of Community in a Sea of Strangers


Love for League of Legends unites the thousands of fans who share a common passion for the eSport. Before the tournament kicked off I spoke with Brittany Schmidt, who was surrounded by a group I presumed to be her longtime friends. “I always come to these events by myself," she said, "but I always meet the most incredible people here. I’m never alone.”

5. The Positive Energy

I have never been to a sporting event where everyone was cheering for everyone – and not against someone. As Dawson put it, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose in these professional games. Everybody is always supportive of every player.” Everyone stood and cheered for the underdog as they made their mid-game comeback, and cheered with equal enthusiasm when the returning champions once again prevailed. Every cheer was recognition of the strategy and skill players demonstrated, regardless of their team. Every cheer reflected the warmth and enthusiasm of the League of Legends community.