By Sean Reis
Sports are typically defined as activities involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another for others as entertainment. By definition, eSports — a term used for organized multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players — are not regarded as traditional sports due to the lack of physical exertion.
Nonetheless, video games do require skill, and eSports are where individuals or teams can hone their skills to compete against one another to entertain spectators. This is where commonalities between eSports and real sports end. However, similar to professional poker, eSports is merely a new realm of competition for fans to enjoy.
In late August, “League of Legends,” commonly referred to as “LoL,” — one of the world’s most watched video games — sold out Madison Square Garden for its mid-season tournament, an unprecedented event in the United States. This was one of many major steps in the past year, but as eSports continue to come to public prominence, “League of Legends” is currently in the midst of its 2015 World Championship.
Similar to the World Series of Poker National Championship, Riot Games — the creators of “League of Legends” — have also developed a worldwide professional circuit, which ends in a world championship at the conclusion of each season. The fifth season’s world championship began last Thursday, Oct. 1, and ran through Sunday, Oct. 4, in Europe and the competition, although only being in the first day of group stages, was already heating up.
The first team to play from North America was Cloud9, playing against AHQ eSports from Taiwan, in a game which would later be summed up perfectly in one SB Nation headline, “Cloud9 just stomped AHQ eSports, and nobody can believe it.”
Cloud9 was not expected to win, nor was the team even expected to be competitive with AHQ eSports. However, Cloud9 proved everyone wrong, rotating around the map with ease and always maintaining control as a team. Despite a well-drafted team from AHQ eSports, including champions (characters) such as Darius and Rengar, their team were no match for the underdogs from the United States, who gave North America its first surprise win in an unbelievably quick 24-minute victory.
The other North American team to play in Thursday’s games was Counter Logic Gaming, who won in a come-from-behind victory over Taiwan’s other team, Flash Wolves. Prior to the miraculous comeback, the competition had been back and forth for the first half hour of play until Flash Wolves managed to take control.
However, after Counter Logic Gaming caught a Flash Wolves player out of position, the team systematically began to make a sudden push to win. Nearly 40 minutes into the game, Counter Logic Gaming killed two more Flash Wolves players as they seized their opponent’s base, which would be secured for a 42-minute victory shortly after.
Following the first day of group stages, North America surprised the world, starting the championship undefeated, but with three more days remaining in the first weekend of the group stage, the favored teams of Eastern Asia stepped up their game.
North America’s beloved Team SoloMid played against Korea’s KT Rolster to start Friday’s games and in a difficult matchup filled with Team SoloMid mistakes, the first loss for North America took place in devastating fashion. A losing trend continued all weekend for Team SoloMid, with the exception of a major upset Sunday morning when the team beat the top Chinese team LGD Gaming, both of which previously had surprising 0-2 starts.
As for the other aforementioned North American teams, Counter Logic Gaming ended their first weekend of group stages, 2-1, having an easy victory over Brazil’s paiN Gaming on Friday and a loss in a poorly played game against Korea’s KOO Tigers on Sunday.
Although 2-1 was a good start for Counter Logic Gaming, at the end of the weekend another North American team outshined the record. Cloud9 starred in a weekend of upsets, with two more wins after their first dominant win on Thursday.
Cloud9 not only upset Invictus Gaming from China on Saturday, but also upset one of the championship favorites, Europe’s Fnatic on Sunday, in a crazy comeback victory that ended with a pentakill from Cloud9 to secure the 3-0 record as the only undefeated North American team.