The topic of eSports has been debated for years. What is Esports? Are these players athletes? How big is this industry? The idea of people playing games for money in front of thousands of people seemed far-fetched back in the days of Nintendo and blowing inside cartridges to make them work properly.
This past weekend, the Esports spectacle came to Newark as the LCS (League of Legends Championship Series) Championship went to the Prudential Center to crown a champion. Saturday saw a semifinal matchup between NRG and Team Liquid, with the winning team facing the waiting Cloud 9 in the Summer Grand Final on Sunday afternoon. The team that won on Sunday would get North America’s top seed for the 2023 League of Legends World Championship in South Korea, set to take place in the fall.
NRG outlasted Team Liquid on Saturday afternoon, 3-2, to advance to the Grand Final. For NRG, they came into Sunday looking for their first LCS title, while Cloud 9 was looking for their fifth North American title. The crowd at The Rock was pro-Cloud 9, but NRG had their fans as they came into the day as the underdog. Among the storylines was NRG player Contractz, who started his career with Cloud 9, facing his former team as he went for his first LCS title.
The format for the finals was a best-of-five series, with the first team to reach three wins taking home the title. Cloud 9 took the first game as NRG started badly as Contracz made many strategic mistakes, leading to early kills for Cloud 9. From there, NRG put up a good effort but could not make up for earlier mistakes.
Game 2 was a different story as NRG came out with a different strategy and stayed to the plan as they took down Cloud 9 to tie it at one match apiece. Going into Game 3, many started believing that NRG could pull the upset.
NRG took that measured approach into Game 3 as they took the third match after almost a 42-minute battle. Palafox and FBI (16 kills in Game 3, a finals record) led the charge, as Cloud 9 had no answer for those players. Berserker attempted to hold down the fort for Cloud 9, but his teammates did not support him enough, as NRG was one win away from claiming the LCS title.
In the fourth and final game, NRG finished the job as Cloud 9 could not contain NRG at every turn. NRG finished Cloud 9, 3-1, to win the team’s first LCS title. FBI was named Most Valuable Player of the finals as Cloud 9 was denied a three-peat.
“This felt f****** good… as a five-man we’re very close and as cliche as it sounds, the power of friendship shone through,” said FBI after the upset win.
The Future of LCS
Before Sunday’s LCS Championship, Riot Games’ Raul Fernandez, head of Esports for the Americas, and Carlos Antunes, head of League of Legends Esports for the Americas, met with the media to discuss the future of the LCS and where the league goes as eSports as a whole goes through a transition. The conversation included changes regarding broadcasts, possible time changes of matches, and other items Riot is considering tweaking. There was also conversation about new potential sponsors and other things, but the main sentiment was that LCS was on healthy footing and in for the long haul.
Fernandez and Antunes also discussed the latest talks between Riot, the LCS, and LCSPA (player’s union). LCS players walked out in May after Riot disallowed teams from putting squads together for the North American Challengers League. An agreement was reached to move forward with the summer season, but the parties still have ongoing talks.
“The relationship with the LCSPA is great,” said Fernandez. “Talks are continuing. We are setting up a regular cadence to talk about all the issues that are still on the table. We are here to support the LCSPA as well as players to make sure that their conditions are favorable and that we are providing a great ecosystem for them to continue their livelihood.”
Sunday in Newark was an experience for a novice like myself to League of Legends and massive eSport events like this. The excitement outside during the fan fest and inside during the event drew me in and kept me engaged throughout. The players are personable, driven, and focused on winning, as both Cloud 9 and NRG looked knockout blows over the time playing. More eSport events must happen on the East Coast, as the crowd assembled at Prudential Center showed that these events can and will draw die-hard fans.
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