The Best Way To Enjoy League Of Legends Is To Pretend The MOBA Doesn’t Exist
I’m a League of Legends girl now. It feels like I’m part of a support group or something, breaking the news to friends and family as I install Legends of Runeterra and waste money on card backs and emotes with cute girls on them. I’ve passed the point of no return, and it’s all thanks to Arcane. Vi and Caitlyn, I will be sending you an invoice very shortly.
For years League of Legends has occupied an infamous position in the gaming zeitgeist. It’s quietly one of the biggest games in the world, attracting millions of regular players into the arena while Riot Games pulls in endless profits with its gorgeous cosmetics, regular esports events including the phenomenon that is Worlds, and a culture that has formed around this universe that few other games have managed to accomplish. Sadly it’s also toxic as fuck, which puts most people off.
It’s a certified phenomenon, but only with the release of Arcane has it smashed through its echochamber and managed to be something more, outgrowing its problematic position as a MOBA that is nigh impenetrable to newcomers. Now anyone can sink into this universe and not feel like they're being lost amidst the tide, berated by veterans who demand they stay in their lane and play a character that is easy to learn and doesn't squander your plans of victory.
In fact, you don’t need to play League of Legends at all – I wholeheartedly recommend that you don’t. I’ve tried a handful of times, with friends saying I should jump into a few games with them because it’s free and I can just learn the ropes as I went, but they failed to mention that there’s a lot of fucking ropes to this thing. It wasn’t for me, my attention span failing to dedicate itself to a 40-minute match alongside a toxic atmosphere and punishing mechanics that don’t care for your inexperience. It’s git gud or go home, so I did the latter.
League of Legends has a stunning aesthetic and an ambitious world, but for years that potential was locked away in a single genre and supplemental materials that required a certain level of knowledge to comprehend, otherwise you’d be lost in something that felt designed to push away those curious to learn more. Riot Games seem to have recognised this shortcoming, since it has spent the last few years building its property into something more digestible, piecing together a multimedia strategy that understands what League of Legends is capable of without the baggage of occupying a genre that kinda sucks. Sorry, it’s true.
Ever since losing my gay little mind to Arcane, I’ve been transfixed by everything except the game that inspired it, because I’ve been told time and time again that it isn’t worth the blood, sweat, and tears required to become invested. I took that advice and ran with it, instead installing the likes of League of Legends: Wild Rift and Legends of Runeterra, two differing experiences that have all of the aesthetic and narrative appeal of its forebear without any of the baggage. You could call me a casual for taking this approach, but judging from my Twitter timeline this past month, I'm not the only one strapping myself in for such a ride.
Piltover and Zaun are just the beginning, its diverse streets paving the way for a further glimpse into a universe filled with wonderful characters, sprawling cities, and mountains of lore begging to be uncovered. With a second season of Arcane on the horizon I imagine this vision will continue to be expanded upon in the years to come, and now people like me have plenty of time to learn how the world of League works and who the big players are in the grand scheme of things.
Vi, Caitlyn, and Jinx will still sit at the centre of it all, but they’re three small players in a much larger game, and even from dipping my toes into Runeterra I’m already starting to see some of that scale come to pass. It’s enthralling, even if I keep getting my ass kicked as I struggle to progress through the campaign. Path of Champions has you stepping into the shoes of specific characters across the realm as they embark on miniature stories of their own, meeting familiar faces and new adversaries along the way. To celebrate the launch of Arcane, Vi and Jinx are currently in the spotlight as the two do battle across the city.
While they are clearly enemies, the two share a loving sibling dynamic that those who first stepped into this world through the guidance of Arcane will appreciate, alongside cameos from other faces that cropped up in the Netflix show. Yet this familiarity also gives way to so many new characters and locations I’d never seen before, with the exception of luscious key art and illustrations which held none of the essential context required for me to actually appreciate them. Small nuggets of dialogue help bring this world to life, offering just enough narrative weight to make a digital card game feel like something more, and this is being built upon further with additional games like The Ruined King and Hextech Mayhem.
The Ruined King is a fully-fledged turn-based RPG with its own story to tell, while Hextech Mayhem is a goofy rhythm adventure from the creators of Bit Trip Runner. Both games are so different, yet showcase how this universe is malleable to almost every genre out there and lends itself to creative mediums that go far beyond a restrictive MOBA. The best thing to happen to League of Legends since the game first released is coming to terms with the fact that the world it once housed is begging to be set free, to be expressed through myriad shows, games, books, and other products that appeal to a mainstream audience. Hardcore fans will likely decry this dilution of the original experience, but to me it can only be seen as a positive thing, and Arcane’s tremendous success is a testament to that.
Fans of shows like The Owl House, Amphibia, and She-Ra have naturally found themselves gravitating towards Arcane because of the position it occupies in the realm of animation, that and the parallels between Vi, Caitlyn, Adora, and Catra are undeniable – I’ll write about that sooner or later I promise – so naturally a new type of community has formed around League of Legends who have never played the game before or even care to, and that’s amazing.
The future is bright for League of Legends – not because of the MOBA’s growth or Riot’s reliance on esports, but because the property is finally spreading its wings and recognising how alluring its world, characters, and lore can be to so many people. I’m happily coming along for the ride and expect to find myself lost time and time again as it continues to grow.
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