Fun and games, and big business

By Eileen Jones

Jan 23 2015

Nicholas Tremblay goes by the online handle MutantSuperNick. The Miramichi, N.B. man has been playing League of Legends since the game came out in 2009.

He’s also a fan of watching the competitive scene and he’s excited for the 2015 North American League of Legends Championship Series, which begins Jan. 24 for its fifth season.

“I play LoL over traditional sports because it’s more accessible, easier to just play casually without having to organize teams and matches like regular sports.

“Also, I’m a big nerd,” he said with a laugh.

Gaming is a hobby, not a pathway to a career for most people, but that is changing. The total prize money at the League world championships last year was about $2 million.

It’s a team game. The goal is to destroy the enemy’s base. Every player, or Summoner, chooses from 123 different champions, all with different skills and roles. With so many options and so much to learn, no two games are alike, and the skill ceiling is extremely high, Tremblay said.

“I enjoy the game because of the way it lets you express yourself.

“My friend and I could play the same character, but we would play completely differently from each other because it comes down to individual play style.”

It used to be the only people making money from games were arcade owners.

But League has grown in popularity along with other competitive video games, collectively known as esports. The 2014 League world championships held in Seoul, South Korea were held live at the 45,000-seat Seoul World Cup Stadium. The final games between Samsung Galaxy White and Star Horn Royal Club received 27 million views according to Riot Games. The final World Series game between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants was watched by 23 million, according to ESPN.

League attracts sponsorships, has dedicated analysts, coaches, team psychologists and professional players earn a salary.

Luigi Profeta of Moncton, N.B., known online as Squige013, has been playing competitively since he joined during Season 3.

“I have a competitive nature and I wanted to show off what I’ve got to the world. It’s a fun game, and I wanna be good at it.

“I was watching the pros since the end of Season Two. It was cool to see people play a game I invested so much time in, plus it helped to learn the game as a whole. And no, I don’t watch much sports events.

“It just seems like a preference, I like to play games so I put focus on that category. Their base values are the same, I just take interest in one more than the other.”

Luigi shrugs.

“#Gamer, y’know?”