This weekend, Los Angeles will be home to the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, one of the biggest video game competitions in the world — and you probably didn't know about it. But that won't stop hordes of gamers from flooding the streets of downtown and meeting at the Staples Center for an e-sports showdown.
Essentially, the competition pits two teams of five against each other in an online battle arena. The game's objective: to break through the other team's defenses. This year, the two teams vying for the championship and $1 million prize both hail from Korea.
This massive gathering that sold out the venue is just one face of the quickly expanding trend. Mark Deppe is the acting director for the e-sports program at the University of California, Irvine. He thinks that the emerging virtual competition form is here to stay.
“Console games are just so accessible for the world right now, so I think e-sports are the future of competition, and I think that’s the way we’re going to compete moving forward," he told KPCC.
The e-sports program at UCI was introduced earlier this year and attempts to foster the passion for video games in its students with four basic principles: Competition, academics, community and entertainment.
On the academic front, Deppe said they work with faculty and students alike to advance an understanding of the culture that surrounds e-sports and other video games. In fact, UCI is the first public school to offer scholarships for e-sports.
“We also are supporting the massive community that we have on campus. Our gaming clubs are the biggest of their kind in the country, and so the people that gather to enjoy video games are a huge component of e-sports," he said.
The program also aims to teach students how to broadcast themselves as gamers and create original content on live streaming gaming channels like Twitch.
At the end of the day, people want to just have fun, Deppe said.
"Millions of people are now watching people play video games, just like you would watch other people play football or basketball,” he said.
As folks cheer on the two teams at the Staples Center, an equally passionate hoard of people will gather for Stan Lee's Los Angeles Comic Con just down the street.