League of Legends is "the most played PC game" in North America and Europe, apparently—which sounds like a stupid claim, until you hear the really impressive number: As of October of 2013, the number of daily active players is 12 million. 12 MILLION. My goodness.
I'd never played this game (though it was released in 2009), and though I very much doubt I am the target audience, I decided to give it a try just to figure out what, for some people, the world of "videogames" really looks like these days. Perhaps this article, if nothing else, will give you an idea of what the game looks like without you spending the time installing the game and all of its updates.
Step one of League of Legends: pick a hero. The game is free to play, but with a little money there are many, many options of heroes to play. Your options are big, heroic and masculine; tiny, rodent-like and adorable; or boobs. There are also "skins" to choose from that can make your boobs shinier, if you'd like. Woo. (Remember what I said about "not the target audience"?)
The free-to-play aspect of League is nice, and it does make the game easy to get into. It also is nice that, from the start, it is easy to catch up, because at the beginning of each game all of the characters start at the same level: unlike a game like World of Warcraft, there's not a big benefit to spending hours killing wolves in the forest (although, to be honest, I liked that part of WoW). So when I started playing LoL (teehee) this weekend with friends, I didn't feel completely impotent—I was terrible at the game just because I was terrible at it, not because I hadn't already put a year of my life into leveling up my character.
To play League of Legends, you and your team of friends go fight against another team of the same size. You need to destroy some big shiny things in their base after destroying other big shiny things in their base, fighting opposing heroes and their little minions. And then at the end of the game you start over again. Hm.
But here's, other than the boobs, why this game isn't for me: League of Legends is a sport. I say that not just because there is money in being a professional player, and that there are tournaments in the Staples Center—though that is impressive. League of Legends is the type of game that's wildly popular, based on carefully honed hand-eye coordination skills, and not the kind of thing my mom would be interested in. Each game has the same framing principles; it's re-playable but repetitive. It is very important to the people who love this genre of games (MOBAs: Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas), just like the football is very important to football-loving types. But unless there is some heartwarming community-uniting story going on, League's reach isn't far beyond its players and fans. And just like football, League doesn't really seem to care that it's endorsing the unrealistically-giant-men and mostly-just-sexual-women gender roles to our young people. (I know, blah blah blah it's just entertainment, shut up, etc.)
I'm interested in videogames as an art form: they are a wonderful way to tell stories in a way that books, movies, and plays really can't. Videogames can discuss social issues and change minds, especially these days, and that's not what League is about. And that's fine... but I'm looking for hours of entertainment, I'm not going to be looking for boobs, no matter how shiny they are. Fortunately for the people who make League of Legends, they really don't need my endorsement.