In the world of League of Legends (and several other esports) one region reigns supreme — South Korea. From the early days of esports with games such as Starcraft Broodwar and Warcraft 3, Korea has had the biggest teams, best players and most competitive tournaments in the world. Today is no different; with the rise of League of Legends as the most-played video game of all time, as well as the king of the esports space, Korea remains top dog and was even the home of both of the world’s finalist teams this past year. There are many aspects that contribute to their continued success within professional League; here’s five to help us understand why we’re getting wrecked so hard.
1. The Dynasty
Within the sports world, one can often assume that the region who has been playing the longest — or the one in which the sport itself was conceived — will be the best for at least some length of time (think basketball and the U.S., or soccer and EU). The same is definitely true in League of Legends for Korea; they were the first region to really push the game to high levels of competition and the simple history is part of what keeps them on top.
In 2002, esports had become such a large part of South Korean culture and entertainment that the government formed the Korean e-Sports Association (known better as KeSPA) to oversee the growth of esports within Korea. KeSPA does many things for Korean esports, and in turn League of Legends; from offering assistance for teams (seen recently with their support of the sponsor abandoned Sbenu Sonic Boom), to being an authority in cases of controversy, KeSPA’s foundation allows teams to grow with greater stability than those in other regions.
3. The Minds
With such a storied past full of incredible players and support staff, many great minds have had time to thrive within the world of Korean esports. These minds are now at the forefront of the world’s greatest teams. The shining example of this is, of course, kkOma. As one of the main coaches of SK Telecom T1 (the greatest organization of all time in League of Legends and, arguably, all of esports), kkOma, at 30 years old, has been a part of esports for over a decade; growing, like many other coaches of League of Legends today, within the heart of the industry.
4. The Players
Simply put, talent breeds talent. If I play my 5-year-old brother in basketball eight hours a day for a year I would see minimal improvement; with no challenge or competition, I have nothing to learn from him. Alternatively, if I play the same amount of time with Lebron James, not only am I pushed harder to improve but I have more to learn just by playing and competing with someone so skilled. Let’s just say my brother is North America, and Korea is Lebron.
5. The Solo Queue
All who play League know the frustrations of solo queue. You just want to sit down, play some games and climb the ladder, but your support Teemo has different plans in mind, I’m sure. Well, the grass is definitely greener on the other side (of the world). Korean solo queue is by no means a promised land free of trolls and toxicity, but no one can deny its edge on the rest of the world in terms of competitiveness and focus. While North American (NA) players tend to be more laid back and have fun (which definitely has its perks — it is a game, after all), players in Korea care more about improvement and push the culture and atmosphere of the game towards a higher level, allowing players to thrive and achieve greater heights than they would on other servers.
So with so much going for them, will anyone ever beat Korea at League of Legends? I’d say so, eventually. With the growing infrastructure of NA, the budding talent of EU and the financial power of China, it’s hard to believe no one will ever beat Korea. But for the time being, it’s simply wishful thinking, and that’s OK — until that day comes, I, for one, accept our Korean overlords.