The return of fans for MSI 2022 breathes life back into League of Legends

fans were welcomed back to the international League of Legends for the first time since 2020 at MSI 2022. It’s not the same as it used to be, but at the same time, esports wasn’t the same without the audience.

The last time there were fans at an international League of Legends event, it was Worlds 2020 almost two years ago. 6,000 fans ⁠— of 3.2 million who have reportedly signed up for a seat ⁠— cast in the Pudong soccer stadium in Shanghai.

It was a different affair than usual. Nine months had passed since the pandemic began, and as a result there were limited tickets available at the 34,000-seat arena. The fans were exclusively Chinese who supported Suning in their fight against DAMWON Gaming (now DWG KIA).

There was no interaction, the players were in a bubble and it just didn’t feel like a world finals.

Since then the game has changed. Fans have been out of the picture for more than a year – arguably two years save for that one exception in October 2020. However, as the saying goes, things are going back to “normal”.

For League of Legends esports, that means fans are now coming back in droves to see their favorite teams. Domestic leagues like the LCK had limited seating on the LAN. The LCS 2022 Spring Playoffs were played in front of a passionate Houston crowd.

And for MSI 2022, it really does feel like they’re here to stay as thousands meet gamers ⁠ – albeit with some health protocols ⁠ – up close and personal for the first time in what feels like ages.

Faker walks out at MSI 2022 to fan applause
Colin Young Wolff for Riot Games

The fans are back at MSI 2022.

This is the fan experience with the MSI 2022

On the first day at Busan Esports Arena, there were a handful of cosplayers ⁠ – a couple dressed up as Spirit Blossom, Ahri and Riven caught the attention of many as they lingered in the lobby.

Lingering wasn’t just people strolling around and visiting the Riot merchandise store or the Liiv SANDBOX pop-up selling local team jerseys, though. Many had a much greater purpose: to wait for the hometown T1 favorite to exit the elevator at level 15 of Samjeong Tower.

Fans prepared their cheering for Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok and co. with sharp cameras. In less than an hour they would take the stage. A barrier has been erected between fans and players for both health protocols and player safety. The roar when they finally emerged was deafening.

They then rushed up the stairs to the 16th floor to be seated in the 300-person arena — two blocks on either side of the stage. The media, split into two boxes, had a bird’s-eye view of everything. There was a stop at the tables to grab some thundersticks and make signs. Most of them supported T1, some had caricatures of the players. Others strolled through the cafe for coffee, dessert or the aptly named “HP” and “MP” energy drinks.

When the games started, I was shocked by the applause. My last personal event was in February 2020 with the Six Invitational. Since then I had hardly left my house, let alone my native Australia. It was surreal to say the least.

Fans with T1 shields at MSI 2022
Lee Aiksoon for Riot Games

As expected, T1 fans dominated the cheering crowd at Busan Esports Arena.

Some players definitely played it up for the crowd. RED Canids AD carry Alexandre ‘TitaN’ Lima dos Santos was one such star who could be heard screaming as he racked up kill after kill. Saigon Buffalo was another example, with mid-lane Bùi ‘Froggy’ Văn Minh Hải sitting low in his chair after the team booked their spot in the top six.

However, nothing beat the passionate screams of T1 fans every time they took the stage. Whenever Faker emerged from the shelter, you couldn’t talk to the person next to you. Every kill, every death, the Korean fans were animated when the red-blacks were on stage.

The energy was shared by both sides and strengthened the whole experience.

While the audience was mostly Korean and quickly left the stands as T1 walked off the stage, there were some superfans in the crowd from around the world. G2 Esports’ Rasmus ‘caPs’ Winther’s father, Michael, was a celebrity to say the least ⁠ – although he claims to be just “a small wind behind the big star”.

Last time he was in Korea, he comforted Caps after being defeated 3-0 by Invictus Gaming in the Worlds 2018 final.

After following his son around the world for years before being abruptly halted by the pandemic, it was special to share that moment once again.

“I like to see people on stage,” he told Dexerto. “I like going to the studio or the casino [over in Europe]. I can see them at eye level, I can feel the energy. When I see the synergy on stage, I know how the game will end before it even begins [off their personality].

“It’s very difficult for me to understand the game compared to football, but it’s still quite amazing to me.”

As the weekend dawned, full-time workers from Seoul made their way to Busan for a few days to watch the games.

“It was wonderful,” said Tyler, a 24-year-old English teacher who lives in the capital. “I love seeing all kinds of people. Everyone is very friendly. I missed that atmosphere in the crowd.

“I always love holding up the signs, saying hello to the players and meeting people from all over the world at these international events.”

It wasn’t his first international event – he was at the first-ever MSI in Tallahassee in 2015. He managed to sneak away from work to see Evil Geniuses qualify for the Rumble Stage. Depending on whether he can get tickets for this week, he will be back at BEXCO.

For the Oceanic crowd, there was one ORDER fan who showed up every day, no matter how badly the team was hit, and cheered at the top of their lungs. Emma, ​​cautiously optimistic of a win on Day 4, felt the pain as the LCO representatives were defeated 0-8. It felt sourer watching the players on stage going through the emotions in person than online.

How fans make esports sparkle

The players didn’t lose the moment either. Saigon Buffalo’s Trần ‘BeanJ’ Văn Chính said at his first international event abroad that the audience gave him extra energy. They fed on the hype.

“We definitely feel a bit of pressure because not only are we playing in front of a crowd, we’re also playing in front of an international crowd,” he told Dexerto after qualifying for the Rumble Stage. “But that also gives us more motivation to play better and become more explosive.”

Saigon Buffalo Froggy leans back in his chair at MSI 2022
Colin Young Wolff for Riot Games

Some gamers really leaned into the audience aspect of the MSI 2022.

It’s something special to have the fans back at international events. The jubilation that you can not only hear but also feel on the ground is fascinating. There is no more bottled applause, although the slight delay at the start of the event could have fooled residents.

It also generally results in a more enjoyable experience for everyone. Photographer Colin Young-Wolff, who has captured some of League of Legends’ most iconic moments, said the pandemic has really impacted the big storylines.

“When they win and there are no fans cheering, it’s a different reaction. We had to create the reaction like, ‘Hey guys, hold up the trophy,'” he laughed. “When they win and the fans freak out, that’s natural.

“Getting back to that helps us tell these stories. That’s why we do what we do. Fans hear, fans see ⁠ – we missed that. Everyone who is present at the event feels it.”

With thousands of spectators expected at BEXCO during the rumble and knockout stages, the atmosphere will increase tenfold compared to Busan Esports Arena. Though the game has changed and experience still stands behind health protocols, nothing beats the iconic “battle” chants blaring through the mics.

Everyone on the ground agrees ⁠— League of Legends Esports isn’t the same without the fans.

https://www.dexerto.com/league-of-legends/fans-return-msi-2022-breathes-life-lol-esports-1827265/ The return of fans for MSI 2022 breathes life back into League of Legends

Emma Bowman

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