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League of Legends

The Effects of COVID-19 in LOL Esports

COVID-19, often referred to as the Coronavirus, has had a profound impact in all aspects of life as it rapidly spreads throughout the world. Over the course of these past few weeks, several governments reacted to the outbreak of the disease by announcing a state of national emergency and urging their citizens to self-quarantine. Naturally, all gatherings and public events in infected areas were postponed or outright cancelled.

From sporting events to concerts to festivals, few escaped the threat of the newfound disease; and esports were not the exception. The LCS and LEC suspended activities this last weekend; the LCK is on hiatus as well while the LPL is being held exclusively online.

Currently, however, thoughts surrounding the League competitive scene are actually surprisingly optimistic. Unlike traditional sports, virtual competition can take place without the need of physical contact. Therefore, most of the community expects all regions to resume activities in the near future. But this positivity may sometimes undermine the severe damages that the Coronavirus already caused to LOL esports as a whole.

For players, for organizations and even for entire legacies, this is indeed a very difficult time.

A Cluttered Schedule

Under normal circumstances, the Spring Splits of all mayor regions are played out at roughly the same time; a champion is crowned for each and afterwards MSI is held. This time frame serves as an opportunity for the majority of organizations to rest, travel, boot-camp and prepare themselves mentally for the upcoming Summer Split.

Being the last region to do so, the LCS interrupts activities (Via @LCSOfficial)

As of the date of writing, however, several wrenches have been thrown into these plans. The Spring Splits of all four major regions have been interrupted at different moments and for different lengths of time. Of course, minor regions have been affected as well. Furthermore, China, the country in which the spread of the disease originated, was the planned location for this year’s MSI tournament.

In order to try and accommodate all of these changes into the schedule, the official League of Legends esports site released a statement this past week applying several measures. On the one hand, Riot completely suppressed Rift Rivals as an event, citing difficulties in organization and lack of fan and player investment. Furthermore, MSI was delayed to May of this year, which should land right in the middle of the Summer Split for most regions.

All of this means that players will not be able to have the usual off period in-between Splits. It also means that the Spring champions, no matter the conditions they are in at the time, will in theory have to interrupt their Summer Split in order to attend MSI. There is also the possibility of the Spring Split being extended for all regions in order to make up for lost time.

As a result, the kind of schedule projected for this year is often quite demanding for both players and staff.

Stressful Inactivity

Esports is a very volatile medium. Careers are short and the success or failure of teams is often defined on a week-to-week basis. Therefore, a sudden halt to all progress and development in order to stay put in quarantine is no doubt cause of great anxiety.

Some organizations have made special events to provide their fans with content (Via @FlyQuest)

Perhaps an organization that had managed to perform well in scrims and built up confidence now feels that all their effort may be gone. Maybe a player that had been practicing very well feels like they missed their chance to shine. It is imperative to remember that a single game can define a career in esports. Competitors are now stuck trying to make the best out of a bad situation and with their possibilities severely limited.

On the flip-side, perhaps this kind of break is exactly what some other organizations needed. The example of Team Liquid is a good one. Working through the personal and motivational issues of the players may be easier when they are literally forced into not competing.

If this same analysis is made considering entire regions instead of individual teams, then the implications could potentially be even greater. It is arguable that China as a whole suffered most due to the loss of time, practice and players. The defending World champions were forced into a late start to the year and therefore a late start to adapting to the meta and to practice. What the implications could be for international competition and region dominance are questions only time will answer.

The Community Looks Ahead

The kind of influence and damage caused by the Coronavirus could go largely unnoticed. Entire organizations may be hurt, careers may end prematurely, and several narratives could be permanently ruined. Even still, the world remains uncertain as it impatiently awaits for further announcements by Riot and the Governments of each country.

G2 has been one of the best teams in terms of entertainment and fan investment at this time (via G2esports)

It is likely that by the time May comes around the disease will still not be under control, in which case perhaps MSI or even Worlds could be forced into becoming online events or even cancelled all-together.

For the most part however, teams have managed to rise from this negative situation and provide fans with meaningful content in the form of in-houses and more. Many players are taking the opportunity to engage with their audience and find productive uses for their time.

This is the first obstacle of its kind that League esports has faced and, in most cases, it has done so in an efficient, professional and very respectable manner. Despite more than one setback, players and staff have shown their determination in remaining active and creating opportunities for themselves and others. Overall, the challenges that the community is facing right now will likely serve as a precedent and make it better and stronger in the future.

Featured photo from @LEC

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