Theory: What LoL Shows Us About the World

One of the great things about presentations by Frank Lantz is that they’re full of insightful comments that aren’t necessarily even the thesis of the talk. They’re just great ideas, presented compellingly.

I was privileged to be able to sit in on Frank’s Games 101 lecture on strategy games today, and came away with this (sadly paraphrased–I couldn’t write fast enough to get the exact quote):

League of Legends may well be the most-played game today. It’s also baroque; the only way to get good at it is to devote many punishing hours to mastering its intricacies. Millions of players lose over and over, willingly battering themselves against the wall of the game’s complexity.

Moreover, League of Legends is a strategy game. Its rewards are entirely focused on problem-solving and mental accomplishment. There’s none of the power fantasy that we’re so often told is at the heart of games.

Ultimately, the fact of League of Legends’ popularity is a positive sign, for games and maybe even for the world. It says that people aren’t trapped in, as Frank put it, “a race to the bottom.” They’re willing to engage with complexity, with challenge, with things that are just plain hard, in the name of self-improvement and intellectual accomplishment.

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