‘League of Legends” return to Malmö shows why in-person esports events are still king

“It's been three and a half years since we've been in a stadium and it's something that, frankly, I personally took for granted," Trevor 'Quickshot' Henry tells NME

“What is your region?” says Trevor “Quickshot” Henry, warming up the crowd ahead of the European League of Legends Championship Summer 2022, the first physical LoL event since Covid decimated live events.

“EU, EU, EU” comes the response, thousands of voices bellowing in union as fans smash together inflatable Thunder Sticks, given away to every fan as they enter the arena. Over the next couple of days, those bloody Thunder Sticks will be the only thing that grates in a weekend full of engaging games. After three years without a big esports event, it’s really nice to be back here in person, soaking in the atmosphere, something that’s impossible when you’re watching a Twitch stream at home.

There’s something about the bass of the overloud music, the endless bashing of those Thunder Sticks and the joy of screaming your heart out every time your team of battle wizards kills a member of the opposing team that just brings people together with the fuzzy warmth of shared experience. It’s electric. And I don’t even play League of Legends.

League Of Legends LEC finals. Credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games.
League Of Legends LEC finals. Credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games.

Speaking to NME, Henry says that for League of Legends fans, it’s the perfect opportunity to come together and celebrate the game they love. “It’s the exact same thing any fan will get for any sporting event that they attend, there is an electricity, there is a level of passion there is it there is a connection with literally thousands of other people that you don’t know, you won’t speak to, you’ll never see again. But you’re on the same wavelength – you think and see and feel the same things.”

In this case, the thing the fans were seeing together was Rogue, against the odds, powering through the two kings of EU League of Legends to win a memorable championship. It’s easy to point at moments like Rogue bot laner Markos “Comp” Stamkopoulos wiping G2 off of the map while playing as a well-farmed Kalista, diving into the fountain to achieve a pentakill – the act of killing all five of the enemy team before a single one had respawned. It’s the holy grail – the equivalent of an Ace in shooters like Rainbow Six Siege or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. You can hear the casters popping off in the below video, but nothing captures the feeling of actually being there.

That my first esports event after the pandemic is a League of Legends event isn’t a coincidence, either. Riot understands that a live show should feel like an event. Ahead of the final between Rogue and G2 there was an opening ceremony that was a real spectacle – Henry himself delivers a speech, there’s a smoke machine working on full blast, and then Cassyette comes out to belt through a song. It’s a company that understands the art of a good spectacle.

“Words will never be able to convey how excited myself, the entire team and the entire production crew are to be back in a stadium in front of 1000s of fans,” beams Quickshot. “It’s been three and a half years since we’ve been in a stadium and it’s something that, frankly, I personally took for granted. I’d forgotten how amazing it was.”

Speaking “very personally”, Henry recalls being overwhelmed with the emotion after casting a playoff series with a live audience. “Immediately after I found my wife and I cried, and I just said: ‘I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always been fortunate to be good with the crowd and interact with them. But I didn’t realize how much I appreciated it and missed it.’ There were genuinely just like tears of happiness, having the people to bounce off, the feedback, all of it.”

While Henry pops up several times during the broadcast, he has a slightly reduced role at the final, which he said has given him the chance to get out to meet more fans.

“I’m in the incredibly fortunate position that the entire talent team has grown and developed over the years so that frankly, I’m not needed.” Henry admits. “It’s great to have so many talented people around, but it also means that my role today is mostly speaking to people and getting out and just meeting the community.”

Henry is an enthusiastic presence and a good advert for the LEC experience, talking about the LEC Expo, a hall next to the arena full of distractions themed around League of Legends that feels part celebration, part carnival. Saying he “antagonised and entertained” fans in the Expo, Henry describes meeting some fellow South Africans. “I’ll give a special shout out to two gentlemen who come from Johannesburg where I was born and raised. They told a mate of theirs who wasn’t able to make the trip over that they would meet Quickshot. And this mate said ‘bullshit ,not going to happen.’ They did meet me. We phoned him and had a conversation on WhatsApp!” Henry laughs, continuing the story to mention how he embarrassed their friend, who was taking the call from a supermarket.

“I took a lot of photos with people and connected with some fans that have been watching for over 10 years,” added Henry.

League Of Legends LEC finals. Credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games.
League Of Legends LEC finals. Credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games.

The mood in the Expo was good. Fans I spoke to were eager to watch their teams battle it out, with one saying they’d been waiting to come to their first LEC event since 2020 when they first got into the game during England’s first pandemic lockdown.

Henry’s enthusiasm is infectious. While my experience at the LEC has had me reinstalling League of Legends ready to give it another chance, the fact is that a good esports event can

And if you’re still on the fence? “Until you actually see me in a stadium when we’re not on air, you don’t get the full experience.” says Henry. “When I’m running around, antagonizing insulting, flaming players, entertaining the crowd, that’s when you can truly understand just how much I love it.”

This split may be over for the LEC, but Worlds 2022 is right around the corner – read up on all the important dates here

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