A year or two ago I’d taken a fairly lengthy break from League of Legends. There was a period, as so many MOBA players, or MMO players, or other game-that’s-big-on-Twitch players will know too well, where I was all in. I knew the moves of every champion of the 140-odd that were out at the time, I knew the name and purpose and general viability of every item, I knew the optimal jungling route, the amount of seconds between respawning dragons, the situational builds for my mains and the match-ups with every one of their counters. Then came the welcome break, at which point you think you must be too far gone to ever come back. There’s too much going on, too much that’s changed, no room on this rocket for old-timers like you.
The secret to LoL of course is that this is, in fact, the game. The learning, and re-learning, and re-re-learning. You can play it without all that, under a veil of ignorance, and it will remain excellent: the cycle of earning gold and experience from killing enemies and popping minions like bubble-wrap, to use to buy more items and gain more levels, to more effectively kill enemies and on and on. This will never not be immensely satisfying and narcotically moreish, even with the LoL player’s true addiction – to competition – put aside. But if you stick just to that you will be missing something, a little special sauce reserved for those who tip over into min-maxing obsession.
Let’s step back a bit, though. The state of League of Legends, midway through 2022, is that it is utterly gigantic. You’ve probably heard that many times before – but it’s also gigantic in a way that feels unusually stable. For one, this is because LoL has achieved what seems to be the ultimate goal for many video games: to expand into things that are not video games.