Back-boarding off of the recent Chinese dominance in multiple global eSports competition, specifically League of Legends, the Chinese video gaming community looked poised to take over the world in terms of the sheer number and talent of its players. Just around a year ago, the eSports organization Invictus Gaming (IG) took home the League of Legends World Championship trophy for their Chinese fans in a dominant fashion. Taking down all competition—including the historically prevailing region of South Korean teams—IG began the subversion of the global League of Legends regional hierarchy, toppling anyone above them and setting China on the throne. Last Sunday, too, the 2019 LoL World Championship trophy went to the hands of—you guessed it— Chinese team Fun Plus Phoenix.
This display of dominance, especially on an international stage, is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly by both those engaged and unaware of the eSports scene. Raking in millions of viewers and billions of dollars of revenue and sponsorships, professional League of Legends has generated more profit than many national and international athletic events. Seeing a massive and relatively recent surge in viewership, the eSports industry now functions as different multi-genre tournaments that revolve around different video games. Games such as League of Legends have regional tournaments, culminating in one grand World Championship between the winners of these regions. Last year, China ended up taking the trophy home in dominant form.
So where does this newfound skill come from? Well, the answer is that they’ve always been a fairly dominant region. From legendary players like Uzi and XiaoHu, Chinese players have continuously displayed why they’re the cream of the crop. However, for many years, China was unable to beat the goliath-like South Korean teams who outperformed them not only in game but talent fostering, management, organizational structure, practice culture, and investment. With the adaptation of South Korean professionalism in eSports, though, Chinese organizations became an impenetrable castle, buttressed with generous funding, and began outperforming their rivals. Apart from the professional changes, there were many reasons why the Chinese dominance isn’t surprising. With internet cafes engineered to accommodate high-level gaming dispersed around the entire country, children can begin playing video games, not only League of Legends, from a nascent age. Wielding a population of 1.4 billion, it’s only natural that there are thousands of young, eager talent ready to be recruited and trained to be the region’s next superstars. For China, success in eSports was predetermined with everything lined up for them—becoming the best was only a matter of time and patience.
So where does that leave us now? Will China remain as dominant as they have been in recent years? Is this merely a fluke and repeated failures by the rest of the world? That’s impossible to tell. From the performance displayed at this year’s LoL World Championship by revitalized South Korean organizations and rising European superstar teams, there’s a high chance the Chinese dynasty gets toppled as quickly as it began. But it’s also almost as likely that they remain triumphant in the face of new challenges. China as a country has all the conditions required to maintain their grasp over the world in eSports—a massive population, stressful school environments leading to cravings for entertainment, feverishly addictive video game cafes, and a massive pride to protect. If the Chinese government chooses to invest in this industry and develop infrastructure through funds, it will be better for not only Chinese teams, but imperative to the betterment of the entire industry.
–Andrew Hong (’20)