League of Legends began as a college student project of Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck, who became the eventual co-founders of Riot Games. The title was intended to be an optimized successor wildly popular Warcraft 3 mod "Dota". After three years of work on the game, on October 27, 2009, they finally started testing it out at conventions.
However, League of Legends' early iterations were, in many ways, a search for its identity. The balance of the Champion kits needed work, and the graphics appeared dated. Still, something was there, and it slowly but surely began to expand.
The beginning: League of Legends
As the market grew, so did competition. Over time, more and more players began to learn about the game and its community, even if they weren't immediately interested. LoL esports had grown by 2011, but the fledgling company had no idea how big its game would become.
Then, in 2011, the first League of Legends world championship took place in Jönköping, Sweden. As thousands of viewers watched Fnatic win the competition and collect a $50,000 check, Riot saw the potential.
A few months after the season one championship, Riot added a real-time spectator client. The game was beginning to look more polished, and servers for the game started to spread across the world. Importantly, a vast number of champions were introduced into the league's ecosystem.
Faker: The greatest of all time
Eventually, several tournaments in Korea and China began, and LoL became the world's most popular esport. Meanwhile, that new generation of players in the east was about to produce two of the game's special stars.
First came Uzi, a Chinese pro oddity that was mechanically miles ahead of the competition. Uzi was faster than anyone had ever been and better than anyone had ever been, and he was only 15.
However, he wasn't the only emerging superstar at the time. In Korea, the telecom giant SKT was looking to sign the brightest solo queue stars they could find to headline their second roster. One of those stars was a young prodigy named Faker.
"The unkillable demon king," "the greatest player of all time," whatever you call him, Faker was the type of generational talent that defines an era; It defines League of Legends.
Faker won three World Championships, two MSIs, and multiple regional LCK trophies. Apart from a few missteps, SKT dominated for many years, with Faker leading the charge. They built the game's greatest dynasty and looked unstoppable doing it.
The evolution of League of Legends
As SKT was dominating LoL, as the game was selling out stadiums, and as viewership continued to rise, League of Legends cemented itself as the world's biggest esport.
The game itself had undergone equally drastic changes, from the season five map update to a plethora of reworks that reused the game's more dated champions. And that wasn't the only thing to change.
First came the end of the SKT dynasty. Then in 2018, Korea's monopoly on international titles ended too. And the player who did it was a familiar one, Uzi. He won the MSI 2018, along with some domestic championships with Royal Never Give Up.
We finally saw other regions arrive and challenge Korea, from China's emergence as a global powerhouse to European titans like G2 Esports. It became a truly global esport, with competitors from every region and stars from all over the world competing for the trophy, changing the game, and inspiring one another to improve.
The story goes on
At a time when Fortnite was breaking into the Western mainstream, League of Legends established itself as a pop culture phenomenon in its own right. The company's music division has released global collaborations between artists from different continents.
League of Legends was not always a sensation. It wasn't always a game that defined an industry or a genre. But it gradually expanded from a small, specialized community to a force bigger than any of us could have ever imagined.
It is both the game that revolutionized esports and one that has changed the lives of countless individuals. In fourteen years, League of Legends has made us jump to our feet, fall to our knees, and get back up again.