Thursday, April 10, 2014

Learning from League of Legends URF Mode

My latest PopMatters article is up, and it's all about some rapid fire madness!

I was lucky this week to share a conversation topic with Erik Kersting, also from PopMatters. As he sees it, URF mode undermines League of Legends because it puts a spotlight on what is essentially a broken experience. I don't actually disagree with him, but playing an intentionally broken game can be incredibly educational! This is true for most any game. Table tennis might be terrible if you're using a pillow to keep four balls in play at the same time, but doing so might give you insight into the artistry of the paddle and the skill of curving a serve.

I briefly mention the professional players showing off their skill during an URF match (watch the video below, it's hilarious), but the video also shows some great shout casting abilities. The commentators handle the frenetic match with poise, not only calling the strategy as it happens, but actually providing good insight considering the bizarre new rules. Even the interruptions on both sides are charming prods at the true level of professionalism displayed in these high-tier matches.

I jokingly called this professional URF match akin to dunk contests in basketball, but I think the analogy applies surprisingly well. The dunk contest is so far removed from basketball, so comically overblown in their feats of dexterity and ingenuity, that they have no real relevance to the sport of basketball. Even so, they act not just as a charming diversion, but as a form of appreciation for one aspect of basketball, elevating the dunk for its flare without undermining the real sport. In going to such an extreme, Riot Games actually amplifies the seriousness of League of Legends in a way, humorously drawing attention to the excellent game crafting they otherwise display.

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