League of Legends Narratives Feature Image

How Narratives can Explain League of Legends’ Popularity

It’s well-established that video games have become incredibly popular from Flappy Birds to the GTA series, one such genre is the online multiplayer like League of Legend. 

From its humble origin as a Warcraft 3 mod played in computer science classes to a prize pouch of a $1 million in the League of Legends World Championship League of Legends has ascended far where according to Forbes, League of Legends has become the most played PC game in North America and Europe with 1.3 billion hours of gameplay by gamers.

My theory?  Because League of Legends creates a hero narrative for its player, providing a motivation and obstacles, distilling one of our most addicting narratives in its most playable form.

Character Motivation

League of Legends Champions

The gameplay is quite simple, you are a “summoner” and control “champions” aka any elf, warrior, undead, fantasy roster along with a team of “champions” and have to fight through the opposing champion team and their spawning minions to destroy the opposing team’s “Nexus” aka what churns out the minions. In terms of motivation it’s not exactly Oldboy but it in terms of video game narratives it isn’t much simpler than defeat Bowser and save Princess Peach and Mario is one of the most successful franchises of all time.

One of the essential elements of any well-developed character is motivation. Captain Ahab’s motivation is killing Moby Dick, Jay Gatsby’s motivation is to get Daisy it’s what defines their actions and character through their story. Likewise, other MMO’s like World of Warcraft needs missions and even expansion packs to keep their subscribers playing.

While League of Legends is always updating with new content, it’s core gameplay always provides the motivation for their players to play again and again. However, it can’t be the only reason for players to play which is why they have…

Character Development

League of Legends Levelling Up

It’s been scientifically proven that when we achieve something our brain awards us with dopamine; video games and dopamine are strongly connected. When get five in a row in Candy Crush or bumping up to A-list celebrity in Kim Kardashian is an achievement that our brain believes we should be rewarded with. In League of Legends killing enough champions, minions, and towers leads to experience points which mean stronger champions, more customization and another dose of dopamine to keep you playing.

While most characters in popular media aren’t exactly all about killing minions to get physically stronger, we are invested in their story as they seek to overcome the obstacles and develop as people. For example as awesome as Indiana Jones may be as a character if the Nazis hadn’t gotten involved, a bullwhip wouldn’t have done much good at an archaeological dig site.

By being able to level up meaning more powerful champions and customization to suit, their game style players are invested to keep trying to win the next battle. However, it’s just not League of Legends that can make use of narratives. 

Narratives in Marketing

Dark Knight Viral Campaign Harvey Dent Website

Understandably there are other reasons why League of Legends is so popular: a massive variety of champions to play, appealing visuals, and well-paced gameplay, however it’s core game of motivation and development that can be applied elsewhere.

This is especially true in interactive marketing.

For example, the success of “The Dark Knight” could be tied in with it’s fantastic interactive marketing campaign leading up to the movie. During this interactive campaign

  • Websites like whysoserious.com, which blurred real the fictional Batman Universe, posted updates and informed fans of trailers, news and how to participate in events i.e. real-life games.
  • Real-life games such as committing a series of crimes and tasks while wearing Joker makeup at Comic-Con with a winner at the end.
  • Unconventional prizes such as Joker masks or a copy of “The Gotham Times” newspaper.

By involving the fans in the upcoming narrative of the movie, it led to an opening weekend of more than $150-million and the highest-grossing movie of 2008.

While a dedicated batman fans and ones excited in participating in a Batman movie campaign will overlap; a strong core of supporters willing to promote and share to their social contacts is something that is always a good thing for any marketer.

It’s getting potential customers invested in the story to be given motivation to try and ways to merit a sense of achievement for trying. As people will always think themselves as the hero in their own narrative by making your own narrative theirs, they will be your heroes.