I’d like to think I know a thing or two about e-sports. I watch enough, and know enough about the games, to enjoy a good cast of Hearthstone, Starcraft 2 or Heroes of the Storm. I even enjoyed The International 2, the big DotA2 tournament a few years back.

But the biggest one of all is arguably League of Legends.  With arena-sized competitions and a player-base that rivals many countries in the world it should be an all-encompassing pass-time to enjoy a broadcast of highly skilled, competitive matches.

it should be an all-encompassing pass-time to enjoy a broadcast of highly skilled, competitive matches.

But it’s not. And I think I know why.

It’s too complicated, and there’s too much information.

Even if they try to be inclusive when it comes to having the casters explain what’s going on and ramp up their commentary when the action kicks up, it’s still not enough. Joe Rogan, the color-commentator for the MMA franchise UFC, does a great job in telling the audience what’s going on and his best guess on what’s going to happen next based on his own fighting competence and his historical knowledge of the competitors; he explains what’s interesting and WHY it’s interesting.

And this is the LoL-scene trying to do the same thing.

This is a great video explaining what’s happening in a fantastic moment of a high level League of Legends match. And it doesn’t help. I know enough to know what’s going on and I understand the terms that are used, but I’m still not understanding the details that make the moment. Simple things that are understood: One team wipes out the other team. But the finer points on how, the superb execution of ultimate attacks, the timing between teammates; all that is lost in the complexities of the game and even in slow-motion it’s lost on a new viewer.

For those that watch on a regular basis, people that play the game, boys and girls that know the game, may know what’s going on and understand, but it’s not engaging new viewers.

The new viewers requires something simple to be able to watch: simplicity.
Healthbars going down or animations that display big areas of attack are basically the only elements a new viewer will understand, aside from the main objective of the game. Stuns, silence, poison, last-hits, denials are elements that a new viewer will only grasp after following the game for a longer time, which means they’ll have to stick with it until then.

But there’s a saving grace that’s self-explanatory: Hooks.

Some characters have abilities that hook other characters and pull them in. This is simple enough for even a first-time viewer to follow: That character threw out a hook and managed to land it on that other character, which is now being flung towards the first character. It’s very visual and engaging.

But even in this video there’s an element that’s lost on the new viewer. The Chen-Pudge-combo. The effect is pretty apparent, but the why and how is only for those in the know.

So why are the numbers growing and we are now seeing tournaments and events filling up arenas? Because there are new players every day. And new players bring friends, so there are even more new players. But what we’re not seeing is people from other spheres joining the ranks to see the phenomenon that’s growing before our eyes. If they’ve got friends that pull them into it by pestering them to play the game during the weekend we might see someone convert, but they’re not going to just pick up the habit on their own.