Unlearning a skill is much harder than learning it. League of Legends has taught me that. I used to play the game some years back. I cannot claim that I was ever ‘good’ at it but I can safely say I was adequate. Despite there already being a vast selection of characters back in 2011 I played virtually all my games using Nunu, a snowball throwing boy riding his yeti friend (or at least one assumes they are friends). Moreover I played The Twisted Treeline almost exclusively. This is a 3v3 match played on a smaller two lane map. My hardcore friends back then used to point out that this was, in fact, a ‘fun’ diversion to what should have been the meat of the game – The Summoner’s Rift – a 5v5 game taking place on a much larger and more complex map. They would argue that competitive tournament play was 5v5 so any other mode was not ‘real’ LoL. I often shrugged off their hardcore sensibilities and soldiered on with a couple of friends who used to play as casually as I did.
Fast forward to today and Blizzard released Heroes of the Storm. Its a fun game and I wanted to try it with my current multiplayer buddies. Alas they did not have beta invites like I did and were not willing to invest money in a genre they were unfamiliar with. Coming from a background of heavy Starcraft II playing they were not savvy to the strange and insulated world of MOBAs. Always the helpful soul I suggested they try League of Legends, a free and readily available version of HotS, so that they could get an idea of how this genre worked. Long story short they all got hooked to the LoL crack and I with them.
This time it was different though. There were five of us so playing 5v5 was the natural choice. This put me in quite the predicament. Here I was, a level 30 summoner (the top level) with over 340 wins under my belt but almost no experience of this game mode. Now, LoL vets will tell you that, while the champions are the same in all modes, the gameplay style is totally different to each map. This was not helped by the fact that my dearly beloved Nunu is not considered to be a very good 5v5 champion. I had to unlearn everything I thought I knew about the game and learn all the things I did not know. Ditch the old mentality and wrap my head around playing a new champion using new tactics. It’s a tall order.
The LoL community is not particularly friendly. Players on your own team would regularly berate me and threaten to report me for playing badly – as if I was doing it all to spite them. Polite requests for instruction were often met with derision or total silence. There was always that one player who would demand that you pick a particular champion with specific abilities then send you off on a lane to do as s/he says. The first time I died I would often be greeted with insults especially if it was the first death of the game (aka first blood). I was baffled with the simplest of instructions. Why should I invest money in wards when I get one for free? Why while playing support I was meant to not hit any minions? Why was I being made fun of when I picked Taric as my champion? (I still think Taric rocks btw).
My friends, most of whom were totally new to the game up to a couple of weeks ago, have improved considerably and so have I. Yesterday, after a toe to toe battle against an enemy team which initially seemed to be more experienced than us, our hard work paid off in a grand victory. Well at least it felt grand. The sense of achievement and camaraderie we experienced trumped that provided by defeating any boss in Bloodborne and, to me, cemented League of Legends as one of the best games of this generation.