A League of My Own

Sophomore ranks in 0.1 percent of video game, plans to move to California to pursue gaming career

graphic by Edith Perez

Lynne Diaz

graphic by Edith Perez

Connie Ho, Co-Editor-In-Chief

He ran through the door and plopped down in front of his computer. After logging on, he excitedly checked out the new updates available and started a new game. Soon enough, bright colored beams appeared on screen, as he and his teammates deployed their attacks in order to defeat their enemy and claim victory. The realm of battling and working in a team encaptured him and became his one and only passion.
Sophomore Mikey Nguyen started playing League of Legends three years ago. Ever since, he has been hooked. His highest achievement in the game so far is being ranked in Diamond 2, where he is ranked 2,000 in North America, out of 1.6 million people.
“I felt really surprised that not many people were in the Diamond 2 rank,” Nguyen said. “Last season, I didn’t try as hard. But this season, I still tried my best, and I was just surprised that I got that high.”
Nguyen found out about the game through an online advertisement. Before he started playing League of Legends, Nguyen mostly played Counter-Strike and browser games.
“The other games I played, I wasn’t that interested in,” Nguyen said. “League attracted me the most. There were a variety of characters you could play, and that’s what made it fun every time.”
In the game, players are grouped in teams of five. Players can either join in a team with four other random people or invite others to play. Nguyen is in a team with his friends, including sophomore Raymond Truong.
“It’s a MOBA, a multiplayer online battle arena, where you choose a champion and the champion has a set amount of skills,” Truong said. “You use the champion to fight another champion. You are going to defend and attack the enemy’s Nexus, which is like the base. You defend your Nexus, and make sure the enemy team doesn’t attack yours while you attack theirs. Whoever destroys the enemy’s Nexus first, wins.”
In regards to ranking, Truong said players have to first get to level 30 before being ranked.
“Once you’re level 30, you play 10 games called provisional games or placement games,” Truong said. “Depending on how well you play in those games and your win-to-loss ratio, they place you in a certain division.”
Nguyen first started off playing a tutorial of League of Legends. In order to improve his skills, Nguyen said he watches other people play. One of Nguyen’s favorite gamers is Dardoch, who is in team Liquid, one of the top five teams in North America.
“There are really young pro-players who enter the pro-scene at an early age [of] 17,” Nguyen said. “They inspire me, [because] they achieved their goal of becoming a pro-player at a young age. There’s a lot of them, I can’t name them all.”
Nguyen spends about three to four hours on weekdays playing the game, while Truong plays for two or three hours. While playing, Nguyen teaches his teammates about how to play better and reinforces their tactics and skills through coaching. The coaching also strengthens the team’s synergy, which is like a brother bond between the teammates.
“I just play with friends to help them improve,” Nguyen said. “It’s pretty much like a sport. It requires a lot of team synergy.”
In some of the games they have played, Truong said Nguyen has beaten multiple pros such as Hi Im Gosu, one of the top streamers.
“Sometimes, I get matched up with the actual pros in the league championship series, and I get lucky,” Nguyen said. “I feel accomplished that I can play at their level.”
However, Nguyen said that he does lose sometimes. The game has a point system, so if a player loses, points are deducted. If a certain amount of points are deducted, the player can get demoted a division. Nguyen receives coaching from better players and practices more in order to get better.
“Some people on my team are not as great, so we sometimes lose,” Nguyen said. “Or, on the enemy team, they’re just better than me so it sucks sometimes.”
In addition to the coaching Nguyen receives, his team also participates in team scrimmages, which are practice games.
“It’s like football scrimmages in real life, [where] you play against another team or another school,” Truong said. “But for us, we play against another five-man premade [team]. Everyone’s in a call together, and you just see who’s better with team synergy and stuff like that.”
Players can earn money from playing games if they are in a professional team, or by streaming games on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.
“I’m personally a streamer, and you do make personal cash if you just stream your gameplay,” Truong said. “People offer money and donate it to you.”
Truong hopes to make electronic sports, also known as E-sport games, more recognizable in the industry. He believes that games such as League of Legends should be acknowledged as an E-sport, which is facilitated by electronic systems instead of utilizing people to control the game.
“People think of E-sports as not even a sport, and people like Mikey are changing the industry and making it more well-known,” Truong said. “Basically, with more people knowing about it, it could actually become a UIL sport. It’s a big deal.”
Nguyen’s goal is to reach the highest rank, Challenger, and join a professional team for a full-time job. He is interested in applying to the University of Irvine in California’s League of Legends scholarship program. This program offers up to 10 academic scholarships set between $5,500 and $5,600 for students to play for the university’s video gaming team.
“I’m planning on moving to California after I graduate,” Nguyen said. “I can’t miss out on this opportunity to become a pro.”
For Nguyen, the game is like a career, and becoming a gamer is something he wants to pursue.
“Whenever I’m stressed out, it takes away the stress, and it’s just what I like to do,” Nguyen said. “It’s a hobby that I enjoy more than anything else.”