I’m not a League of Legends pro. I’ve played a fair number of matches though. I understand the mechanics, I understand the gameplay, I understand the tactics.
At least I thought I did… Until I watched a stream of pros playing the game.
The action was moving so fast, and the jargon was so thick I could barely make sense of what I was seeing. It really drove home both the true complexity of the game and an appreciation of the skills needed to play at the professional level.
It also reinforced for me how difficult it is to communicate what’s going on the game, let alone understand.
And that brings us to this post.
I’ve watched my Kiddo play this game… What am I even seeing?
Some of the difficulty in understanding what’s going on comes from watching someone else play. They’re driving the camera and their character in a way that’s best for them – not for a spectator. Similarly, if you try watching a professional match, the production value is much higher, but the camera cuts and commentary are meant for viewers already well-steeped in the details of the game. This makes it very difficult to follow if you don’t know what’s going on.
Fear not, though, parents. In this post, we break down the elements and mechanics of League of Legends so that the puzzle starts to make a little more sense. This should give you some underlying knowledge to make it easier to talk with your kiddos about the game and to understand what’s going on when they play.
Okay, cool. But… um.. What are ‘mechanics’?
Ah. That’s the developer in me talking. Basically, you can think of mechanics as the actions and choices that a player makes when playing a game. Not the exact motion – so not “right-clicking the mouse.” What we’re talking about here is what action that motion means. In the case of League of Legends, that generally means: Move to Location or Attack this Target, depending on what the pointer is on top of.
Mechanics are the repeated actions and choices a player makes in a game
All right, what are the mechanics in League of Legends?
League of Legends plays out in real-time, meaning all the action is happening all the time (there are no ‘turns’). Consequently, there are quite a few mechanics in play at any given moment, which helps add to the depth and complexity of the game. As a player, you have a lot of options at any given moment, and your choices moment to moment will either help or hinder you and your team.
So, with that out of the way, let’s dig into it. Below are some mechanics, game goals, and elements that will help you better understand how the game plays… And maybe, as a parent, understand what your kiddo is talking about.
Summoners & Champions
A Summoner is the “in-game” terminology for the Player. It’s a way to tie the Player into the game’s lore.
A Champion is a character the Player controls in the game. While there are, literally, hundreds of champions available, they all fall into around 5 “types”.
This term is common to many many games (particularly in RPGs), but it’s worth calling out and explaining. At the beginning of every League of Legends match, all the Champions start at “Level 1”. As they play, and take out elements from the opposing team, the champions get “experience points”. When they get enough points they increase their level. A “Level Up” means advancing to the next level. So, going from Level 3 to Level 4, for example.
As the champions “level up” they get more powerful – the get access to more abilities, have more health and have more energy. Some abilities won’t unlock until a champion gets to a specific level, so this process is very important to the flow of the game.
In League of Legends, champions start at Level 1 and can “Level Up” to 20. This level only lasts for the duration of a match. So, once the match ends, that champion starts the next match back at Level 1.
Auto Attack and Last Hitting
Attacking plays a key part of the game. Your champion will be attacking enemy minions, enemy champions, enemy towers, and enemy cores (we discuss these below). When the player (Summoner) clicks on one of these game elements, their character (Champion) will move into range and automatically start attacking – which is where it gets its name: Auto-Attack.
A very very important wrinkle to this is the idea of “last hitting”. Last Hitting refers to the idea that the player that gets the “last hit” on one of these elements gets the most credit (which translates into points to level up and gold to buy items). This is incredibly important as these directly impact how quickly the character grows in power.
Abilities come in two flavors. There are Player (Summoner) abilities and Character (Champion) abilities. Before a match begins, the Player selects two abilities. These are completely independent of abilities for any given character – and are generally selected to help complement the team structure and player’s role on the team.
Character (Champion) abilities, on the other hand, are entirely dependent upon which character you select. Abilities have a huge impact on how you play that character (champion). As the Champion levels up in the match, they unlock more and more abilities. Abilities are powerful and can make the difference between winning or losing an encounter. Since these are unlocked based on level, this is one of the major reasons why players attempt to level up their characters as quickly as possible.
Another important thing for parents to understand in League of Legends is the concept of Items. As mentioned above, as the match goes on, the Player’s character gets experience points for taking out the opposition. In addition to those experience points, though – they also get gold. Gold is used at the shop to purchase items for the characters. Like abilities, items play a huge role in how powerful a character is at any given point. The more gold a character has, the more and better items they’ll be able to use.
One thing that’s important to note here, because it can get confusing very quickly, in this context the shop is an in-game only element. Items players buy are bought with gold earned during that match. Similar to a Champion’s level, items are transient and lost once a match ends. There is no way to use real money to purchase items in the in-game shop. This can be confusing when contrasted with the League of Legends game itself, where you can use real money to purchase additional champions and outfits (called skins). Any champions or skins you buy are unlocked and tied to your account forever.
Lanes & The Jungle
If your a parent of an avid League player, you’ve probably heard them talk about Laning and Jungling. These terms are actually pretty simple.
League of Legends has a couple of different maps, but most players only play on one. That map: Summoner’s Rift, is where the entire match takes place. If you do further research on League of Legends, you’ll see reference to lanes and laning. Laning refers to the action taking place in one of three lanes that connect one team’s base to the other. Generally referred to as Top, Middle, and Bottom (or Top, Mid, Bot) each lane has a general focus, with specific types of champions taking a position in a specific lane.
Between the lanes is wild looking terrain. This is still valid game space – players can travel through it to get from one lane to another or to take out neutral foes hiding out within it. Players refer to this area as the jungle. The jungle gives players the ability to move from lane to lane and to set up ambushes for their foes.
With five Players on a team, there is a lot of strategy on who goes to what lane. The typical composition is:
- 1 Champion in the top lane (top)
- 1 Champion in the middle lane (mid)
- 2 Champions in the bottom lane (bot)
- 1 Champion in the jungle wilds
As noted above, there’s a lot of strategy around this composition, and I highly recommend checking out other resources for more information.
Every 90 seconds waves of minions come marching out of each team’s base. These minions (also sometimes called creeps) march down each of the three lanes in small groups, attacking whatever opposition they come across – be it an enemy champion, an enemy structure, or enemy minions.
Taking out these minions (also known as farming) is a key component of the early part of a match. The minions provide the valuable experience points and gold needed to make you or your kiddo’s character (Champion) more powerful.
So, the information above should go along way in explaining what is happening and what your kiddos are actually doing, moment to moment when they play the game. Hopefully, this will help you better understand your kiddos when they get into a deep conversation about the game.
As we wrap up, if you have any fun stories about watching your kiddos play League of Legends – or if you’ve tried jumping in the fray yourself – please tell me about it in the comments below.