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Gaming fans throng Seoul for LoL world final

SEOUL (AFP)Thousands of fans from around the world have descended on South Korea’s capital Seoul for the League of Legends world championship final on Sunday, widely considered the Super Bowl of e-sports.

First held in 2011, the League of Legends (LoL) world championship has rapidly grown to become one of the crown jewels of e-sports, which are globally forecast to attract audiences of nearly 1.4 billion by 2025.

South Korean powerhouse T1, who lost in last year’s world final, will take on China’s Weibo Gaming at the Gocheok Sky Dome, a 16,000-capacity baseball stadium.

Cosplayers attend the ‘2023 Worlds Fan Fest’ for the League of Legends World Championship 2023, also known as LoL Worlds 2023 or Worlds 2023, at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on November 17, 2023, ahead of the grand final on November 19. PHOTO: AFP

“Every time the LoL world championship was held in South Korea, we were not able to advance, but this year, we’ve secured the opportunity to play… in front of our Korean fans,” T1’s Faker, a superstar often hailed as the Michael Jordan of e-sports, said at a press conference this week.

“I hope to end this rare… opportunity with a positive result.”

Faker, whose real name is Lee Sang-hyeok, is looking to win a record fourth world title with T1. He won gold with South Korea at the Asian Games this year.

He has celebrity status in gaming-mad South Korea, where fans chant his name during matches.

A woman poses next to a cardboard cutout of South Korea’s T1 team at the ‘2023 Worlds Fan Fest’ for the League of Legends World Championship 2023, also known as LoL Worlds 2023 or Worlds 2023, at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on November 17, 2023, ahead of the grand final on November 19. PHOTO: AFP

At a fan zone set up for the final in central Seoul, people queued up to take photos with life-sized cutouts of Faker and his team.

“My favourite is Faker,” said Park Jeong-hyeon, a 22-year-old student who said she has been playing League of Legends with her friends for three years.

She compared him to K-pop’s biggest stars: “He plays so well, it makes me wonder how he does it! I’d say he’s the BTS of e-sports.”

Many in the fan zone were decked out in costumes and carried props as they posed for photos.

League of Legends involves two teams with five players each competing in a battleground where the goal is to destroy the opponent’s base.

During competitive games, screaming and cheering fans follow the action on giant screens above the teams.

People walk in front of a huge temporarily installed ‘Teemo’ at the ‘2023 Worlds Fan Fest’ for the League of Legends World Championship 2023, also known as LoL Worlds 2023 or Worlds 2023, at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on November 17, 2023, ahead of the grand final on November 19. PHOTO: AFP

Tickets for the final at the 16-000 capacity Sky Dome sold out in 10 minutes when they were made available in August, according to League of Legends maker Riot Games.

Dozens of cinemas across South Korea will also screen the final live. Those tickets also sold out rapidly, according to listings on operator CGV.

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