The world championships for League of Legends, the world's most popular video game, is set to start Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
This year, teams from across the globe will gather in Los Angeles to compete in the 6th-annual tournament. (Previous tournaments have been held in Sweden, South Korea and Germany)
If you've never witnessed an e-sports tournament, now's a good time to start. Here's what you need to know.
Wait, is this a big deal?
Yes. E-sports site Rift Herald reports League of Legends has more than 100 million monthly active players. Its tournaments, like the South Korea summer finals (above), fill stadiums.
Okay, I'm convinced. So what's the game?
Two teams of five players each go head-to-head in role-playing action, choosing from a cast of 132 characters with different abilities and strengths. The idea is to destroy their opponents' base before the other team does.
There are five "positions," based on where in the in-game world players focus their efforts: Top, Jungle, Mid, ADC (short for "attack damage carry") or Support. They all coordinate in complicated ways.
WATCH | Here's how the game looks in action. This is the last game of the North American summer finals between Team SoloMid and Cloud9. It gets intricate quickly -- pros have been playing for years and have figured out the game and its characters on a remarkably deep level.
How does the tournament work?
The world championships ("Worlds") have two stages -- a group stage and a bracket stage, similar to soccer's World Cup.
In the first stage, there are four groups with four teams each. Every team plays every team in its group twice. The two teams in each group with the most wins proceed to the bracket stage, where best-of-five matches are played until only one team remains.
How do teams make the cut?
There are five regions: North America, Europe, China, Korea, Southeast Asia and the International Wildcards (effectively, the best of every other region).
The first four of those regions send three teams. Southeast Asia sends two, and there are two international wildcard teams.
If you're rooting for North America, look for Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9, and Team SoloMid. TSM dominated the North American summer season, losing only one game all season.
I want jump on the bandwagon! Who wins the most?
Korea's SKT Telecom 1 has won two of the past three championships. The team's biggest star, Faker (who plays mid), is considered the best player in the world -- his nickname is "God."
But this year, Korea's ROX Tigers and China's EDward Gaming are considered heavy favorites, according to ESPN's power rankings. Fortunately for North American fans, TSM is widely considered to be North America's best team ever.
How do I watch this?
Games take place all over the United States. The group stage takes place in San Francisco, quarterfinals are in Chicago, semifinals are in New York, and the finals will be in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Or you can watch it all on video game streaming site Twitch with hundreds of thousands of other viewers. (Word to the wise: The chat section on Twitch won't make sense. It's ok. It never does.)
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