Whether it’s with a knockout finish at an EVO fighting game championship, a crushing play in League of Legends, or a dorm-wide Super Smash Bros. tourney, eSports are taking the world by storm. Playboy’s eSports Highlights articles celebrate and chronicle their rise.
Fantasy eSports is just as fun (and potentially lucrative) as traditional fantasy sports. You just have to get to know the game.
Plenty of sports fans have dabbled in or at least considered partaking in fantasy leagues. Hockey, Football, Baseball—you name it, if it’s a professional sport, chances are it has a fantasy equivalent. Some play for the money, some play for the camaraderie, others play for both.
With the rise of eSports, so too have risen the eSports fantasy leagues, and they’ve done so in a fairly surprising manner: sites like AlphaDraft, Vulcun and Unikrn have raised millions of dollars from investors looking to drive it all forward.
But unlike traditional sports, there’s an incredible amount of variation among video games. How League of Legends is played and scored is completely different from Counter Strike or Hearthstone. They’re totally different games, and it can be hard to know where to start.
For the purposes of this article, let’s stick to League of Legends. As an eSport, it’s incredibly popular, and it’s pretty similar to more traditional sports. And in the world of fantasy eSports, League of Legends is already ubiquitous.
For sports fans who play fantasy sports with friends, the simple camaraderie of it is one of the most rewarding aspects. If you want to play fantasy eSports, the same can be true. But you’ll probably also want the usual trappings that comes with a league. League of Legends has that and more.
League developer Riot Games itself hosts the Fantasy Legends Championship Series (LCS), which encompases all of the European and North American League of Legends championship series. There’s a draft before the season starts where participants take turns choosing players from both of the regions. Just like other sports, you start one player per role but with the addition of a team itself, plus one in the flex position. Your entire roster consists of seven starters and three alternates that can be added, dropped, or traded during the course of the season.
Players’ points are tallied by how many kills and assists they get in League of Legends, while they lose points when they die. And bonus points are earned if players earn successive kills rapidly (double kill, triple kill, etc). Meanwhile teams have their own method of being scored that focuses more on in-game objectives like destroying their opponents’ bases.
This is your more traditional fantasy league where you chat with friends as you watch the games live. Things get intense as you cheer for certain players to do well and hope that others struggle. It gets particularly interesting as the players and teams on your roster start facing one another, which is sometimes unavoidable. For example, on my roster above, I have H2K Gaming as a team and Reignover as a Jungler (one of the five player roles in League). If H2K and Fnatic (Reignover’s team) were to face each other, I’d want Reignover to score well, but his team to still lose, a situation that isn’t very likely.
It’s a hell of a lot of fun to chat up potential situations as the competitions continue. And while there are no inherent rewards for winning outside of bragging rights, you’re always welcome to make your own personal bets. Three seasons running my friends and I have bet that the winner gets an in-game item paid for by the losers.
It’s a small thing, but sometimes there’s a lot more at stake.
Then of course there are those that play purely for the money.
Websites like Vulcun have contests for each day of competition. Rather than carrying a roster throughout the season, you choose a different one each day based on the ever-evolving player cost and the constant salary cap. Entry fees range from free to more than $250, while some range as low as ¢5. Others charge only the “gold” that’s earned from logging in each day.
This is a much more competitive style of fantasy league that’s hyper focused on lineups. Examining each matchup, how players usually score, how many points the enemy usually gives up—these are all very common among those looking to be victorious.
Since you aren’t playing against friends, you’re facing the thousands of other users of the website. It’s not personal in the slightest, and just about maximizing your performance each and every day.
No matter which way you choose to play, eSports continues to grow, and so do the fantasy leagues around it. From the biggest titles like League of Legends to Counter-Strike and some of the newer releases like Hearthstone, each offers a different type of scoring, competitiveness, and interaction with your direct competition. Just like regular fantasy sports, it’s all a matter of finding what fits you the best, excites you the most, and keeps your interest vested.
And earning a little extra wallet padding, of course.
Dillon Skiffington is an avid League of Legends player, Hearthstone junkie, eSports fan, and caffeine addict. You can find his work all over the LoL community or you could just go bug him on Twitter.
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