MOBA and Lol Essay

Words: 7547
Pages: 31

From Generative to Conventional
Play: MOBA and League of Legends
Simon Ferrari
Georgia Institute of Technology
85 Fifth Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30309

Despite its vast enthusiast community and influence on contemporary game designers, the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) remains under-explored by academics. This paper considers many meanings of “well played” reflected in the design, community, and aesthetics of the genre's most popular member, League of Legends.
Originating as modifications of commercial RTS (real-time strategy) games, MOBAs present a rare study of the “rhetoric of the imaginary” in play theory applied to popular game design. The genre's reification in
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Like Sutton-Smith, these scholars identify generative action with theories of children's play, while somewhat hastily aligning sport with conventional
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knowledge and egocentric intentions. The early development of the MOBA genre shows how these types of play actions and attitudes may feed into each other and overlap.

MOBA and imaginary play
Some games become wildly popular eSports via a combination of design ingenuity and historical contingency. We might point to the outgrowth of fighting games such as Street
Fighter II (Capcom 1991) from local arcade culture and friendly competition between the
U.S. and Japan. Others, like Quake (id Software 1996), were the earliest and most flamboyant to capitalize upon the craze for 3D rendering and infrastructures for rudimentary networked play (King and Borland 2003). And then we have StarCraft
(Blizzard Entertainment 1998), which became a national sport of South Korea due to a complex confluence of interest in procedural literacy, cultural protection against Japanese entertainment, broadband saturation, public play in cafes, new advertising models, and a millennial search for an international identity (Jin 2010).
Those that are most interesting in relation to notions of generative or imaginative play, though, arose through interactions between two groups of people:
1) developers willing to open up the tools necessary to modify their games
2) a play community intent on