Starcraft II vs. League of Legends in competitive gaming

With the creation and growing popularity of E-Sports, competitive gaming is drastically growing. More and more people start practicing everyday in the hopes of flying overseas to tournaments, or teaming up in a ‘gaming house’ to refine your play. E-Sports is largely dominated right now by RTS (Real Time Strategy) and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games. As an avid player of both, and someone who does dream of being a competitive E-Sports player, I wanted to talk about the major difference between these two styles of games for anyone trying to do the same. But can’t decide exactly which game type they should shoot for.

Specifically my experience comes from playing Starcraft II and League of Legends. I cannot speak for any of the other E-Sports games that reside in the same genres.


The Stress

During team fights, and certain points during the lane phase players can experience an extreme adrenaline rush with League of Legends. These are the clutch moments when a good engage or well-placed ultimate can make the difference between a win and a loss. In Starcraft II, every second could be the difference between victory and defeat. Every moment you spend rushing for Dark Templars in Starcraft could be a waste of time if they know it’s coming. Apart from being a multiplayer combat game, Starcraft II is largely about deception and prediction. Knowing what the other person is doing without being able to see it. This is compounded by the fact that in Starcraft, you never feel ‘safe’. It is not often that in professional games an enemy player snowballs into completely steam rolling their opponent. The game isn’t over until the ‘GG’ is thrown down. Starcraft II is significantly more stressful, but at the same time drastically more exciting throughout the entire game.

For some though, this could be a negative rather than a positive. I personally don’t like feeling tense for a 20-minute match. Though League of Legends might not have the constant adrenaline rush like Starcraft II, it does allow players to relax at points. Likewise, in League of Legends you aren’t going to suddenly look back and find the enemy team in your base, breaking your toys like you will in Starcraft II. But, more often then not the primary source of stress in League of Legends comes from other players who leave, or troll by playing a attack damage character as a mage. This can often be worse than the stress from Starcraft II since you can’t do anything about it.


The Team

The high level Starcraft II competitive tournaments are Single-Player. A player doesn’t need to rely on anybody, and their skill in a game is completely dependent off the amount of time they personally spent practicing. If they win, it was because they were better than the other person. Nobody can question that, or take that from them. This is a double-edged sword though. If they lose, they have nobody to blame but themselves. After losing, again and again, this can steer people away from this sort of gameplay because it is extremely difficult to have your lack of skill shoved in your face over, and over, and over.

In League of Legends, you have somebody watching your back. If you make a mistake, likely your teammate can compensate to adjust for the mistake and the game continues without any consequence. As long as you are willing to recognize the mistake, you will improve without having to suffer a crushing defeat. Also, having a team gives you the chance to socialize during those long hours of practice. But, the other side of this coin is that it is very easy to start convincing yourself that the games you’re losing are because of your team. Often, this is not the case. I’ve played a lot of games of League of Legends, and I’ve been in only a few where I could say that another player who didn’t leave the game really was the sole reason we lost.


The Community

The League of Legends community, in my opinion, is worse than the Starcraft II community. Of the other topics I’ve brought up in this article, this is the only one where I strongly feel that one game is superior over another.  Though I also believe that the reason the Starcraft II community is better, is not because the people who play it aren’t the same jerks. It’s because in Starcraft II, time spent typing and trash talking is time spent losing. If you devote any of your APM (Actions Per Minute) to that sort of thing, you will get behind the other person you are bashing. That doesn’t mean it never happens, just the chance to call someone out on their sexual orientation doesn’t seem as important anymore when it could mean you lose.

As I said earlier a good part of the League of Legends community, including some professionals, seem unable to believe that losing a game is their fault. They are as just as likely to praise, as they are to demean.


The Learning

Watching a professional play Starcraft II, then watching an average person plays is so drastically different that you might think for a moment that they’re playing a different game. As an observer, you have no idea what is going on sometimes, much less the ability to comprehend how the player can. However, watching the difference between an average League of Legends player and a professional is not so visually different. But it is different. The point here is not that professional Starcraft play is more difficult, but that what needs improvement is usually very obvious in Starcraft II. Even when watching the replay of a lost game, you can often point out exactly what you did wrong and make a note in your gaming Day9 gaming journal to not do that again.

Not often enough are games of League of Legends lost in a single moment, watching a replay could give you very little information on what you and your team did wrong. That’s because League of Legends is a game of making decisions that are so subtle, they often go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Knowing when to expand could mean life or death in Starcraft II, while in League of Legends the same could be said for good ward placement. In Starcraft II, players need to learn the ins and outs of three different races and all of their units. They have to gruel over hundreds of build orders, and learn how to do all of this on several completely different maps. But in League of Legends, the players only have to learn how to farm correctly and know how to use their champion against the opposing champion. Then learn that all again with 90+ champions. Learning how to be a professional in Starcraft II might take longer, but being a professional in League of Legends might be more difficult because of how often new champions are introduced and how drastically the game’s meta can change overnight.


The Game

Both of these games are challenging and fun at the same time. Neither is a better game over the other. But, since Starcraft has been around for longer I would say that it would be more difficult to break into the professional scene with this game over League of Legends. Also, since League of Legends gameplay seems more ‘casual’ than Starcraft’s, it would probably be easier to get a team willing to give competition and real practice a shot.

What drives me to become better when playing Starcraft II is the knowledge of what I need to improve on. What drives me when playing League of Legends is the knowledge that with each new champion I try and learn, the game changes.

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