SK Telecom T1 won another League of Legends tournament.
The number of people surprised: 0.
The number of people who actually watched the ‘world champion’ defeat Europe’s G2 Esports in a surprisingly close final at MSI: possibly millions depending on how many tuned in from China and South Korea.
Unless SKT internally combusts in its LCK summer split or Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok decides to quit pro gaming to become a full-time gardener, the three-time world champion and back-to-back winner of the event will be heading off to China in October as the heavy favorite to win the next tournament.
We’re living in SKT’s story. They’re all the main characters, and all of us, including their rivals — internationally and at home in South Korea — are cannon fodder or side characters at best.
It’s impossible to hide the fact we’re in the midst of the SKT dynasty, so it’s time to ask the question: Is it bad for League of Legends as an esport, or is it a good thing?
SKT’s dominance can get tedious and, quite frankly, a bit boring. That’s the beauty of how SKT has played the game under coach Kim “kkOma” Jung-gyun. When SKT is at its best, the game isn’t fun to watch. It’s like watching a 30-year-old father playing with his 4-year-old son in basketball. The father will let his son get a couple of baskets, have a few laughs, and keep the score close; but you know, as a bystander, that all the 30-year-old has to do is raise his arm in the air to win.
But even though the games aren’t always the definition of exciting, SKT’s clear place above everyone else is what makes each international tournament more heated than the last. Each team, big and small, wants their shot at SKT, Faker, and kkOma, regardless of how futile it may seem on paper. If SKT as an organization was lazy or simply toying with the competition at all times, it might be an issue, but the reigning world champion is playing for perfection. As others teams chase SKT wanting to overcome the titan, SKT chases something less tangible — it chases mastery of the game itself and the ultimate feeling of being content with its work.
SKT’s search for something that might be unreachable pushes teams to go further in their preparation. Teams across the world are investing more money and resources trying to keep up with SKT, and that’s only a good thing for the longevity of League of Legends. Team SoloMid and G2 Esports, champions of their regions, aren’t satisfied with being the throwaway villain in SKT’s tale of conquest. KT Rolster, SKT T1’s biggest rival in South Korea, created a super team for the sole purpose of dethroning SKT.
Riot might prefer to have said dynasty of SKT in North America, where the dev is based, or in China, where there are the most fans. But SKT T1 has broken through regional pride to become a must-watch whether you live in South Korea or not. Faker has transcended esports and is ever so slowly becoming a name to the general public.
People tune in to watch history unfold in front of them. Like all dynasties, one day, SKT will be toppled. But for now, with each win Faker and the team acquire, the house of cards only gets higher and higher with each possible defeat creating an even greater spectacle than the last. One side building toward something they can only see in the distance, and the rest wanting to see the castle come crashing down.