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WCG Diaries: the most and least popular games in China

WCG Diaries: the most and least popular games in China

| December 18, 2013

WCG 2013 is over and the results have been tallied, but the show was also a bit of a cultural event. For those who missed it, here’s what it was like on the ground:

If there was one game at WCG that stood out in its gravitational pull on nerds, it was League of Legends.

Because China is a dominant force in the game, it’s also one of the epicenters of League fanaticism. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Or maybe it’s that Chinese college students have a lot of free time on their hands.

“It’s simple, the graphics aren’t bad, the system requirements are low,” a young man named Li Dong told me when I asked him why LoL was so popular.

He and his five friends were huge fans and talked breathlessly about the Chinese teams. They recounted their experiences last year at the 2012 WCG finals, also held in Kunshan.

I asked if he still played.

“I did in school, but not anymore.”

Every fan I talked to in my two days in Kunshan, save for one, said they were primarily there to watch LoL.

Indeed, whenever an LoL match was on, that area of the convention center would swell until there was hardly any space to maneuver. Security would create exits out of emergency doors to ensure people could still move around. Even so, the air would stale, becoming a stifling mix of indoor heating and gamer sweat.

Even the quarterfinal match between Mexico’s Lyon Gaming and Korea’s CJ Entus Blaze was standing room only. Unless you got to the venue at seven in the morning, there was no way you were getting a seat. As the players were getting settled, crowds started forming around the perimeter of the seating section like bacterial cultures in a petri dish. Others grabbed seats from elsewhere — the exhibition booths, seating for restaurant customers — and made their own islands of chairs.


The next day, for the semifinal match between Team WE (which fell apart following this event) and OMG, both Chinese teams, Martin and Megan got there early to save me a seat. Excitement reached a fever pitch. Fans were standing in the aisles against the protestations of the security guards. There was no getting in or out.

When the teams marched on stage, the crowd went berserk. You might have been at a Justin Bieber concert. To draw out the excitement, the announcers introduced the players one by one.

“I think everyone here is quite familiar with these teams,” one announcer began. “So when we say their names, I want you to shout out their handles!”

“Zhu Jiawen!” he called.

“Namei!” the crowd answered.

“Yu Jiajun!”


I asked the guy in front of me, who had flown in from Dalian, why they didn’t do this the other way around.

“Even die-hard fans like us don’t know their real names,” he smiled.

Even though both teams were Chinese, OMG was the fan favorite. I asked the guy from Dalian why he was rooting for OMG.

“They’re better.”


OMG took the match 2-1 but ended up losing 2-0 to Blaze in the finals.

As a Dota 2 player, I can’t claim to understand League very well, but seeing the scale of the Chinese fan base and the love they had for the players, I realized that in China, LoL was not just a game — it was a phenomenon.


If League of Legends got the most love from the audience, then World of Tanks was the ugly stepsister of the tournament.

Its stage was empty most of the day, save for a sad dance number with two half-dressed girls and a prize giveaway in the late afternoon. What’s more, the WoT semifinals between America’s Fulcrum Gaming and Ukraine’s Team Dignitas ran long, stretching into the Warcraft 3 semifinal, which was scheduled to start at 6 P.M.

When 6 P.M. came and went, the audience started getting impatient. After a delay in starting the match, an announcer took the stage to buy some time.

“What game are you here to see?” he shouted.

“WAR!” came the reply.

Laughter from the crowd. It was unclear if this was the response he had expected.

“Actually, I am too,” he announcer confessed. “But we’ve got our last World of Tanks semifinals so please find a place to sit and we’ll get to Warcraft 3 as soon as this is over.”

Ukraine leapt to an easy 2-0 lead. As they were setting up for the third game, the announcers took the pulse of the crowd.

“Who wants Ukraine to win?”

A raucous cheer went up, more than there should have been. The crowd just wanted the match to be over.

“Who wants America to win?”

Silence. I let out a whoop and some people turned and chuckled, perhaps thinking I was joking.

The third game started off well for the Ukrainians, who jumped to an early 4-3 lead. Then, Fulcrum killed two tanks in a 3-on-1 ambush, making it 5-5. After another bungled exchange, the score stood at 6-6, with two minutes left and the U.S. tank ahead in health. A silence descended over the crowd.

“Could we see an upset here?” asked one announcer.

“Please, no…” mumbled the guy in front of me.


The whole time I felt like WoT got a raw deal. It drew the smallest crowds out of any game I saw save for QQ Speed which, thankfully, was only shown for an hour. (That game, besides looking like a poor man’s Mario Kart, was a pain to watch because, perhaps due to lag, the avatars kept bouncing around the screen, making it impossible to tell who was winning.)

I admit I had a prejudice against WoT because I used to see pop-up ads for it all the time. I thought it was malware disguised as a cheap game. But obviously there was something to it, because here were teams from Japan, Germany, Vietnam and Poland all competing in China.

Watching it in person, I had to admit, from my completely ignorant point of view, it didn’t look like a bad game, although the strafing back and forth to set up a shot and draw enemy fire seemed less than realistic. But the teamwork it required was obvious, and the importance of positioning and choosing the right lineup of tanks seemed like things I could be into, had I a more auspicious introduction to the game.

Luckily for the increasingly impatient crowd though, the American tank caught a blow without returning one. It tried to run away but was chased down with only six seconds left on the clock.

The crowd cheered. But not as loudly as when the announcer said, “And now for the Warcraft 3 semifinals.”


  • WCG Finals results: guess which continent totally dominated


Asia kicked some serious ass in this year's WCG Finals. But that doesn't mean there were no surprises!

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