Live from Madison Square Garden, the North American “League of Legends” 2015 championship is happening right now: August 22 and 23.
Tonight’s big game is between Team Liquid and Team Impulse: if Team Liquid wins, they’re automatically headed to the World Cup of professional “League of Legends” play, LCS Worlds in October. If Team Impulse wins, they’re one step closer to securing an invite to Worlds — they have more work after tonight to make that happen.
We’re here at the game following Team Liquid, the stars of Tech Insider video series “League of Millions.” As such, we had the opportunity to spend some time with Team Liquid ahead of their big game, which gave a fascinating look into the behind-the-scenes life of one of the most popular teams in eSports as they prepare for their biggest championship game yet.
It’s a tale of Red Bull, sockless feet, and hand warmers. Yes: hand warmers. Prepare yourself!
After being guided through the maze-like back alleys of Madison Square Garden by a representative from 'League of Legends' developer Riot Games, we found the 'green room' where Team Liquid was preparing for battle.
It was less glamorous than you might expect for the stars of a sold-out Madison Square Garden event. The 'room' was actually just a fenced off area in the nether regions of MSG.
There was a large table of catering outside the room, solely for the use of Team Liquid and their rivals on Team Impulse. Nothing too extravagant: various fresh fruits, a handful of salad types, and some warm pasta and meat dishes in steam trays. We were asked to not photograph anything outside the green room.
The room was full of some personal items the team travels with. Of the five players, Chae 'Piglet' Gwang-jin is the most well-known: he previously won an LCS Worlds championship game in 2013 with his previous team, SK Telecom. As it's his namesake, Piglet carries an adorable Piglet stuffed animal with him for luck.
If you look closely, you'll also see a Piglet pin attached to his 'League of Legends' championship backpack.
Each of the team's players has an inscribed nickname on their respective backpack. Here you can see Christian 'IWillDominate' Rivera's backpack, which was sitting a few feet behind his chair.
The team's equipment is heavy-duty: Alienware laptops, Razer mechanical keyboards and gaming mice, and powerful, glowing desktop computers assuredly loaded with bleeding edge processing.
The guys each had their own routine, but all shared one thing in common: sitting at a computer to accomplish that routine.
Piglet sat and played 'League of Legends' games, for instance, while Kim 'FeniX' Jae-hun surfed Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. These are a bunch of guys in their early 20s, after all.
Team co-owner Steve 'Liquid112' Arhancet spent his pre-game time doing promotion, answering emails, and being panicked. When we arrived, he was 'stress-eating' strawberries with whipped cream. When asked about his stress level, he said he was 'at a nine. There's a lot riding on the game!
As you might expect, there's loads of Red Bull. Not every player had an empty can in front of them, but it was certainly around.
As you might NOT expect, there was one especially interesting consumed item being used by Team Liquid players: hand warmers!
Both Piglet and Fenix were rubbing their hands with hand warmers -- items normally associated with climbing icy mountains and surviving New York City winters. A Riot Games representative told us the hand warmers help with circulation during play, which can be an issue in highly air-conditioned arenas (such as MSG).
As game time approaches, Team Liquid head coach Peter 'PtotheD' Zhang and analyst/assistant coach Mark 'MarkZ' Zimmerman start talking strategy with the team.
Zhang keeps things old school for such an otherwise digitally-focused experience: he busts out the pad and paper. He used it mostly for choosing which players Team Liquid will 'ban' from the upcoming game; at the beginning of each ranked game, each team chooses a handful of characters that neither team can use in competition.
As Piglet and Fenix are both from South Korea, they're able to communicate with each other better than they can with anyone else on Team Liquid. They sat next to each other ahead of the game and talked strategy.
There was some attempts at relaxing too, of course. Fenix had his socks off and his feet up just minutes before the game kicked off at 6PM ET.
With just 10 minutes to go before the big event kicked off, team co-owner Steve Arhancet huddled with the team.
And here's one final shot of the full room, including our film crew capturing footage for 'League of Millions' in real time!
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