If you’ve come to the Rift Herald even semi-regularly over the past year, you’ll probably have seen at least some kind of lore piece. League is not exactly the kind of game that makes you constantly think about its story. Unlike story-driven games like Uncharted, where the story is the main draw, or even RPGs like WoW, where the world immersion makes you drink in the story to at least some extent, League’s gameplay is completely devoid of anything story related.
The “story” that we experience every game is: log in, pick champion, win/lose, start over. That’s it. The map is the same, the world is the same. The only thing that changes are the champions in each game. That’s great for gameplay, but not for story. As a result, Riot has tried hard over the past year to push their story in outside forms. They launched their awesome Universe website and have been stepping up their game with new lore videos and all sorts of stuff. For fans of the lore like me, it’s exciting. For many other players, it’s probably take it or leave it.
But it all begs the question, “Does the story really matter?” The shortest answer is obviously that it’s subjective. I’ve played literally thousands of hours of League. I know the story, I keep up with it. Most of my friends have at least a vague idea of what’s going on. But, there is surely someone, somewhere out there whose played far more League than I ever will that has no idea where the Freljord is or whose from there.
Talking about why the lore doesn’t matter to some people is boring because it’s simple. You don’t need to know the story to enjoy the gameplay. The gameplay is League’s main draw, therefor, if you don’t care about where and why, you’re not missing anything.
However, things get a little more interesting when you look into why you should care and why people like me always have. While it doesn’t matter to the overall enjoyment of League, Riot still seems pretty intent on making the story matter. They spend money on employees that write lore posts and create things like the Universe site. There are hundreds and hundreds of voice lines in the game and over a hundred voice actors that speak them. All of this stuff costs money to produce, money that Riot seems to think is worth spending.
Why? Because it makes the world seem larger than it actually is.
The reality of League is that it’s just the one map and over 100 characters. That’s the main mode, that’s what we all care about. But stories of where these great heroes have come from makes the world outside of the map feel lived in.
More importantly, it gives context to a character's voice. It gives them history and a reason to fight. We don’t need any of those things to enjoy League. Knowing why Vayne is a super weirdo who’s also very badass doesn’t make playing her cooler to me. However, knowing her history does change the way I think about her outside of the game.
Let me put it this way, I love Volibear and it isn’t because he’s a fun champ. Yes, when I was new to the game I played a ton of Voli and have held him close to my heart ever since. Going back to him is hard because his gameplay is just so bad (I mean, he’s a really rough champ you guys, don’t play Volibear). But I still love him. I have my own history with him, sure, but his voice lines and badass story make me love him too.
Riot is attempting to connect us to their characters and their world outside of the gameplay. This is great for their own public view, it builds good will toward their game. But, it also latches people onto the League franchise in a healthier way. Someday, Riot may try to sell you books, comics, movies, other video games that have these characters in them. The more characters you love, the more likely you are to splurge on something that involves them.
But I digress. We could speculate on Riot’s future plans forever and never get anywhere. Who knows the real reason they care so much about the story. But, for some reason, they’ve managed to make me care about it as well. Me, and lot’s of other folks (maybe even YOU) care about the story for this story-less game.
So does it matter?
You tell me.