The countdown hits zero. A familiar hand reaches towards the screen, and balls itself into a fist. The fist pulls back before thrusting itself forward, shattering the theoretical glass. Riot Games appears on screen. The crowd erupts into cheers.
Sitting in the beautiful Chicago Theatre, you can’t help but think about how strange of a venue it is to house the League of Legends Worlds Quarterfinals. The ceiling is a ornately carved dome, with thousands of little details carved so intricately that nobody will ever see them, even from the balcony. The beauty of the ceiling is echoed in every corner of the Chicago Theatre’s interior.
If the theatre was completely empty, you would still think you were in the 1920s, when the Chicago Theatre was originally built. A quick glance down from the ceiling will pull you completely out of that day dream, as 21st century technology smashes into 20th century architecture. The shimmering lights and League of Legends sound effects clash so harshly with the old, purposeful design of the theatre. And yet, together they make something more beautiful than both of them apart. The sight of the lights bouncing between and inside of every nook and cranny was truly breathtaking to behold.
On the screen, a camera panned around the lobby of the theatre, capturing all of the Quarterfinalists standing on a balcony in preparation for the weekend. Dash rushed up the stairs and into the back of the theatre, introducing us all to the event. After a brief interlude, Phreak took to the main stage. He began to introduce the two teams who were to play that night: Cloud9 of North America, and Samsung Galaxy of Korea.
Cloud9 took the stage first, and the crowd went absolutely insane. Chants of C9 and USA rang through the domed ceiling and reverberated through the theatre so loudly that surely NA fans around the nation could hear them. As each C9 player was introduced, the North American fans somehow got louder, clapping their thunder-sticks to the absolute limit that their plastic design could allow. As C9’s opponents took the stage, the crowds energy didn’t drop, but instead, refocused. Boos rang out from the crowd as Samsung Galaxy entered into the theatre-turned-arena.
As the teams began to play, the fans would find reasons to chant for anything. It didn’t take long for C9 to begin to lose, and the crowd would lose hope, only to rebuild their cheers moments later. After the first C9 loss, it was clear that fans began to face the inevitability of defeat. But rather than give up entirely and go home, the fans kept up their cheers, not to encourage C9 to beat SSG, a task that was clearly impossible given the state of both teams at this event, but to let the North American team know that this crowd loved them.
After the games had ended, the crowd cheered for Samsung Galaxy, a recognition that the hometown team had lost to an opponent so worthy. Based on the energy poured out into Cloud9, one would assume that most of the fans would have left the theatre for the night heartbroken. Instead, every fan that hit the streets of Chicago after the game did so with a smile on their face.
While the hometown heroes Cloud9 may have been bumped from Worlds entirely, the fans had just seen an incredible display. From the beautiful theatre around them, to the modern lights, and ginormous screens, this had been a spectacle, a sight to behold. Fans of all shapes and sizes, sexes and ethnicities, ages and nationalities, walked out of the double doors with their heads held high, ready to come back and cheer another day.