The most fun I’ve ever had at Insomnia Gaming Festival: How UK LoL esports today is all about friendship, piss-taking and having a good time – opinion

UK LoL esports at i72 Insomnia
UK LoL esports has had its ups and downs over the years, but despite everything, the UK community remains resilient. Experienced top-laner James ‘Gov’ Gove (aka The Governor) from Brod n Friends shares his thoughts on the scene and the recent UK League of Legends Open at Insomnia Gaming Festival 72, won by Ruddy Painkillers.

As someone who’s attended the Insomnia League of Legends tournaments in Birmingham for many years now, it’s been sad to see the decline of Insomnia LANs – and the UK scene in general. But there are still positives I want to highlight in this article.

During my career as a player, I’ve seen European teams and many top-level UK teams attend, and it was even bigger before my time. It’s evident this is no longer the same event it once was, and I can’t help but feel disheartened by the scene’s fall-off, especially at the only LoL LAN tournament in the country.

At i71, the LoL tournament lost its main stage spot and was relegated to the challenger stage. This was a big blow – and the level of production and backing was plain to see at the final. There was a blank screen for the first five minutes, then we had this:

At the time I was saddened to see something I deeply care about shoved aside, and not given the care I thought it needed.

However, I see things differently now.

After the heavier investments from Riot and LVP into the likes of the Forge of Champions, and big academy teams in our scene like Fnatic Rising and Misfits (who have come and gone), the UK LoL esports scene is now reverting to its early days of being much more of a hobby than a business. There’s a lack of investment and sponsorship money, but I see this as an opportunity.

There’s a certain charm that grassroots has – and there’s no reason why this can’t be scaled up organically.

GGBET MPU blast gif - June July 2024

If this is what the sport is going to be, it’s an opportunity to do things our way. So let’s have fun with it and make the best of the situation.

This is what my organisation, if you could call it that – Brod n Friends – is all about: friendship, piss-taking and ultimately having a good time.

There’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had, despite all the issues facing the scene at the moment.

Regardless of being downgraded to the challenger stage at Insomnia, with prize money lacking, an absence of care running the tournament, and the small attendance numbers, this was the most fun I have ever had at an Insomnia. Specifically, the Saturday night final of the main tournament.

The usual Sunday 11 am slot is awful for fans, in my opinion, but the opportunity for entertainment in the evening slot was great to experience, combined with the more intimate smaller stage presenting other avenues.

“I think the UK scene can benefit massively from football culture, something we in the UK know plenty about. Fierce rivalry is one thing we can incorporate and build storylines around.”

While I’d hoped for a Ruddy vs Lionscreed final to give more fervour to the rivalry, I was still determined to make as much of a spectacle of it as possible. I wanted to see what atmosphere we could create.

We need to be loud and passionate.

The attendance and support this country gives to low-tier football matches is something I massively admire. This is what we need to aim for.

We’re never going to see LEC levels of gameplay and competition, but we don’t need to. There is an audience out there we can still garner that are interested in UK-specific competition.

The atmosphere we can create with spectators is something to build from and show our love for the game.

If we’re having fun, and we’re passionate, this can rub off on the outside community – and bring people in.

I attended the event with a large group of friends I’ve known for years and the Ruddy Painkillers boys, lots of these lads couldn’t care less about LoL but attended the final, enjoyed themselves and got involved. This is what we need more of because there is a product here that people can enjoy without being in the scene.

For too long, our scene’s spectators have merely consisted of the players and team’s staff. Case in point, many spectators sat in the row in front of the Brod lot were not League players or fans of the game. One Dota 2 fan enjoyed the camaraderie and came back to join us, asking for the chants’ lyrics and suggesting some themselves, which was very welcomed. I would love supporters of the other team giving it back to us to create even more of an atmosphere.

Now to actually talk about what happened in the £3,000 grand final. Here’s what happened on that magical night.

Game one saw Team Pending get a massive lead early, with Ruddy’s Krisyss only having 13 cs at minute six, compared to Dunlosi with 40. Things went from bad to worse at 15 minutes – the Painkillers were 5k gold down – but they kept going.

A huge dragon fight turned things around, with Krisyss rising like a phoenix from the ashes to secure a triple kill and a Baron.

The sixth man is something that’s rarely utilised at these events – and we were determined to put it to full effect at this LAN. All nicely boozed up and ready with our hymn sheets.

“Right now things couldn’t get much worse in terms of money within the scene, as the esports winter rages on. However, the positive is we don’t have to worry about ‘brand risk’. We can do what’s fun and only hope that others connect with this and join in.”

This setback didn’t stop our energy, we tried to disrupt and create as much chaos as possible. I wouldn’t for a second suggest we won that game for them, but with the smaller stage and how much we were hearing from the players about disruption from the crowd, it was undeniable it impacted things.

A fight around the bottom tier two commenced, with Syn picking up a quadra kill and somehow Ruddy PK secured game one.

Game two was an absolute stomp, tech issues ensued and the pause timer reached sub one-minute, which wouldn’t have helped Team Pending’s morale after what occurred in the first game.

The third game was a much more even affair, but with a Hextech soul secured for the Ruddy Painkillers at the first opportunity, they went on to close out the final game in the series in 28 minutes. Akkers’ Rumble on the sideline and Syn and Jamsu’s partnership are notable points of success for them. 

This breaks their LAN curse and finally allows the Ruddy Painkillers to breathe a sigh of relief.

Coming from the losers bracket to clean sweeping the finals 3-0, it was a fantastic series to watch. And the celebrations continued not just through the early hours of Sunday morning, but that Sunday night as well.

I’m not suggesting everyone becomes a pisshead at events and chants at the top of their lungs for their favourite players and friends, but let’s just try to have a good time and support the things we care about.

It feels at the moment that no one above cares about our scene. We receive very little support from above, but the way I see it, it’s a blessing we don’t have anyone to answer to – and we can take our sport we all love and do things our way.

I think the key to developing this history, rivalry and passionate fanbase can only come from more of these in-person events, which is why I was so pleased to attend the Ruddy vs Lionscreed NLC final watch party event in London, where Lionscreed won the Spring 2024 Division 1 NLC.

The more of these events the better. Before things went belly up, I remember a huge attendance at the UKLC finals in Twickenham hosted by Excel (now GiantX) as well. The audience was in full and in support.

Right now things couldn’t get much worse in terms of money within the scene, as the esports winter rages on. However, the positive is we don’t have to worry about “brand risk”. We can do what’s fun and only hope that others connect with this and join in.

I believe this raw passion and ingenuity will also yield an audience that can create a new scene, where we decide our course as a community.

Related article: UK LoL i71 interview with Ruddy Painkillers, Cabbage Corp and Brod & Friends

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