17th of August 16:30, Audi City, Berlin
Origen and Audi have just opened the doors to their latest collaboration: a viewing party in Berlin – with free attendance, food and drinks included. Although Origen’s match won’t be starting for another 90 minutes, the facilities, centrally located on Berlin’s main shopping street Kurfürstendamm, are sporting a steady attendance. A crowd of happy gamers dressed in Origen and Astralis jerseys are chatting away, and amongst the eager faces are two of Origen’s key figures – Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño and Martin “Deficio” Lynge.
“When we came into the venue, they [Deficio & xPeke] were right around the corner and introduced us and were super nice to us, and it was a bit weird because you see them all the time on the screen and suddenly they’re there in person, but they were very welcoming and nice, so it was nice to talk a little and joke around a bit” – Axel (24), Nürnberg
As time passes, one of the most important matches of the day approaches – Origen against SK Gaming, whereof the loser will be unable to make playoffs. By now, Audi City Berlin is packed to the brim with fans, dressed in merchandise from all the various eras of Origen’s run in competitive League of Legends.
“I think that roughly 140 people signed up for the event, and I would probably guess that roughly 70-80 people were here during OG’s game?” says Deficio
Aside from Worlds, viewing party events on this scale seem to be a rare occurrence within esports, but within traditional sports, viewing parties are practically the norm – whether it be in fan bars or at venues such as Audi’s. Audi City Berlin, specifically, has been known to host multiple football viewing parties in the past. When asked about how this event came to be, Deficio added
“We spoke to Audi and they said “Hey, we are doing this thing with viewing parties in football, what is to stop us from trying it out for League of Legends too?”. What else is there really to say aside from the fact that Audi know what they’re doing? We came with the League of Legends part of the event, and they just brought everything else together. It was not a difficult thing to set up, and although regular season was ending and that put a bit of pressure on us, it took us a good two weeks to set up and then that was it. We have been incredibly positively surprised by how many people have showed up.”
But it doesn’t take long before the sea of smiles first seen in the crowd is turned into a communal expression of stress, as SK Gaming takes the lead. Shortly after, the Nexus falls, ending Origen’s run for playoffs and locking them in 8th place – down from 2nd in Spring Split.
“Luckily, we can still make Worlds through Gauntlet, right?” says an eager fan in the crowd.
But that’s clearly not where the thought of players and staff lie, and although the Worlds dreams surely does remain alive, melancholy, not hope, is the emotion flowing through the air of the otherwise beautiful venue. Empty beer bottles are left standing, as much of the crowd disappears into the streets of Berlin, with only around half of the spectators staying behind to watch the last three games of the day, perhaps in the hopes that they’d get to take a picture with the team later on in the evening. Whilst obviously tragic for the team in many ways, Origen may very well be able to take it as a compliment from their fanbase as well – if anything, it proves that people came for Origen – not the LEC games or the other various free benefits of attending.
“We originally bought tickets for the LEC but decided to come here instead. The LEC isn’t going anywhere, but who knows when Origen is going to do this sort of event again” – Daved (21), Essen
When the European League of Legends Scene was announced to undergo franchising, many fans and business insiders hoped that this might lead to a greater focus on the regional aspects of the scene. In less than a week, Origen managed to fill up an entire venue, engaging local fans. For Origen in particular, this is nothing new, having also operated multiple events out of Spain already, as well as bus trips from Copenhagen for Danish fans to go to the LEC. When asked if this was something Origen fans should expect to see more of, Deficio seemed very hopeful at the prospect
“We’ve done a bus tour from Denmark, done this, done events in Spain where people could make Peke, and of course we’re going to keep on doing it. Even though it’s nice that there are so many online things in esports, it’s also important to meet and see each other physically once in a while.”
By now, virtually all LEC and LCS teams have gotten themselves a Discord server or a subreddit; places where fans can catch up with one another and discuss the matches as they happen. As Deficio stresses though, the importance of physical events cannot be understated – when you see conventional media coverage of esports, the pictures they’re showing are of massive sports arenas filled to the brim, not a post with 5000 comments on reddit.
“Game results aside, it is a wonderful experience to be here and see so many people who want to show up, watch league of legends, discuss league of legends, and then of course support Origen. It makes all of the hard work worth it”
As was rumored amongst fans, the 5-man squad of Origen shows up on-location shortly after the final game of the regular split, ready to do photos with fans before closing down for the day. Hugs and handshakes are exchanged as friends, new or old, say goodbye to each other for now, probably hopeful that they’ll get to partake in a similar event in the future.
For the time being, we will simply have to wait and see what Origen does next, or if perhaps some other team will take up the mantle, but much like RFRSH for long has been praised for their performance model, they certainly look like the new kings of local fan engagement – this event was certainly something for other LEC teams to look up to, and probably should take some inspiration from in the future.