Game Design,  Travel

visiting riot games’ lol park esports stadium in seoul

I played a lot of League of Legends last year, so it was a happy accident that I found myself at LoL Park, Riot Games’ esports stadium, during my recent travels in Seoul.  Seriously, I saw a logo on the side of a building, thought, huh, that looks like the “Summoner’s Rift” (the main League of Legends play mode) icon, and decided to venture inside.

How to get to LoL Park by train

LoL Park is neither widely advertised nor easily identifiable from the outside.  It’s on the third (top) floor of a shopping center (Gran Seoul) a short walk from the Jonggak subway station, where I had taken the train on a Tuesday morning.

How to get tickets to watch a LCK esports match

As it is primarily an esports stadium, LoL Park hosts the League Champions Korea (LCK) matches, with competition information for attendees and tickets available at this website seven days before each game at 2pm Korean Standard Time.  Tickets for the 2020 LCK Spring Promotion cost KRW 9,000 for a weekday game and KRW 11,000 for a weekend game, with package deals of 20% off available to watch both games (match 1 and match 2) in a day.

That said, I didn’t get the experience of watching a match at LoL Park, but visiting on a non-match day had its perks, and I would recommend it to a League of Legends fan who has 15 minutes to spare while travelling in Seoul.

Inside LoL Park

The first sign that you are entering League of Legends territory is the artwork on the escalators and along the walls as you ascend floors in Gran Seoul shopping centre.  To anyone else, they look like cartoon drawings, but to a League of Legends fan, it’s really fun to identify the characters try and find the ones you play.  I think this thrill of recognition and feeling like you know the characters is a great thing about video games, and a testament to League’s  catalog of almost 150 playable champions.

On the top floor, a colourful scrolling ceiling projection of League champions welcomes you to LoL Park.  Straight ahead is Cafe Bilgewater, offering standard drinks and pastries.

To the left is the Riot Store with merchandise from notebooks (KRW 3000) to plushies (KRW 35,000) to figurines (KRW 80,000) and everything in between.

To the right is a space filled with tables and seats – presumably where guests can relax during intermissions or enjoy their fare from the cafe.  Beyond that is the expanse of the stadium, next to a small exhibition hall of sorts, with various League-related displays.

Among the displayed artifacts are the LCK trophy, against a projected background of flickering flames, and a collection of team jerseys.

There is also an area featuring “LoL ART TOY”, a series of collectible designer toys of the League champions Jinx, Dr. Mundo, Lee Sin, and Alistar.  The toy project was a collaboration with Made In Factory, which recreated these characters as fans from diverse backgrounds coming to LoL Park to watch a match.

These toys and their 5ft. counterparts, which have been placed around the entrance hall to the stadium, were made exclusively for LoL Park and do not currently have a production run for sales to the public.

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LoL Park: Designing spaces for gamers

The thing I liked about LoL Park is that it was open to the public and free of charge to explore, even on non-game days.  It’s difficult for me to imagine LoL Park bustling, as it probably is on game days, but I think the design of the entertainment space could be enhanced to attract visitors in addition to League of Legends fans.

A key observation for me was that when I visited, the whole place was empty, that is, except for its all-important “PC bang” Internet Cafe, which I would say was at least 80% full… on a Tuesday morning.

Even for League of Legends fans, there’s precious little to do at LoL Park on an off day.  The space feels underused, and has untapped potential to become more than the “PC-bang plus some League displays and a shop” it currently is.

Here are three ways LoL Park can be improved:

1. Create “behind the scenes”, “first looks” or exclusive displays

  • LoL ART TOY was cool, but showcasing a small number of designer toys that I could not purchase or download didn’t quite hit the mark.  Gamers are after exclusive content, and since this is primarily an esports venue, there could have been interviews with players or pictures from behind the scenes at matches.

2. Boost interactive exhibits

  • Gamers crave interaction.  The exhibits at LoL Park were largely static things you could look at, but I can imagine successful installations for photo opportunities, where guests could pretend to be behind the commentator’s desk or sitting in a player’s chair.  There could be activities to select a dream team, or create an esports logo, as just a couple of ideas.

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3. Encourage social interaction and a sense of community

  • For being a team game, League of Legends can often feel like a siloed experience.  Oftentimes, gamers are playing on their own while communicating over voice chat to friends or teammates.  LoL Park should use social connectivity as a main draw to the stadium, hosting events or creating spaces for gamers to make new friends, meet teammates, or coach and learn from other players.  Korea has a large pool of esports players and coaches, both current and retired, who could host talks and workshops or be featured in a way to help players feel more connected to the League of Legends gaming community, something I feel is missing.

It’s understandable that Riot probably wants to keep the focus of the LoL Park as an esports stadium, but I think there’s a lot to explore in terms of designing spaces for gamers, or creating a tourist destination in Seoul that will draw more players to League of Legends.

I think LoL Park presents a good opportunity to experiment with how to build community and make engaging locations for people who enjoy esports and games.  Hopefully it’s just the beginning, and the start of the creation of many spaces to become today’s version of a social gaming hub that arcades once were.