College credit for learning League? Check out what these UC Berkeley students did!
Ever wish you could get college credit for all your hours spent on Summoner's Rift? I spoke to a team of UC Berkeley students who run a class on learning League -- and applying the results IRL. (Photos of the Berkeley Legends club by Cassie Reynoso.)
Check out the interview below, and if you have any good stories about mixing your studies and your games, share 'em in the comments!
First off, introduce yourselves! Who are you, and why'd you want to get involved with this class?
Cameron Bates: Hello! My name is Cameron Bates aka AP Sona. I’ve been playing League of Legends since Season 1, shuffling between mid and bot lane. I currently main support Leona and Maokai and I was the head organizer of the course.
Austin Le: Hi there! My name is Austin Le aka Arkaotics. I started playing League of Legends in the middle of Season 2 and my favorite role is mid lane. I’m a fan of team fight oriented mages, such as Cassiopeia, Azir, Viktor, Orianna, and Ziggs. I also enjoy playing mage assassins like LeBlanc. I love teaching and I love playing video games, so when I heard that my friend Cameron wanted to put together a League of Legends DeCal, I knew it wasn’t an opportunity I could pass up.
Gina Youn: Hey! My name is Gina Youn aka EiectricDaisy. I started playing League of Legends in the middle of season three and my favorite role is ADC or support Ashe. I first got involved in this course because I heard from Cameron (the head organizer) that he was thinking of reintroducing this class to the student population at Cal.
Oliver Wang: My name is Oliver Wang aka Oli. I got into LoL my second semester in college after my roommates convinced me to give it a try. I wanted to be involved with the class because I wanted to connect with the LoL community at UC Berkeley and help it grow. My favorite role is FILL and my favorite champion is Nasus.
Why teach a class on League of Legends?
CB: I wanted to introduce the League of Legends DeCal because League has a false reputation as a grade destroyer and as a hobby that is devoid of academic thought. If you want to improve at League of Legends, you have to really think about the game and come up with individual ideas. This class was designed to facilitate that process so that students could walk out having thought about the game at a deeper level, all while forming friendships through a hobby that thousands of Berkeley students share.
AL: League of Legends is more than just a video game and there are many interesting aspects to think about and discuss. Much like Cameron, I feel that video games have a somewhat poor reputation; but, thankfully, that’s quickly changing into today’s world due to the growth of games like League of Legends. Through a class on League of Legends, we can more formally treat and look at the game as more than just a game and study it from a variety of perspectives.
OW: There’s so much more to League of Legends than just the gameplay itself so I wanted to get people thinking about the game through a different lens. Psychology, statistics, law, and business are some of the angles we employ to explore LoL as more than just a game.
What's the syllabus? What do you expect students to come out of the class with?
CB: We wanted students to leave the class having critically analyzed all the aspects of the game. It’s one thing to learn game mechanics and the current meta; it’s another entirely to study, for example, player contracts and the development of League of Legends as an eSport. We believed a variety of topics merited further analysis, and wanted the class to be a broad survey of all of them.
AL: We start by discussing basic statistics used in analyzing League of Legends gameplay followed by a series of classes on team compositions, macro, and micro-level gameplay. We then transition into related topics such as psychology, champion design, game modes, legal issues, and the competitive scene. A lot of students came into the class expecting to learn ways to improve their gameplay, but we hope that they came out of the class having also had the chance to critically think about the game through other lenses like those mentioned above. In total, the course seeks to bring forth another dimension of League of Legends for students to study and discuss.
OW: We definitely want students to come out of the class with a better understanding of the game in any sense, but more importantly I hope students are able to find a place in the LoL community at Berkeley. I see the class as a means for students to meet other players and hopefully form lasting friendships through college.
How do you see League (and the content of your course) being relevant or useful for students outside of the game itself?
CB: Critical, analytical thinking is important regardless of the field to which it is applied. Our final projects required students to develop hypotheses and to mine through data to determine whether those hypotheses were correct. Being able to apply statistical thinking to a research question is a critical skill that many students don’t see exposure to otherwise. However the real crux of the course, and the reason it should be relevant outside of League of Legends, was our classroom discussion. Not only did people have to answer questions, but they had to articulate their opinions to their fellow classmates and they had to explain the significance of their opinions. Being able to not only answer a question, but also elaborate on its importance is a crucial skill for these students to carry forward into their future studies and careers.
OW: League is another way for people to connect with each other much like playing a game of basketball or hanging out on a weekend. We just happen to connect over the rift, and I think the value in that goes beyond the game.
Now that you're done with the first semester, how'd it go? What'd you learn that you're changing for next semester?
CB: In general, we were happy with our class structure. By separating League of Legends into disjointed weekly topics, we were able to focus our lectures more clearly and make sure that there was a little bit of something for everyone. Having students perform group projects at the conclusion of the course helped facilitate team building as well as classroom communication.
Next semester, we will try to have more checks in class to make sure that there is equal participation by all students - although we filtered the class to ensure that only students who really loved League of Legends were eligible to take the class, some students naturally dominated conversation over others. By having more intimate group discussion we can make sure that next iteration everyone has a chance to speak.
AL: All things considered, I was quite pleased with how the first semester turned out. We had an insane amount of interest (more than we could enroll), and, overall, the students who we did enroll were happy with their experience.
Of course, there is a lot of room for improvement as well. One of the current plans is to bump up the course to 2 units from 1 unit of course credit and use the extra class time to have students actually play games on Summoner’s Rift together. We hope that this change will help students apply things they learn from class discussion as well as provide opportunities for students to get to know each other and form friendships outside of class both on and off the Rift.
In terms of course content, we have ideas to build off the existing material and improve each week’s class for next semester. One example of something we’d like to improve in terms of material is how we incorporate the use of statistical analysis (if applicable) in each week’s class since the class is, after all, offered through the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department.
GY: This is the first semester my co-facilitators and I got together to offer this course, and I like to think that the class itself was fairly successful. From the initial turnout on the first day of class (110 students!) to the final projects that students presented, the efforts that my co-facilitators put in really paid off. There were a few kinks here and there and some modifications to syllabus to be considered. Due to the popularity of the class, we also hope to expand our class size so we can accept more people in upcoming semesters.
OW: I learned that I still have a ways to go in improving as a teacher as well as a player.
Did you see any remarkable or unexpected results from the first semester?
OW: For me, the most remarkable thing was seeing the amazing amount of interest on the first day of class. The room was packed out the door and practically standing room only. I was worried we’d have only a handful of people show up, but now I’m grateful that I can be a part of such a great LoL community here.
AL: I was pleasantly surprised to see that students were interested in other aspects of League of Legends outside of gameplay and contributed to class discussion. Hopefully, we can continue to foster this kind of interest and discussion in future iterations.
Any advice for other students looking to try and start a similar project at their own schools?
CB: Put your foot out there! Even if your school won’t allow you to introduce a new course for credit, talking about League of Legends on an analytical level can be really fun! Since many universities now have League of Legends clubs, you can work hand in hand with them to set up seminars and other lectures. If your school doesn’t have a club, make one! There are thousands and thousands of collegiate League of Legends players, and there is often not enough infrastructure for them to meet and play together. You can make it happen!
AL: League of Legends might be bigger on your campus than you might expect. If there isn’t already some sort of club or group, don’t hesitate to start one! Chances are that other students are looking for the same thing, but no one has gone out of their way to get things started yet. Be enthusiastic and share your passions!
OW: You can start small with something like an in-game chat room or Facebook group for your school. If there are summoners out there, they will come. Also, have fun!