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Riot Games co-founders credit esports at GDC's award show

Riot Games co-founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill give a nod to their history in competitive gaming at GDC's award show.

Last month the 2014 Game Developer Choice Awards (GDCA) announced they would be honoring the League of Legends co-creators with the Pioneer Award for a "breakthrough tech and gameplay design milestone", voted on by game designers and industry veterans.

Riot co-founders Beck and Merrill accepted the honor at last night's live GDC award show, thanking the early competitive gaming and esports community for building the industry in its infancy and helping them get to where they are today.

"We’re here being recognized as pioneers in esports and community, but our accomplishments are only possibly because we're standing on the shoulders of giants who dreamed big, who paved the way, who built the foundation of Online gaming to evolve into to what it has become today," Beck said on the podium.

"They like us dreamt of a future where competitive gaming is followed by tens of millions of fans around the world. It's real humbling to be a small part of that history. Marc and I have been gamers our entire lives. We may never have caught the competitive gaming bug though that led us here if it weren't for our very early competitive experiences."

Beck and Merrill's acceptance speech starts at 46:52 in the video above.

"In games like WarCraft 2 with help of services like N-gage and Kali, StarCraft and the original Battle.net ladder, organized Counter-Strike and so on. Competitive gaming has been around a long time and we want to give a big thank you to all the games that gave us a true love for competitive play. To the community that supported esports back in the day, and the players that went pro before a paycheck was there.

"The esports community we all know today wouldn't be here without you guys".

Merrill recounted his younger online experiences and how that helped shape him today, even saying that he and Beck considered starting up a gaming league before creating Riot.

"Back when Brandon and I were in college together at USC, the first company we actually thought about creating together was an esports organization called the UGL, the ultimate gaming league", said Merrill. "It didn't go anywhere of course, but it's pretty fun to look back and look at a dream we had way back when."

"We've played tons of online games. Until you've been deeply engaged and immersed in an online community, you don't know how much fun you're missing, and how deep the relationships are that you can really build. We truly believe that type of participation in the great gaming community is one of the best experiences you can have in gaming."

"We'd like to thank all the Rioters out there for being with us, and to all League of Legends players for all their passion and support. Thank you."

6 Comments
Posted by arcader

"breakthrough tech and gameplay design milestone"

A game that was never designed to be broadcast as an esport, to even be an esport, with little change since then. A community that see's any action outside the norm as toxic. Graphics over a decade old. A game design that wasn't even theirs.

Are they really Pioneers?

Posted by DrFever330

Except you know... Blizzard... It's not like they held battle.net season finals since 2004. I think their first big offline event was season 4 finals being held in germany, and the season 5 finals were held at blizzcon.

So saying riot was the first to recognize, support and grow esports is false. That's not to say that they haven't developed the pro gaming scene, but they definitely weren't the first.

Posted by Jeffrywinkles

ill give you that, the award title is technically wrong as many have done esports but pioneers or not Riot has done something special whether being first or "original" is irrelevant. league of legends has become a titan in the industry and that is a simple fact.

Posted by flamehead

@arcader I truly believe they are atm, they put such an enormous amount of their profits from league back to eSports. I don't think any other gaming company does it as large as Riot Games. I'm not talking about separate organizations that make tournaments. Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, are hosting and expanding it's own game through eSports. Yes, Blizzard does that, but not on a bigger scale than League.

Posted by arcader

Don't get me wrong, Riot's move of employing professional players may be a pioneering move in the realms of esports. And getting their players recognized as athletes in terms of visa applications. Essentially they are trying to legitimize LoL as a sport; not so much in the traditional, but the financial way.

You can't fault Riot's business credentials. They saw money in a product, invested wisely, and are now reaping the rewards of that investment. Any perceived threats naysayers and other companies predicted when Riot first set out with their esports plan have not to have come to any fruition. Just looking at SC2, and comparing what Blizzard did with WCS, shows the strengths that Riot has.

But at some point they will need to stop investing so much (time, if not money) into tournaments, and more into the future.