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PHOTO ESSAY

Photos: Inside the excitement of an esports tournament

Alex Welsh for Quartz
Rush from Echo Fox high-fives the crowd after their winning match at the League of Legends tournament at Riot Studios on Sunday.
By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If you think esports is just “people watching people play video games,” you’re technically right, but you’re missing the extent to which it’s become a true spectator sport. Fans make signs for their favorite players, the audience is rapt with emotion as they follow every move of the game, and the broadcast is narrated by professional commentators who can break down a team’s gameplay like one would analyze the fielding strategy for a football or soccer team.

Also did we mention that some championships can be watched by massive audiences that rival the Super Bowl?

Quartz sent photographer Alex Welsh to the first weekend of the spring season for the popular Leauge of Legends tournament, held in the studios of game maker Riot. While these early season games are small compared to some of the larger, arena-filling championships, they still have all the trappings and production of professional sports.

Alex Welsh for Quartz
A member of the crowd watches the League of Legends tournament at Riot Games studio on Jan. 26.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
(Left) Søren Bjerg, known as Bjergsen, from TSM gets prepped backstage for his team’s League of Legends match against 100 Thieves at the Riot Games studio on Jan 26. (Center) Licorice of Cloud Nine prepares for his League of Legends match.(Right) Isaac ‘Azael’ Cummings Bentley, a caster for Riot Games Inc, gets prepped backstage at Riot Studios on Jan 26.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
The crowd watches the League of Legends tournament at Riot Games studio on Jan. 26.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
A view of the Riot Games studios, which hosts the League of Legends Tournament.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Team Liquid prepares for its League of Legends match at the Riot Games studio on Jan. 26.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Commentators at the League of Legends match on Jan 26.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
OpTic after its win on Jan. 26.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Tanner Damonte is interviewed after his match at the League of Legends tournament on Jan. 27.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Fans wait to take photos with the players at the League of Legends match at Riot Studios on Jan. 27.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Fans wait to take photos with the players at the League of Legends match at Riot Studios on Jan. 27.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Bae “Bang” Jun-sik of 100 Thieves signs an autograph outside Riot Studios.
Alex Welsh for Quartz
Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin signs an autograph outside the Riot Studios on Sunday.