Hey! Want to Play?

It’s 10am on a Wednesday, and I’ve just had a meeting cancelled. These days, when I have an unexpected free hour in my day, my immediate thought is “I can play League of Legends!” I look around and see Jenni sitting behind me at her desk.

“Jenni, want to play a game?”

“Sure thing. Give me a sec.”

I log into the game, and my 13-year old son Jonah immediately sends me a chat message. I’d forgotten that he is home from school because of parent-teacher conferences.

“Hey! Want to play?” he asks.

Okay. Two away. I jump up from my seat and go scouting around the office. Geoff is free and available. So is Ryan. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a team.

The roles sort themselves out pretty easily. I play top lane, because it’s really the only thing I know how to do half-decently well, and choose Darius. My son Jonah wants to go bottom lane with Varus, his favorite champ of the hour. Geoff supports him with Blitzcrank. Jenni is mid-lane with Katarina, the only lane and champion I’ve ever seen her play. Ryan is jungling with Master Yi.

Playing with and against real human beings is stressful for me. At this point I’m level 19 in League, but almost all of that time has been spent playing against “bots,” otherwise known as the computer’s AI. The same is true for Jonah. My guess is that he’s stressed too.

It turns out that I didn’t have to be worried. As Darius I spin and twirl my axe top lane against Volibear, who is one of the few other champions I deeply understand. I get “first blood,” meaning I’m the first person to defeat an enemy champion. After four more kills, Volibear is calling for help from his teammates, freeing up my teammates to have an easier time in their respective lanes.

At one point, my co-workers tell me, I cackle “Tee hee! Volibear is scared of me! Run, Volibear, run!” They also say I giggled like a little boy through most of the game. Ahem. Well, I don’t remember either of these things.

A little over twenty minutes into the game, the other team surrenders. Honestly, we were dominating them. I’ve contributed eight kills as Darius, which seems pretty darned good after only twenty minutes in a solo lane. I raise my hands over my head triumphantly and high-five Jenni. Geoff stays in chat with Jonah to help give him pointers on Varus while I thank everyone and head to get some Diet Mountain Dew before my next meeting. I’m thrilled that I didn’t embarrass myself. Later that night, Jonah starts out his own retelling of the game with, “I didn’t embarrass myself!”

So yes, you just read that correctly: I just played League of Legends in the middle of my work day with three co-workers and my son. And I didn’t feel guilty about it at all. Why?

Because I work at Riot Games, makers of League of Legends. 

Geoff? He actually teaches “League of Legends Fundamentals” inside of Riot. And the meeting that was cancelled? Playtesting a card game that teaches first-time managers some tips and tricks when managing people.

I love my job.

 

Who Am I?

I started at Riot Games two months ago after a long and successful corporate career that spanned five different industries. Most recently I co-headed HR at Starbucks Coffee Company. Now I’m the Vice President of Talent for Riot, which is what we call our human resources department. “Human resources” is a cold, yucky term that I’m frankly amazed still exists. We’re a company filled with talent, so we’re the Talent folks.

Anyway, I’ve been a gamer almost all of my forty-one years of life. I’ve played hordes of role-playing games, and pretty much every superhero RPG ever made. I spent my college and grad school years playing fantasy RPGs online, and logged way too many hours on Lost Souls, one of the first text-based MUDs. I played City of Heroes from cradle to grave (may it Rest in Peace… sigh), plus DC Heroes and Champions Online too. 

Oh, and I’ve played just a wee bit of Magic: the Gathering. Okay, maybe more than a wee bit

I’ve collected comic books my entire life. I’ve published a novel (please don’t read it), and a few short pieces of fiction (including these, which I actually kind of like). 

Which is all to say that I’m now working for a company that suits me. I wear superhero t-shirts to work in beautiful Santa Monica, and I get to debate how magic works in the world of Runeterra as often as I discuss company 401k plans. I don’t know why it took me half of my life to find such integration of my passions and work, but I’m thrilled that it’s happened.

 

The Problem

There is one major problem: I still stink at League of Legends. I started playing it during the recruiting process. I love the game, but it turns out to be friggin’ hard to master. I’m surrounded by people who live, breathe, and love League, which is a pretty infectious energy in our headquarters. I’m already part of the Riot Games tribe because I love gaming, but there is a certain amount of street cred I need that can only come from ranked games of LoL. I can’t even play ranked games until I’m level 30. 

So. This blog is my journey into getting better at League of Legends. You can tune in to laugh at my ineptitude, give me advice, or cheer me on. Because I work for Riot, you’ll get some insights into the company. And if you happen to love human resources or talent management, I reserve the right to talk about some of the cool practices we have at Riot here too.

But the main point here is for me to log my League journey. I am Dunkmaster Darius (and Volibear, and Xin Zhao… we’ll talk about my champion identity crisis next time), hear me roar.

Wow. That was a cheesy last line. Let’s play!

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