The Culture Difference in League of Legends’ LAN and NA/EUW

My childhood was tough for a few reasons, but I think one of the ones that most impacted me negatively was the isolation from people. Aside from literally just not going to school but for a few handful of years, I was torn away from my friends and culture when I was eight, as my parents moved from America to Colombia. In less complicated and wordy terms, I was isolated for years as a kid. Thanks to that, I struggle to connect to others, and I don’t feel a sense of home or community in either culture or country. While things did get better after I met my wife and found tons of friends online, I always felt a tad out of place: I was too touchy-feely, overly polite, too baby-like… the list went on.

Now, I promise I didn’t go on for a paragraph with a sob story for no reason! While my wife and I have been playing League of Legends for over a decade now, we’ve always been on North American or European servers. That is… until recently; for the first time ever, we decided to try our luck and move to the closest one to Colombia, which is Latin America North. This was because we wanted not only to see how much lower the ms/ping would be (and how that would affect our skills) but also hoping that maybe we could have affordable prices.

It was weirdly nerve-wracking to move on from the servers we were used to! This was especially true as we didn’t know what we were getting into. Here in our country, we’ve not met that many gamers, and whenever we’ve tried to build friendships, it just feels like we’re from another planet altogether. So we couldn’t even fathom how it’d be. What’s the difference in lingo? Could we communicate? Would they be more toxic or prone to trolling? We had no idea what to expect.

My wife and I? We’re not good with change. We’re basically two old women — we like everything the same every time and forever. We don’t like going out, we don’t like new people, and we’re not prone to seek new experiences… although we do try to. In order to not hit the panic button too soon, we promised we’d give the server a try for a whole month before we decided what to do about it.

The change was definitely evident and not at all what we expected: it turns out that what made us stand out or be unique everywhere else was suddenly all around us! The easiest ones to spot were the usernames. For our entire lives, we’ve been mocked for what we’ve chosen because they are usually silly, cutesy, couple-y, nerdy, or are just a singular word if we can. In LAN, we constantly find the same — Churro, Mr Ducky, Mr Green, Achilles… every new round, we found ourselves checking for what else we could find. It’s a small change, but it felt more “us” than most of the ones we found in NA and EUW.

I won’t lie — this whole thing was exciting for more than just the ms and currency: I was very intrigued by how the cultures might differ. Truth be told, I had some expectations based on what few gamers we’ve met in real life here in Colombia (particularly within our families), such as them being competitive, overly confident, or disinterested. Because of this, even before we began seeing similarities, I was already on the lookout for the differences, and there were as many as there weren’t; after all, it’s still gamers we’re talking about here.

Maybe those who are reading this article are wondering just how toxic our new server was, too. Now, I won’t lie at first, it wasn’t much different: people send “zzz”, question mark others, and even AFK. It’s no surprise, really! But what is surprising is not only in the commonality of it (which is quite lower, except during the later night) but also the flipside — they are much nicer.

Throughout our years in the other servers, we’ve had a few memorable rounds; every ARAM player will recognise the “last round” at 2AM, where all the gamers are too tired to fight, and you somehow end up dancing instead of killing the Nexus. I may not remember all the details, but I hold them fondly because they were rare. Ever since we joined LAN, however, we’ve encountered that sort of people much more often! Sure, we haven’t had a dance-off yet, but I’ve had even more profound and memorable interactions. Two such cases that come to mind are one where the team kept cheering each other on despite most of us being strangers, and the other one… well, that deserves a paragraph of its own.

When the fist bump mechanic was introduced, I appreciated Riot’s effort but instinctively knew it would go to waste. My wife and I still used it despite being the only ones to fist bump in most cases. Well, it turns out that fist bump is used quite often in LAN! We’ve had multiple groups where a player or two constantly initiate it and several four-player fist bumps.

Arriving to LAN as an NA/EUW player, I was riddled with anxiety every time I’d mess up an engage or give first blood; I constantly expected them to do the dreadful question mark ping or pressure me into engaging quickly, which is bothersome because I mostly play tank. I’m proud to say I haven’t gotten a single one yet, and in fact, I am continuously amazed at the ability of this server to work as a team. Do some players still greedily take health and kills? Oh, absolutely. But I cannot recall many times where I’ve seen people use their precious ultimates not to get kills but instead to save their team from certain death until I arrived at LAN. What’s more surprising and heartwarming is when they’ve done it in situations where it doesn’t really benefit either player — such as using a Kayle ult on someone who is poisoned — because they just couldn’t stand watching someone die and not intervene.

I associate with this; in fact, I’ve been pinged by the people I have saved before because it really isn’t an intelligent thing to do if you’re aiming to win. Ideally, you save the Malzahar ult for the carry or squishy, you only use Kayle’s ability to turn a fight, and you never pop Lulu’s to give someone health… but I always wished this wasn’t the case, and seeing others do the same had me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

There have been other things that I didn’t expect, such as the very evident prominence of skins throughout matches, whereas in NA and EUW, it isn’t that common for teams to have them (unless someone boosts). But the truth is that those similarities will never inspire me to write an article between matches, even if the cultural difference is interesting. What has me here today is the warmth of knowing that I knew going to another server was going to be a different experience, but I never thought that I’d find the closest thing I’ve felt to my own people in the gaming community. Here, it’s hard to feel overly clingy or touchy-feely, when everyone else is doing the same… I mean, for goodness sake, I’ve never been called cute in a non-flamey way because I was anxious about tanking.

I never thought that after so many years of being too little or too much of something or other for both America and Colombia, I’d find the closest thing to my kin in League of Legends’ LAN server. The best way to summarise my experiences in LAN is that it has felt much like going over on holiday to a distant relative’s house — you don’t know who the heck most people at the party are, you haven’t seen the majority of your family members for years, but you all still give a hug and kiss as a welcome. It’s Latinx, it’s family, it’s home.

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