A sold-out crowd watches the first semifinal matchup for the League of Legends World Championship between the ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1, a repeat of the 2015 finals matchup between two powerhouse Korean teams. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden watches the first semifinal matchup for the League of Legends World Championship between the ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 on Oct. 22, 2016.Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A sold-out crowd watches the first semifinal matchup for the League of Legends World Championship between the ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1, a repeat of the 2015 finals matchup between two powerhouse Korean teams. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Fans cheer during the first semifinal match between SK Telecom T1 and ROX Tigers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, second from right, likely the greatest player in the history of League of Legends, waves to the crowd ahead of his team, SK Telecom T1's, semifinal matchup against Korean rivals ROX Tigers. Comparisons have been made by professional journalists inside and outside eSports between Faker and Michael Jordan. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou tries out an unusual strategy with his teammate Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, not shown, after seeing ROX Tigers handily beat SK Telecom T1 just minutes before with the same approach. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, center, highfives teammate Ryu “Ryu” Sang-ook as the final plate of their Korean barbecue order arrives. Bodgan remarked as they ordered that the meal was going to cost them over $100 between the two of them to which Ryu just replied, "it's ok." Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Michael "Veteran" Archer, head analyst for H2k-Gaming, watches passing traffic as he and other teammates take a cab from Madison Square Garden to a late team dinner at Benihana in New York, NY. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Members of H2k-Gaming stand for a photo as they walk through Times Square in New York, NY at 2AM, the day of their semifinal matchup with Samsung Galaxy for a chance to play in the League of Legends World Championship Finals. The team plays in the European region which has a friendly rivalry with North American teams, so they took this opportunity to "troll". Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A clock counts down to the start of the League of Legends World Championship semifinal match between European team H2k-Gaming and their opponents from South Korea, Samsung Galaxy. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Rivington Bisland III, the emcee for the League of Legends Worlds semifinals, speaks during the opening of the tournament's stop at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Rivington, as he's known in-game, has one of the longest eSports commentating careers, going back to 2000 for other organizations. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan reassures Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu as they take the stage for what would be the team's third and final match at Madison Square Garden. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A League of Legends fan wearing a cosplay outfit heads to her seat in Madison Square Garden. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Fans cheer as H2k-Gaming is introduced before their semifinal matchup against Samsung Galaxy at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
H2k-Gaming's champion selections are show on screens behind the team as they choose their team line-up for their first game at Madison Square Garden. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
Fans of H2k-Gaming cheer for the team after they take a surprise first kill off of their opponents Samsung Galaxy in the first game of their best of five match at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY on Saturday. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A member of the Madison Square Garden staff watches the League of Legends World Championship semifinal match between H2k-Gaming and Samsung Galaxy on Saturday. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A sold-out crowd watches the second semifinal matchup for the League of Legends World Championship between Samsung Galaxy and H2k-Gaming. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
H2k leaves Madison Square Garden after taking photographs with a few fans after their loss to Samsung Galaxy. The team decided to go get Korean barbecue, one of their favorite meals, and splurge on a more expensive meal for one of their last nights together before heading to their respective home countries. Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
A sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden watches the first semifinal matchup for the League of Legends World Championsh
... VIEW MORE

Mark Kauzlarich for TIME
1 of 18

We Hung Out With a Top League of Legends Team During Worlds

Oct 25, 2016

Tens of thousands of video game players and fans descended on New York this weekend for the semifinals of the League of Legends World Championship, a premier e-sports tournament hosted at Madison Square Garden.

TIME sent photographer Mark Kauzlarich to the event, and to spend time with one of the top teams, Europe's H2k-Gaming. (The name stands for "hard to kill.") Kauzlarich embedded with the team as they prepared for the event, explored New York, and competed for the chance to continue to the finals and win $1 million in prize money. H2k was ultimately defeated by South Korean team Samsung Galaxy 3-0 in a best of five matchup.

"South Korea is dominant," says Kauzlarich, who follows the competitive gaming world. "If H2k won it would have been the first time in many years that a Western team beat a Korean team in a best of five. South Korea has a long history with e-sports, lots of money and infrastructure, players who listen to their superiors and practice more. If you don’t play your part, there are thousands of good players who would step up and take your place."

While virtually unknown outside of the competitive gaming community, the players are celebrities amongst fans of the game. More than 27 million people worldwide play League of Legends each day, making that a sizable universe. Both nights of the two-day tournament were sold out, with more than 30,000 total tickets sold.

"At 2:30 in the morning, in a nearly-empty Times Square, members of the team were stopped twice by fans who were walking by," says Kauzlarich. " Dinner, at a Korean barbecue restaurant, was interrupted twice by fans asking for pictures."

For my first person account at the League of Legends World Championships, click here.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.