Written by: Chelsi Mackie
Fun fact: the average retirement age of a League of Legends player is around 25 years old. If that sounds a bit young for retirement to you, that’s because it is. The average football (or soccer) player retires at around 35 years old; that’s a ten-year difference between the two forms of sport. Retirement in your mid-twenties is not quite counted as an “early retirement” in the world of esports – it's normal; just how the cookie crumbles.
To put it into more context, the average professional soccer player can keep up the career for as much as eight to eleven years and retire somewhere between 31 and 35 years of age. The career of a competitive esports player, particularly in League of Legends, can span six to eight years. While the hand-eye coordination and strategic moves of soccer players get better over time to compensate for less physical distance being covered on the field with age, the coordination and performance of esports players becomes compromised with time, becoming a major reason for retirement.
Other reasons for retirement vary among players – carpal injuries, problems with vision and hearing and even job insecurity, with some retired players like Doublelift (who retired last year after 10 years of being a professional League player) turning to online streaming as a more lucrative form of income compared to competitive play. On why they retire so young, this Reddit thread of League enthusiasts wondering the same thing says the long-term professional gaming lifestyle is just not sustainable, with the burnout coming on quickly for many.
While 25 is not a definite, set-in-stone age for retirement – Doublelift retired at 30 years old, and the iconic Faker recently won his fifth Worlds Championship at 27 years old – it makes you wonder how long your favourite esports players will remain active in the competitive space, keeping up with a lifestyle that may be doing more harm to their bodies than good. And then that makes you wonder: just how sustainable is the esports industry as a whole if it constantly needs new players?
The good news is there’s actually no shortage of new players. A typical professional League team is made up of a five-player roster in which members can get subbed in and out with newer ones based mostly on performance. In South Korea, a country whose League community flourishes, entire companies are dedicated to the serious training of new pro players in the game. While the player demographic is dominated by 21 to 30-year-olds, the smaller but mighty age group of 18 to 20 years old and younger is not far behind.
But all eyes are still on the veterans, the League all-stars that everyone knows and loves. Rightfully so, as long-time League players bring immense value to the playing field, having gotten to their level of mastery only through years and years of practice, defeats and victories. But with time comes change, and will the landscape of competitive League change again as well-loved players file out, and newer unknown talent files in?
Simply put, the answer is of course it will, because that’s the nature of any sport and of life. Your favourite veteran athletes were once rookies too! The moral of the story here might be to simply enjoy your favourite League players while they’re still active, open yourself up to supporting newer players and checking out the stats of teams or even other games you may not have been interested in before. You never know, you may find some new favourites to cheer on!