The roars from the crowd have all dissipated. There aren’t any more people that are making their way to the Riot PC Bangs and to the Bilgewater Cafe, nor is there a line of people taking pictures of the murals of the legendary players. Everyone has disappeared from the hosting venue of the LCK, LoL Park, and it’s all because of COVID-19.
With the start of the 2020 LCK Spring Split, Riot Korea decided to hold the matches without spectators due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. When the outbreak got worse, the league went on a short hiatus and switched to an online format. This Summer, the league returned to a no-spectator, offline format so fans were unable to visit the LoL Park this year. Those who cheered for their favorite teams while holding up signs in the spectator seats had to do it from the tiny windows of their monitors instead.
The pandemic forced a lot of changes onto LoL Park as well. To take all precautions against COVID-19, all visitors had to fill out a questionnaire, get their temperature checked, and the various spots around LoL Park where fans would usually hang out were filled by the personnel responsible for containing the pandemic instead. Backstage, where the players and the on-air cast got ready for the show, was different too.
Entry process for players and inside personnelFilling out questionnaires & temperature checks is a mandatory part of entering LoL Park.
Currently, only certain people are allowed inside LoL Park: the on-air talent, the broadcast staff, the players and their coaching staff, as well as the journalists. Regular visitors and fans are prohibited from entry.
All the aforementioned people "naturally" get their temperature checked and fill out questionnaires. All the journalists (including the author of this piece) had to get their temperature checked upon entry to LoL Park as well. Entry is only allowed if the person’s body temperature is lower than 37 degrees Celsius [98.6 Fahrenheit — Ed.]. Questionnaires are only filled out once a week, while temperature checks are conducted every time.
The questionnaire consists of whether or not you visited overseas, made contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and have been in the area of confirmed cases in recent days. Personal information, such as name and phone number, is also required and the process is quite similar to entering public facilities in Korea.
This process is not limited to just journalists that enter LoL Park. The on-air talent and the staff that go to LoL Park daily are required to go through the same process. Even if someone was cleared for entry the day before, they have to undergo the same process every day.
Players and coaching staff undergo the very same process. The above photos are from the day SeolHaeOne Prince took on Gen.G, June 27.
A look into the backstage at LoL ParkEveryone keeps their masks on, but what about during hair & makeup?
Usually, only players, staff, and on-air talent are allowed backstage, but for the purpose of this article, Inven had a chance to enter it too. There wasn’t anything too different from normal, other than the fact that everyone was focused on their work with their masks on.
People were sitting in the main table area of the backstage at LoL Park, where we found people having a light meal and even talent preparing for the broadcast. We were able to find Caster Jun, who was preparing for his cast that day. With a black mask on, he was having a light meal while reading over his on-air script for the day.
The global casters were walking around backstage with their masks on as well. There was news about how some foreigners refused to wear masks because they didn’t understand the importance of it. However, the LCK global casters knew that they had to wear them not just for their own safety, but for others as well.
After taking some time to look around backstage, it was time for the players to receive their hair and makeup. Curious to see the process of it, we were able to find the support player for Gen.G, Kim "Life" Jeong-min, get his hair and makeup done.
The makeup artist was doing her work with her mask on as well. This was somewhat expected, but the most intriguing thing was that Life had his mask on as well. So how did he receive makeup?
We were told that players that do not wish to receive makeup are required to keep their masks on all the time. If they wish to receive makeup, they can remove their masks during their process, and put them back on afterward. Even in the space where practically no one was watching, everyone was doing their part in preventing COVID-19.
Something important was happening in the backstage of LoL Park as well. Photos were being taken for the broadcast, which can also be found on the LCK Flickr account as well.
Before the format of the League switched to not allowing spectators at LoL Park, the teams stood in a single line, side by side. When the casters introduced each team, they'd enter the main stage in a single line, welcomed by fans' cheers. Most of these photos are taken here, and once the teams line up, the official LCK photographer does his work.
Currently, the process of teams entering together has been naturally omitted, due to the absence of fans in the audience, so the photoshoot process has changed as well. In order to keep as much distance as possible and prevent as much contact with other teams, the teams were lined up separately for the photos.
The ArenaEverything that can be touched is subject for sterilization
It was time to check out the arena. While we’ve been here countless times for coverage, it definitely felt different with all the empty seats.
We were able to find staff busily moving around before the players sat down to set up their gear. They seemed to be spraying something on the desks and the chairs. They were the staff in charge of disinfecting the main stage and had medical gloves and spray bottles in their hands.
This staff was in charge of disinfecting every corner of the arena. From the chairs that players sit on to the desks where the PCs, monitors, and keyboards go, they were disinfecting everything that the players touch. The power buttons of the PC and the volume knob on the speakers were no exception. Although the disinfectant solution dissipates into the air fairly quickly, the staff makes sure to wipe down everything in order to not make the players uncomfortable with the smell.
This process is repeated after every set. That’s right. Every set. This is because of the potential substitution between the players, and the staff takes such meticulous measures to be as safe as possible.
Another thing to note was that they were using disposable gear whenever possible. Things such as disposable mic covers have all become standard, since players fiddle around with the angle of the mics and put them closer to their mouths to make their voices clearer.
Before the players start setting up their gear, the staff usually hop into a custom game to check for in-game audio issues and whatnot. The whole sterilization process also takes place afterward, with microphone covers being switched out as well.
After the draft ends, the players aren’t the only ones left on stage. Referees, who are watching the players in real-time and are there to make important decisions when problems arise, are always standing behind the players. Thus, the referees are also required to keep masks and medical gloves on all the time.
An interesting thing is that during a game, players can ask to put masks on upon request. It’s a system that’s implemented to take measures against unforeseen circumstances. However, so far, not a single player has asked to put a mask on during a game. This is somewhat expected, as it requires an intense amount of concentration to play the game, and masks are factors that prove to be a hindrance.
We all want the same thingIn hopes of the COVID-19 to end soon...
According to an insider at Riot Games Korea, a separate guideline exists for COVID-19 prevention. There are four individual guidelines, where each one is different for players, journalists, staff, and the administration of LoL Park. These guidelines are constantly updated, on par with the Korean CDC’s measures and announcements in the battle against COVID-19.
Given the times that we’re in right now, these processes have become a natural part of our daily lives. However, it does not change the fact that these processes may seem tiresome. But until this pandemic comes to an end, everyone is working hard to beat it while keeping everything running.
All the players playing at LoL Park were grateful for these preventive measures. In a short interview for Inven, support player for SeolHaeOne Prince, Park "Secret" Ki-sun, said:
“All the staff at LoL Park are working very hard to keep the LCK running as smoothly as possible. All their efforts greatly reassure the players, so I’m very grateful for their efforts."
We also had a chance to talk to Caster Jun as well. After taking off his mask to talk to us, he told us the following:
“The tight measures taken at LoL Park have been implemented for a while. Ever since the pandemic first began, these measures were quickly implemented. I believe that it’s essential for us to undergo and follow these procedures. If one of us gets infected, not only does it affect things here at LoL Park, it can potentially affect other esports titles as well. This means that other broadcasts can be affected as well, as the on-air cast and the staff work in fields outside of esports as well.
That’s why everyone feels responsible for taking preventive measures. In order to protect the players, the scene, and most importantly, yourself, these measures are necessary.
The format of the league is still held in an online format. Domestically speaking, from Riot Korea, the players, staff, on-air casts, and the journalists all doing their part to fight the pandemic, the LCK is able to be held offline. It’s a huge blessing. As long as the government policies don’t drastically change, everyone’s doing all they can to not regress from our current situation.
As the players always say, the fact that we’re not able to meet the fans in person is most disappointing. Not just in esports, but in sports as a whole, fans are the most important pieces of the puzzle. The roars from the fans are what fuels the players, and the energy is emitted to us casters as well, thus inspiring us to do our job better.
Although all these measures seem meticulous and even overkill to a certain extent, the fact that LCK matches can be held in these times, and that our players are staying healthy to play in them is something we should be really grateful for. Whenever the time is right, LoL Park will open its doors widely to all the fans that have given us tremendous support in these trying times."
It’s been 159 days since the fans have disappeared from the spectator seats. In addition, no one knows how much more this number, 159, will continue to grow. Until the doors to LoL Park can be wide open to those cheering for their favorite LCK teams at home, these meticulous processes and all those responsibilities of all those going in and out of LoL Park will not falter.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports