In 1994, George Foreman became the oldest heavyweight box champion at the age of 45.
In soccer, most professional players retire in their late 30s. When it comes to sports, there is no doubt that age plays a critical role. Training can only prolong a career to a certain degree and sooner or later, your performance starts to decline. But what about eSports? In this article, we take a deeper look at the age structure of professional eSports. We use League of Legends as an example of an eSport where a high degree of performance and skill is required to play in the top league.
Looking at the Numbers
In order to get a deeper understanding of the age structure in professional League of Legends, we will take data from the lolvvv. At lolvvv we provide probuilds, guides, runes, champion builds and game analysis for League of Legends based on matches played by Pros. lolvvv provides huge amount of data about the age structure of players in the top leagues. For our research, we have analyzed the numbers for the teams of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). We will analyze the rankings of the regular season for the top 10 teams by split from Spring 2017 up to Spring 2022. The team rankings after the regular season are represented by the numbers 1 to 10. We also took only the 5 main players of each team into consideration. Let us start by looking at the average age of the players:
|Split||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||Average age by top 10 teams|
|Average age by ranking||22.69||21.38||22.40||21.73||22.13||22.85||21.84||22.73||22.07||22.49||22.23|
|Split||Average age by top 10 teams|
At first glance, it is quite obvious that the typical player is in his early 20s. The average player over all rankings and over all splits would have an age of 22.23. When looking at the average age per split and all rankings, you can see a slight increase in the average age. From Spring 2017 to Summer 2018, the average age was below 22 while in the following periods it stayed above 22. The same trend can be observed when looking at the median age, which also went above 22 in 2019.
We analyzed data about the oldest player in a team. There is a small upward trend from Spring 2017 when the oldest player was 23.6 on average to Spring 2022 when the oldest player is 25.6 on average. With 29 years Xmithie from Immortals (Summer Split 2020) and Aphromoo from Flyquest (Spring Split 2022) were the oldest players in the LCS.
|Split||Max age by top 10 teams|
This increase in maximum age also leads to an increase in the age range. The range in this case is the difference between the youngest player of a team and the oldest player of a team. So over time, the teams became slightly more diverse regarding their age.
|Split||Average range by top 10 teams|
Now let us take a look at the average age by ranking of the regular season compared to each other. Since the average age is 22.23, we can see that the top ranking (position 1) is slightly above that average. The following rankings are all slightly above or below, without a strong trend that a higher age results in a lower ranking.
Overall, we can say that all top teams are in their early twenties. We do have a small trend to a wider diversification of age and slightly higher average age, but so far the early twenties remain the sweet spot for success in League of Legends. Small differences in age however, do not seem to play a role. There is no need to worry if your opponent is slightly younger than you.
Possible Reasons for the Results
There are two possible reasons for the relatively young age of high-ranking League of Legends players: target group and performance
League of Legends or eSports in general are a rather young phenomenon and computer games usually target a younger target group. This means that younger people a lot more represented in the overall group of people who play LoL than older people. This is reflected in the average ages across other popular eSports games. Dota 2 Pros for instance have an average age of 22.9. This is no surprise as it is very similar to LoL. CS:GO also has a similar average age for Pros of 22.7. The average Fortnite Pro-Gamer on the other hand is significantly younger at 17.75. These examples perfectly illustrate how target groups can alter the average age. CS:GO and Fortnite are both ego-shooters, but CS:GO is an overall older game and still has a great fan base among older players. Fortnite is relatively new and aims at younger players with its game design and the way it is marketed.
The other factor that might play a big role in the age of professional players is the performance of the players. It is no secret that every person has a prime period in his life where the performance is at its peak. In 2014 a study already examined the decline in reaction speed of professional gamers. The study was conducted analyzing players of Starcraft 2, but the results can be applied to a certain degree to other games as well. The study found out that the average reaction speed is at its highest in the early twenties. It then starts to decline at the age of around 24. Extensive training can of course slow down the decline and many professional players can perform at a high level above that age, but sooner or later, everyone will lose the battle against their body.
The data from lolvvv revealed that League of Legends Pro players are on average 22.23 years old. Although there is a small trend of a rising average age, it is still fair to say that Pro players in League of Legends are in their early twenties and players in their 30s are not present in the teams at the top of the league. The young average age can be explained by a young target group of eSports on the one hand, but also by a decline in reaction speed or overall performance due to ageing on the other hand. Although not completely proven, there are signs that you might be too old for high level eSports sooner or later. But there are exceptions to every rule. Don´t feel discouraged if you are older than the average player. An upcoming champion of higher age might already be roaming the rift.
All used and calculated data can be downloaded as an Excel Spreadsheet.