I have talked here before about how I much I am a fan of Sr. Concept Artist for Riot Games, IronStylus. He has shown that he acknowledges the many character design fails in League of Legends, and has a personal commitment to working on female characters that don’t fall prey to oversexualization. His latest creation, Quinn, is a female archer who looks strong, badass, and is actually wearing reasonable armor that one would wear if they were going into battle.
I’d just like to share the text from a post from IronStylus today on the League of Legends official forums (emphasis mine):
Some quick context:
Quinn used to be a guy, then I turned her into a woman. That woman is a ranger, she’s prepared for a fight, she’s wearing thicker armor but not plate aside from key places where she would have to interact with an enemy’s face.
Quinn was not designed to be in a skin-tight outfit. That was tried, and look, again, like a woman with a cape, in a skin tight outfit, which had been worked to death by Zyra, Syndra, Elise, and Diana. She does not care about looking feminine, she cares about utility. Baggy fatigues which have hardened pockets, knee pads to dig into the ground to take a shot, no exposed flesh to take a graze.
A functional Demacian helmet which adds sleekness is a design choice. It’s Valkyrie, it’s a motif, and it’s a visual landmark. She has a gauntlet reminiscent of a falconer’s glove which is armored because Valor has armor on his talons, to again, interact with an enemy’s face. He can do damage to even thick leather.
Her hood is collapsed, she has essentially a themed parka with a bird motif, Functional but themed.
She has what equates to kevlar, thickened material able to resist a blade. She has Demacian signifiers all over her, and bird motifs worked in. She is functional but fantasy.
Regarding femininity, I was called out long ago when Sejuani released for making the reasoning that Sejuani might wear less clothing so that “you can tell she’s female.” That is an invalid argument and a sad excuse to design a particular way. A ranger, an elite, doesn’t care whether you can tell they are a female or a male. They are interested in getting the job done, and having the gear to do so. We gave Quinn that gear and did not embrace the traditional route of the tight-clothed standard fantasy ranger. She’s a new ranger for a new time. She hits the Demacian notes but plays off of them. That is the rational behind similar armor themes to Garen and Jarvan. That’s how we establish she’s in the military proper, but not standard in uniform.
For reference, take a look ad Deunan Knute from Appleseed. She has no boob or breastplates. She is completely covered with a half-helm. She has short hair. She is a bit more masculine, that’s the goal. She is not a waif, but she is agile. She has small breasts, a tighter frame, but is fairly androgynous. That’s what we wanted to portray, and I feel we hit that.
Honestly, I feel I owe no excuses. You know my history, you know my goals. I design the women in armor. I do not design the over-sexualized, the seductress, or the siren. Different artists gravitate towards different styles and themes. When this champion came along, I opted to work on it because I felt I could bring a different take. Initially, she did start out as a traditional fantasy ranger, and actually was melee at the time. However, that was not the route we wanted to take. That was standard, it was conventional, and it was boring. I drove away from it and made something rugged in the new direction we’re trying to take our style. Fantasy, but not traditional fantasy.
This is my take. If you don’t like it that’s perfectly fine. I, like all artists, design with particular design and form language as my signature. You might have noticed Zyra, Syndra and Elise were designed by the same artist. Sexy bodies, integrated clothing/biology, dark females. Same with artist for Nautilus, Ziggs and Lulu. Friendly shapes, opposing colors, offbeat characters. Just like game designers have similar flavor to their champions across the board artists have similar common expressions.
If you want a traditional archer, with a traditional fantasy get-up, with a traditional build, and a traditional design where female form expression trumps practically fighting the fight, I am not your guy, and I’m glad to admit that. That’s my strength, that why I work on what I work on.
I do not abide by the established or the expected, neither does Riot on the whole. It is not our job to abide, it’s our job to challenge the convention and question traditional execution.
Thanks for the feedback. Thanks for understanding where we’re coming from. This isn’t just me. This is part of something larger. Pendulums will swing, you’ll get your stripped down heroes. Quinn is not one of them and we’re proud of that.
I feel that this is a really solid piece of text from IronStylus, and it gives me a lot of respect for Riot Games as a company that they allow their concept artists to post so candidly about their beliefs on sexist character design. While some may call out Riot (and IronStylus in this post) for saying that more half-naked female champions will be coming in the future, I love that he himself isn’t willing to be the one to create them.
It is extremely difficult to change the game industry from the inside, I can attest to that. But here is a very real example of someone making strides to change the “way things are” and challenge conventional stereotypes and do what they personally feel is right. And I can really only support that.