Tag Archives: league of legends

League of Legends’ new badass female ranger Quinn

Quinn, a league of legends character is shown drawn on a parchment paper.  She holds a large colorful bird in her right hand, and a crossbow in another.  She is fully armored.

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.  Continue reading

Why do you think you know that Taric is gay?

A skin that can be worn by League of Legends character Taric; it is very pink, features large gems and furry legwarmers, and is accessorised with a very poofy hairdo

This week, there has been discussion about whether League of Legends character Taric should come out of the closet as a gay man (by Todd Harper, Patricia Hernandez, and Kristin Bezio). It is argued that having a character be openly gay, rather than ‘wink and a nod, maybe’ gay, would represent a positive shift in the game’s diversity. From what I gather about League of Legends, I suppose it probably would; but the assumptions underlying this discussion are not at all welcoming of diverse forms of gender and sexual expression.

It’s claimed that by ‘remaining tight-lipped about his life outside of the league’, Taric as a character is furthering the idea that being gay is a hush-hush thing that should be kept out of public view and just whispered and giggled about behind closed doors. Todd Harper lists a few ways that Taric’s sexuality could be included in the game; maybe he has a boyfriend character, for example. This would, Kristin Bezio argues, positively reinforce sexual diversity, rather than simply using it as an in-joke.

I don’t disagree with the value of both fictional characters and real-life human beings coming out of the closet. I’ve benefited immensely from other people speaking and writing publicly about their identities and experiences. If there was someone like me on British TV, I would have a much easier time explaining my identity to my mother. But by assuming that Taric is gay, people are contributing to heteronormative assumptions from which I have only been able to escape in recent years, thanks to other people coming out and being public about their diverse gender identities.

Only because of other people coming out and speaking about their identities do I know that gender-variant people are not always defined by labels relating to sexual orientation. I’m not against coming out, but I am against the assumption that everybody will or should manage their social lives and personal identities in the same way. And even though I don’t play LoL, this call for an apparently feminine male character to come out as gay is deeply troubling to me as a genderqueer person.

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League of Legends to remove pole dancing from Xmas Katarina skin

A champion from League of Legends: the long red haired Katarina in a skimpy Santa suit, holding two blades in her lands and clinging to a candy cane with her legs as if it were a stripper pole.

Riot Games has released their new set of exclusive holiday champion skins on the Public Beta Realm this week, and it included a special Christmas Katarina skin.  Katarina is an assassin, one of the more iconic and most-cosplayed champions within League of Legends.  This skin puts her in a short little Santa dress, the kind that every MMO in existence dresses the female characters in around the holiday season.

But more than one player noticed that her recall animation (the anim that plays while Katarina goes back to base) is her whipping out a candy cane and swinging around it in stripper pole fashion.  And several of these players spoke out against it on the League of Legends forums:

I don’t care that she’s dressed like a hooker, I don’t care that she has a tacky hair color (IMHO). But the stripper pole? C’mon, Riot. That is WAY over the top. Until now, the sexy skins have been plentiful but somewhat tame, and this one is just a bit too much. I will happily buy this skin if (AND ONLY IF) they take out the stripper pole recall animation. There’s no reason for it at all. The skin can stand on it’s own apart from that.

Let’s show Riot that there is a point where it becomes too raunchy. A significant amount of sexy is acceptable, but lets keep these Trampion skins to a minimum.

And:

This. It’s obviously yet another in a long line of “for the entertainment of our teenage boy audience” skins, so it’s ridiculous to assert that it’s all about women’s rights or exercise.

Frankly, I think I’ve about had it with Riot’s attitude toward women. I’ve spent a significant amount of money on this game, but when paying customers complain about the way that women are depicted, it’s nothing but nice-sounding things about how they want a variety in design, then more skins with scantily-clad females dancing and talking in very suggestive ways.

If Riot wants to keep designing the game for insecure teenage boys, go for it, I’ll take my money elsewhere.

Thankfully Riot have listened, and the pole dancing recall animation will be removed before this champion skin is ever released and purchasable in the live game.  Senior Product Manager Volibar says:

You’re right. This doesn’t really fit with her thematically, and it’s too much. We’ll be removing it.

I’m always happy to hear when a developer listens to player feedback and admits their mistakes.  I’m not going to give them a pass for coming up with this idea in the first place though — how does this even make it past that many eyes and onto the test realm?  Why is it the player’s responsibility to point out sexist character designs when Riot themselves have acknowledged their own failures in the past and offered up a commitment to better representation of women in their game?

If you want to watch the animation of Xmas Katarina, here it is on YouTube:

Riot Games confronts their problematic female character design

The logo for League of Legends with a variety of male champions standing behind it.

League of Legends is just about everywhere nowadays and the e-sports phenomenon is becoming bigger and more legitimate with every tournament.  We’ve been critical of the game in the past, but only because we’ve had some pretty devoted League of Legends players who really would love to see their game become more inclusive.  I’ve played more hours of LoL than I would like to admit, though I’ve taken a long hiatus because I grew too frustrated with the way I was treated as a player.  It’s clear to me that in order for e-sports to grow more mainstream, it’s going to have to take a step back and look at not only the toxic environment the players experience (which is being addressed) but also the sexualized female character design.

Another player felt the same way as I do, and started a thread pleading for Riot Games to pay more attention to how characters are designed.

If Riot seriously wants to attract more girls to their games, then I suggest they listen to what the few girls who do play League of Legends have to say. Have a real conversation with them. Entertain the idea that there really is a problem with how women are treated by the players, and how female champions are treated by Riot. I’d find it refreshing if a Riot employee could actually admit that there is a problem, or that I at least raise some valid points. My friend knew Pentakill Olaf was going to be used as a counterpoint to “male champions aren’t sexualized” the second she saw him. But Olaf is not aesthetically pleasing to most women. His physique still caters to the same people that Miss Fortune does. I see the argument that “This is a game. Who cares if a champion is sexy?” That’s not the issue. The problem isn’t that there is no mancandy for women to oggle over. The problem is that champions are treated differently based on whether it is male or female. Riot is completely comfortable sexifying female champion, even in cases where it isn’t actually appropriate for the character.

And Riot have responded in a big way.  There are 59 responses in this thread alone from a Riot employee addressing the player’s feedback.  Not once did I read a dismissal of the concerns.  Instead it seems like there are some real ambassadors inside the Riot studio who are fighting for a more diverse character design across the board.  From softer male characters like Varus and Vladamir, to strong female characters like Kayle.

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Why can’t we all just play nice?

A picture of the mercenary skin for Katarina in League of Legends. A midriff bearing assassin with two large blades in her hands, and several more tied to her belt.

 

I’m relatively new to the concept of esports, games that feature professionally ranked teams who make a living out of competing in tournaments for large prizes.  In fact, I’m actually a spring chicken when it comes to competitive games in general.  My only experience in multiplayer gaming has been MMORPGs, and the closest I’ve ever been to competitive was racing other guilds for bosses in EverQuest back in the day.  Which is why I’m found myself enamored and equally frustrated with League of Legends.

The concept sounds simple, especially if you’ve ever played the Defense of the Ancients (Dota) map in Warcraft.  You have some minions, you gotta kill the other team and their minions, you have to defeat their towers while protecting your own, and you have to destroy the enemy team’s base (the Nexus) to ultimately win.  You play a champion (there are 100 to choose from) and you have 4 abilities that are enhanced by purchasing gear with the gold you earn from completing objectives within the game.  However, it’s actually an incredibly nuanced game.  There are concepts such as last hitting, split pushing, zoning your opponents, a metagame to study, and countless other advanced concepts that no level 1 player will understand without some guidance.  But who should be providing that guidance?

In League of Legends, when anyone makes a mistake it is always the first reaction from the team to insult that player and shame them for what they did.  Rarely do you hear someone give constructive feedback that will teach the player what they did wrong.  Instead you’ll be called a noob, told that you suck at the game, and occasionally reported for being a “bad player”.  I’ve had times where I’ve said to people, “hey this is my first time playing Sejuani in the jungle, let me know if I should be doing anything different” and I’ll be told that I’m stupid for picking that champion.  There will be some particularly bad games where no matter what I do, I’m insulted for it.  Particularly when playing a support character whose role is to buff and heal my teammates, I will often hear that I’m doing things wrong.  Know what?  I probably am.  In fact, I’m sure I’m doing things wrong.  But how much research should I be expected to do outside of a game just to play the game without suffering through vitriol and hate speech from my team?

I’ve come to love the “ignore” functionality, but I know I’m just masking a problem at large.  I do understand that in competitive environments, people want to win games.  You can’t win when someone on your team is doing things wrong. I just don’t understand why the first place that people go to is one of hatred and shame.  Telling me that I’m bad at the game isn’t going to help me learn, it’s not going to help us win the game.  It’s more likely to frustrate me more, causing me to make silly mistakes that I wouldn’t normally make if I didn’t feel that I was bringing the team down.  When I catch one of my teammates saying something mean, I try to follow it up with something nice and encouraging, but I’m definitely in the minority there.

I’m not sure why I continue to play League of Legends, because it’s actually a spiteful place to be at times.  (Note: I’ve heard that it’s one of the better games of the MOBA genre to play, and that Heroes of Newerth is even worse).  I enjoy the game when I feel like my tactical strategies are working, and I love trying out new champions and learning how to master them.  I do read guides online and watch streams of the professional players so that I have a working knowledge of the game.  I’m just finding that more often than not, it’s a depressing place to spend my evenings.  I end up logging off at midnight wishing that I’d played a solo RPG, somewhere where I can be alone and do things the way I want to do them.  For someone with anxiety issues (like myself) it’s certainly not therapeutic to be ridiculed all evening.  Yet I keep going back, and keep wishing that League of Legends would become a more friendly and accepting place for newbies and those who might not be as skilled.

How do you all handle the raging and insults when you play competitive online games?

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On being the “face of the community” while female

A screencap of the latest League of Legends Summoner Showcase video, showing Nikasaur on the right and a LoL logo on the left.

 

Being a woman in the game industry in a player-facing role can be absolutely terrifying.  The second players realize what you look like, you’re overwhelmed with comments from people criticizing you for your looks or complimenting you on how sexy you are.  I’ve certainly been there.

The former Community Manager in me thinks that Riot Games does an excellent job with all of their community engagement features outside of League of Legends.  They do regular videos for patch previews and champion previews, and they highlight fanart and other news with regular Summoner Showcases like this latest one.  Riot’s Community Coordinator Nika “Nikasaur” Harper is the main star of most of these videos, and every time a new one is released I dread what the commenters will say about her.  Here’s just a small taste of the comments for her latest video on either YouTube or Facebook:

I’m a straight man. I would fuck Nikasaur. – Neardrage

 

I want to see nikasaur cosplay all the lol champs.. id offer to help her get dressed.. im not selfish.. -force021

 

does this girl wash her hair? lol just saying? – GMProOG

 

she’s not even that good looking. nerds. – SexualFruiit

 

I can’t even imagine what it would be like to represent my company in a promotional video and have the comments actually be focused on the content of what I’m saying rather than the outfit I’m wearing or whether I am skinny or fat.  Nikasaur even has a fan page with over 10,000 likes, on which many of the comments are focused on her looks.  It might not get to her personally, she might never read those comments or she might have an immensely thick skin.  But all of this contributes to the systemic problem of the video game industry being dominated by men, because it’s not the most welcoming and comfortable space for a woman to be in.  It becomes tiresome to have to defend your skill or existence as a gamer — another common comment asks if Nikasaur even plays League of Legends, since she’s a GIRL and all.  We don’t play that game.

Facebook screenshot of someone saying "They could do a 5 minute vid of nothing but her standing there smilin and I would be happy."

 

Someone on Facebook says "Get rid of that girl doing the video's she's so ugly and her voice makes my brain bleed."

 

Facebook screenshot: "I want to dominate her if you know what I mean."

 

It’s this kind of thing that makes me not want to stream League of Legends videos and join the e-sports “scene” more wholeheartedly.  You don’t see these types of comments on videos that men or star in.  Maybe I’ll be able to stream on sites like Twitch.TV once women aren’t seen as commodities for the gaming community to critique and devour.  For now, I just want to tell Nikasaur that there are people who enjoy the videos because we love the game, we like the content and the production quality, and find the videos funny and entertaining.

In other League of Legends news, there is a new female Yordle support character named Lulu, and she is awesome.

Sejauni, a woman rockin' some serious boar and flail action, likely about to bring about some serious death. Unless someone were to stab her, oh, anywhere on her body, of course. On balance it's not as terrible as it could be, at least she's doing something rather than merely preening. But again we find breasts pointlessly emphasised and a chainmail bikini for no specific reason.

Evolution Made Me Do It: Art and Gender in League of Legends

Sejauni, a woman rockin' some serious boar and flail action, likely about to bring about some serious death. Unless someone were to stab her, oh, anywhere on her body, of course. On balance it's not as terrible as it could be, at least she's doing something rather than merely preening. But again we find breasts pointlessly emphasised and a chainmail bikini for no specific reason.

 

There are times when League of Legends really lives up to its acronym, I’m afraid. A close friend of mine who plays the game drew my attention to a forum thread where a male gamer complained about the oversexualised image of a new character being added to the game, Sejuani.

“She must be a strong lady to lift her flail and shield, or even ride her mount. But she doesn’t look it. None of the female champs look particularly strong. But the male champs are not only more varied, but their body types support their character. Strong warrior champs are big. Makes sense, right? Casters tend to be thinner. There’s a lot of variety among the male champs in terms of body type. But all the female champs are just lingerie models, regardless of the size of their weapon or the weight of their armor (I’m looking at you and your plate mail heels, Leona).

This is a problem with most games, and while I love League of Legends, they’re very guilty of falling into this trend. Men are varied and appropriately proportioned, women are thin and busting out of their tops regardless of who they are or what they do. I really wish Riot would change this.”

Reasonable enough.

What makes this thread unique is that one of the senior concept artists- who goes by Iron Stylus on the forums- favoured it with a lengthy, revealing response. Before I go into it I should write the usual disclaimers about such criticism: I appreciate that he responded at all, that he seemed to put some thought into his answer, and that he did not dismiss the matter out of hand. But as per usual with comments like these, good intentions are all that can be praised.

“That being said, yes, often in the video game industry, and the entertainment industry, there is a “standardization” of female form. I’m as guilty of it as any other artist when designing. Leona is a tall curvy lady which in my mind is “idealized”. We’re artists, we like “ideal” and sometimes default to it. (REMEMBER! I’m keeping “Ideal” in QUOTES! “Ideal” is not an “Ideal” term for what I’m “Ideally” trying to explain)”

Often as not in arguments like this I will see defenders of the status quo move heaven and earth to prove their generalisations are not, in fact, generalisations. But there is a truth about fiction writing that applies just as well to non-fiction writing: show, don’t tell. Putting “ideal” in quotes doesn’t change the fact that by entirely de-gendering the issue he’s obscuring what the complaint actually is. Why is this character an ideal- excuse me, “ideal”? To whom is it an ideal?

“but let’s be honest, a lot of natural human tendency which is often hardwired into us makes us gravitate towards particular biological attributes. I’m not trying to defend that gravitation, but I am saying that we are many times inexorably drawn to it… no art pun intended.”

This is the point at which I’m checking off my Bingo sheet hoping this week’s prize is a pair of mittens (it’s cold up here!) I remember when I watched the British version of the Office and Brent was on a date with a woman he’d met online, making a fool of himself as he tried to argue that men were attracted to cleavage because cavemen often did it with cavewomen from behind and developed a hardwired association between cleavage and one’s butt crack. My first thought was “Wow, that is a hilarious satire of evolutionary psychology, well done, Gervais and Merchant!”

Then I found out it wasn’t satire, just ripped from the headlines.

The gleeful ignorance of how standards of pulchritude have evolved down the centuries and cross-culturally has fuelled countless justifications for sexism and objectification. As a woman who is attracted to other women, I will come right out and say that yes- I can find even objectifying portrayals of women to be “sexy.” The difference between myself and a lot of hetero men is that I don’t lie to myself about why that is, nor wrap myself in layers of pseudoscience to justify it.

If you find something attractive, just say so. Saying that you can’t help it clouds the issue and is actually very self-degrading.

This returns to the main issue: why is it that “sexy” is a prime characteristic for women characters? For whom is this an ideal and why? Why must women be limited to this?

Well, at least as LoL goes, Iron Stylus has an answer for us:

“Let’s also consider something. Readability. In the game, the characters are fairly small, nyez? So, we do often I believe have to make sure we’re making sure to make sure that the figure is readable as a girl or guy. How do we do this? Well, proportion, accentuation, exaggeration, etc. Want the feminine form to read in a game? Welp, guess what, it might have to be a bit more famine and/or stylized than usual to read at the proper distance and keep readable when moving. That’s just making sure we cover the basics of simple silhouette recognition. If we make her too broad, you might mistake Sejuani for a male, that’d be, ya know, not what we want.”

I have to say this is a first. “My game is special because the characters are really really small.” Never mind that it follows exactly the same trends as games where your character occupies a whole screen. And as to that last line, yes, gender ambiguity is not what “we” want. Can’t have that at all. Men and women are completely and utterly different and readily distinguishable from one another, always and forever no matter what. Indeed, “we” cannot bear otherwise.

Is it really that threatening for a man to have feminine characteristics or a woman to have masculine ones, even to the point of ambiguity? Irrespective of the size of the character on screen, why is that such a pressing concern? I appreciate the fact that at least Iron Stylus has dredged so many of these often subjugated lines of reasoning into the light. More than once I’ve looked at concept art and fan art of women warriors who wore full armour and saw people- almost always men- in the comments complain “she looks like a man!” Because if your tits aren’t hanging out and your hips don’t shatter doorframes, you’re clearly a dude, yes.

I’ll let Iron Stylus explain further:

“Particularly though, at least speaking for myself, I also want to know how that armor or lack thereof functions! But, what is the trade off? Do I think Sejuani might need to make a trip to Sports Chalet and get some heavy winter gear? Possibly.. BUT! I also want her to be wearing something more interesting than a Columbia snowboarding jacket and I also want her to read clearly when I play her. That’s a whole lot in the equation.

“There’s trade-offs to everything, and sometimes we don’t even know those trade-offs on a conscious level. If you saw Sejuani in a head to toe outfit, or heavily armor-clad, or maybe beefier, well, that actually presents a slew of other visual problems to work out. We then have problems with whether we could tell her gender or not. The boar (Let’s take get a betting game going to see if you can guess the boar’s name) might indicate, given another armor or outfit situation, that she’s a guy. Thickening her up, while addressing how a chick could wield such a weapon comes at a risk of her looking like a male also. We wanted her to be fit and vicious. Adding particular types of clothing, mass, armor, etc might detract from that…”

This is why I tend to roll my eyes whenever people say that folks like myself are imposing politics on gaming. Paragraphs like this prove that these games are already expressing a political point of view, just one that has the privilege of being considered apolitical. We’re down to even her mount, a boar, somehow suggesting masculinity. At this point I’m grateful Sejauni wasn’t assigned a feline mount with a furry bosom and painstakingly drawn cleavage. You know, in case you might mistake her for a male.

But this is expressing a clear series of points of view about gender: what makes a woman? What makes masculinity and femininity? What is a desirable or worthwhile woman character like and how does she change with the signifiers that surround her? Stylus has answered many of these questions, and they are fundamentally political answers about what women ought to be and for what purpose.

My job has never been to insert politics where it didn’t exist before, but to add a badly needed countervailing point of view to an ongoing discussion.

“Now, that said, and I may be at bit too full of microwave mashed potatoes at this point, but I do have certain issues with certain champs and their body types. I do flinch here and there when I consider the logistics that certain clothing might entail. However, as an artist, as a gamer, I’m looking for something that’s rewarding to my eye. Sometimes that might be a dynamic silhouette, sometimes maybe the nuanced movement of a character, possibly the hardwired biological aspect, or any other pleasing imagery. As a gamer and as an artist, I want a visual reward. That’s a lot of what gaming is and art for that matter. Engagement -> Reward.”

Pictured: Someone unfit for portrayal in a video game, according to IronStylus.. - (Light skinned woman with a very visibly muscular back and arms doing chin ups while wearing a wedding dress)

Once again we have to be specific here. Why is this highly specific kind of sexiness “a visual reward”? For whom is it a visual reward? Who does this exclude and at whose expense does this come?

The friend who showed me this thread works out on a regular basis, boxes, and with statuesque proportions often describes herself as “built like an Amazon.” She’s hardly alone in this, and took exception to the strong suggestion that muscularity is a male signifier. There are plenty of ways, as an artist, to make a woman or feminine person “pleasing” without emphasising a particular kind of sexuality.

Note also that I’ve been at pains to say “a particular kind of sexuality” rather than just “sexuality.” One of the most pernicious myths to emerge from these debates about portrayal is that the choice is between sexual liberation and Puritanism, that there is only one way to be sexy and it is the way that that a certain clique of heterosexual cis men want you to be sexy. What is attractive to people varies widely, regardless of their gender or sexuality. What constitutes “sexy” is not only culturally and temporally contingent, but personally so as well. The media-driven mythology of unitary, male-gaze-pleasing sexuality, cannot be allowed to set the terms of discussions like this.

I and many other gamers “engage” for an altogether different kind of reward.

“Regardless, I’m not sure if this is all making any sense. I’m pretty tired. Also, ya know. Mashed potatoes. Either way, I enjoy these discussions and I’d like to keep having them. There’s a lot we go through over here when we design champs artistically and believe me, nothing you’re saying hasn’t been discussed or not thought over. In the end, we’re having fun, and we hope you are too!”

Well then, here’s to an ongoing debate, hm? I just hope that we can keep it honest, instead of wandering through the hall of mirrors where white cis men tell us what they know about what they know about what they know. Let’s talk about why portrayals like this are desirable, why they are “rewards” for engagement, and for whom without redounding to the lazy excuse of DNA or neurology—the latter day equivalent of “the Devil made me do it.” It is a poor substitute for intellectual discussion and always has been.

One professor of mine once said that you should “occupy your sexuality.” He was right about that, and although he said it to encourage people who were not represented by the mainstream discourse on sex, I think it applies to Iron Stylus as well whose sexuality is rather well represented. Why not admit to and own your preferences instead of leaning just on biology?

Our appetite for food and thirst for water is biological, yes. A culture where one eats with forks or chopsticks, eats with their elbows off the table, and out of a bowl or plate, ending the whole process at a porcelain throne is not, however. Sex, like hunger, involves biology. But it is profoundly mediated by culture. How we direct, channel, and manage our various urges is a significant part of what comprises this thing called “society.” If we’re going to have useful discussions about objectification, what is sexy, and why certain images predominate, we should start there.

League of Legends: SO MUCH character design fail

Wundergeek is a straight, cis white woman who recently was asked to write an article about sexism in gaming and found she couldn’t shut up about it once the article was done. She’s since started Go Make Me a Sandwich, a blog mostly devoted to ranting about sexist imagery in all areas of gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, she is an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while, ever since a previous post in which my brother and I performed a silly experiment to see if a pose depicted in a LoL wallpaper was possible. (It is, but only if you have double-jointed shoulders.)

Anyway, I got curious about the design of other female characters and went looking to see how the awful design of Soraka compared to other female LoL characters since there have been repeated comments on this blog that LoL is not “as bad” as a lot of the other stuff I lampoon here. And the results… let’s just say that yes. Yes it really is “as bad”.

The fail

(Disclaimer:  I got all of these from a list of LoL characters found on GiantBomb, so if any of my information is wrong I blame them. My only exposure to LoL is having watched my brother play a match one time, so I can’t say I’m too conversant with the game.)

First of all, the most important bit of fail worth mentioning is that out of the 79 champions that you can choose to play, less than a third are humanoid females. (I’m not including champions like Anivia, btw. Being a giant bird doesn’t count in my books.) Now that ratio, while disappointing, isn’t out of line with the typical representation that women can expect in most other video games, so I might not be so annoyed if there were at least a good variety of designs. Only, there’s really not. Female LoL champions tend to come in one flavor: breastacular. In fact, there were so many fail-worthy characters that I had to split them into two images:

Scantily clad female League of Legends champions. TOP: Soraka, Sona, Sivir, Nidalee, Katarina BOTTOM: Akali, Morgana, Miss Fortune, Leona, Leblanc

Click for large view

EVEN MORE scantily clad LoL women: Evelynn, Cassiopeia, Janna, Caitlyn, Ashe

So… many… sphere boobs… I mean, pretty much any one of these images wouldn’t be out of place on Boobs Don’t Work That Way, but some of them are especially egregious. Katarina and Morgana are pretty good examples of basketball-pinned-to-the-chest syndrome, Evelynn is a prime example of anti-gravity breasts, and Ashe… I don’t know what the fuck is going on there. Not only are they impossibly huge and gravity defying, but they’re also kind of pointy, which is just baffling.

The other thing that really stands out to me when I look at these character designs is how incredibly unoriginal they are. Soraka is just a boobular draenai with a horn, Nidalee is a rip-off of Pathfinder’s iconic sorceress Seoni, Leona looks like female warriors from just about every kMMO ever, and Evelynn is a total Starfire knockoff. She even has red hair!

I have to say that the lack of originality is another mark against the character designs. I mean, come on guys. If you’re going to have ridiculously fanservice-y designs, can you at least manage not to completely phone it in on the design process? Then again, when you ask LoL players what they think about boobs, these are some of the thought-provoking responses you get:

We need moar boobs. (comment here)

Too many boobs? I dont see why anyone would say that. There are only 2 boobs per female champ (comment here)

Complaining about boobs? Lol community is full of homos? (comment here)

…so really, maybe they don’t need to try all that hard. After all, it doesn’t sound like they have a particularly high-brow audience.


The meh

Thankfully, not all of the characters are as eye-searingly awful as the above. Some of them only cause mild aggravation rather than mouth-foaming rage and the desire to hit things:

LEFT: Vayne - a woman clad mostly in black spandex and stiletto-heeled stripper boots. RIGHT: Orianna - a female robot with pointy robo-boobs and a mechanical micro-miniskirt.

Yes, Vayne is wearing almost nothing but spandex, but at least her skin is mostly covered. And yes Orianna has kind of freakily pointy boobs and an absurdly short “robo skirt”, but at least they’re mildly less sexualized than some of their compatriots. Still, putting these on the “meh” list makes me feel a little dirty since Vayne is wearing stilettos for gods sake and with Orianna we’re getting ROBOT UPSKIRT which is about fifteen different kinds of stupid.

I mean, give me a fucking break


Mixed bags: awesome characters, except for how they’re not

Some of the female champions are interesting in that they manage to have one good skin and one (or more) really awful one. Case in point, Irelia:

Three designs for the character Irelia. The designs on the left and right have her mostly covered in light armor, albeit with substantial cleavage windows. The middle design has her completely covered in clothing (not armor) much more suitable to adventuring.

Now granted, even Irelia’s cleavagey outfits are still much, much better than other female champions. Unlike Leona, another “heavily armored” female champion, Irelia is at least wearing pants in all of her various looks! Still, two of these three outfits have inexplicable cleavage windows, which is – in my books – about the worst sin that can be committed in female character design for heavily armored characters. Honestly, it’s better to lose the armor altogether than to have armor that is only meant to accentuate the boobage.

Now the design in the middle would still be better if her waist wasn’t so impossibly tiny. Unless she’s got some kind of freaky chest-TARDIS, there’s no way she’s got room for organs in there. But compared to the vast amounts of fail the rest of the female champions display, I’m more than happy to give the middle Irelia a thumbs up, albeit with a small eye-roll for bad anatomy.

Three designs for the character Lux. The designs on the left and in the middle both expose her midriff and most of her thighs; the skirts especially are ludicrously short in front. The design on the right has her fully covered with armor covering her torso, shoulders, arms, hips, and lower legs and with no exposed skin.

Lux is another great example of a character where one of the skins is so very, very goodand the other is… not. Both of the designs on the left feature stupid poses, weird color choices, and yet more terrible anatomy. Guys, please. If you’re going to draw fanservicey outfits, please make sure you have the basics of female anatomy down, okay? Because when I put the two designs on the left next to the one on the right, they just plain suck.

Now, yes, the design on the right does have problems – the armor does accentuate the boobs at the cost of actual structural integrity. But she’s actually fully covered, and more importantly – has an actual waist. Her figure in this one reads as “athletic” and not “weirdly inhuman”. Even better, her pose looks more like an action pose and less like a “sexy pinup pose” like the other two designs. So, thumbs up. This is even better than the non-sexy Irelia.

 Two designs for the character Karma - a black woman. LEFT: She is twisted into a "sexy" pose, but her costume covers her completely and doesn't have any random holes. RIGHT: Her costume exposes almost her entire torso and just barely covers her breasts. Again, she is in a contorted pose.

I have mixed feelings about comparing these two designs for Karma, another magic-wielding character. On the one hand we have yet another mage with lots of skin. On the other hand, it looks like they were trying to model her costume after some specific cultural roots. Considering the sorts of outfits one often sees at Caribana in Toronto, I half think that the design on the right might not be quite as bad as some of the others.

Then again, context is important. If there was a decent mix of sexualized and non-sexualized women, I might be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, considering that boobular has been the overwhelming choice for the design of female LoL champions, I’m going to say that this has less to do with “cultural costume” and more with the artists wanting a “different flavor” of sexy.

Two designs for the character Annie - an 8 or 9 year old girl. LEFT: Annie is wearing a pageant gown, tons of makeup, and has a clear suggestion of breasts. RIGHT: Just your average evil Red Riding Hood skipping through the forest. Nothing to see here.

Annie has come up in the comments before on this blog, but I thought I’d post her two designs side by side. The design on the right is fine. Evil little girls are the stuff horror films are made of. The Annie on the left? Is wrong, wrong, WRONG. Don’t put boobs on little girls ever. Ever. EVAR.

Yes some girls develop early, but she’s, like, 8 or 9. That’s just gross.


The win

 Tristana, Poppy, and Kayle. Tristana and Poppy are both heavily armored, cocky-looking gnome women full of attitude and character. Kayle is a heavily armored Paladin-type with huge armor very reminiscent of a fantasy Samus. Her helmet is off, revealing long flowing blond hair.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that two out of the three totally awesome characters I found are gnome-types. I almost didn’t include Tristana and Poppy because they do look less human than even the WoW gnomes, but I did finally decide that they made the cut, if only because they look totally confident and totally badass. Also, it’s a relief not to see cleavagey armor like you see on WoW gnomes all the time; given that gnomish proportions are pretty much identical to human toddlers, I don’t want to see cleavage on a gnome EVER. So thanks for not inflicting that on us, at least.

That leaves us with Kayle who is, oh my god, one of my new favorite character designs EVAR EVAR EVAR. Can I talk about how much I love her breastplate? It allows room for breasts without having structurally unsound boob compartments like Lux’s armor. Plus it’s super bulky, much like the armor you see male WoW characters wearing. The fact that it hasn’t been slimmed down or de-bulked to suit a female character is completely awesome. And best of all, Kayle’s alternate design is also completely badass.

THIS. OH MY GOD THIS.

Seeing Kayle next to all of these other wannabes makes me so sad, because if characters like Kayle were the norm in gaming, you’d definitely see a lot more women joining the hobby. Kayle gets to be awesome, confident, badass, and female without being on display for anyone’s benefit. It makes my heart happy that LoL broke with the trend when they made her, and I hope that they’ll consider at the very least creating alternate looks for their older characters that emulate this non-sexualized mode of design. Until that happens, though, while I’m happy to say that Kayle is full of win, she doesn’t obviate the fact that LoL has so much gender fail that it practically has its own gravitational pull.

[Originally posted at Go Make Me a Sandwich]