Black by Popular Demand – Activist by Choice

Gender Representation in League of Legends

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to just pick a topic and riff off of it, but now that I’ve got almost 10 days until the next LCS game, I’ve decided to hit on a few topics I’ve had on the backburner.

The first is the different representation of male and female champions in League of Legends. Strap in and get ready for a wild ride!

Oh hey! And join the discussion on Riot’s GD forums to see if we can get some Rioter attention!

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way female characters are presented in League of Legends. Of course, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way female characters are presented in most computer/video games, most fantasy, and indeed, most media in general.

So you should — with the knowledge that I’ve invested many hours of my life and career into League of Legends — see this not as a condemnation of Riot Games, but of our culture, with notes as to how Riot can break out of this bubble and be innovators in gender presentation as they have been in all other aspects of game design.

We can see at least some of those problems by looking at the champions in League of Legends, and the skins available to them. I’m about to present a mountain of data, and I implore you to read it all. But if you want to read my conclusions first, before you do so, you can skip straight there.

Data

First, I divided all champions into three groups. I am following in the methodology of another poster, although I hope to expand on their methods, provide more precise definitions, work within the context of a long-time League of Legends player, and expand their data to recent champion releases.

Human or Not?

The first group is simple to explain: humanoid. I won’t bother to define humanoid, but instead shall define the two non-human groups.

Cute champions.

Cute

These champions have extremely small bodies and extremely large heads. Some of these are humanoid, but are children. Others are cute races, like yordles. Typically, their bodies are divided into three approximately evenly sized parts: an oversized head, a torso, and legs. Their facial figures are exaggerated for cuteness, with either wide faces, large mouths, large eyes, large ears, or some combination thereof.

Cute-Proportions

Monstrous

Monstrous champions are — well — monstrous. I struggled with how to categorize monstrous champions. At first, I thought it was simple: they were the champions who were neither humanoid nor cute. Like Anivia!

Unfortunately, not all examples are so clear cut. Why, for example, did I want to count Maokai and Malphite as monstrous but Brand or Aatrox as  humanoid? In fact, my aforementioned predecessor had chosen to simply say that anything with body modifications or not made of flesh was monstrous, a notion I rejected.

Malphite has an underbite and Maokai's mouth literally goes ear-to-ear.

Malphite has a massive underbite                          Maokai’s mouth literally goes ear-to-ear.

Ultimately, with some help from friends, I decided to focus on faces. Monstrous champions all lack normal face proportions. Either their heads are far too large or small, or — more common — some part of their face simply is not human. Whether that be because they are non-human, or simply distorted out of proportion, this excludes the gamut of furry champions, as well as a few champions you might be tempted to see as humanoid, Dr. Mundo included.

And what numbers did I get?

Pie-All

Total: 118 – 78 Male (66%); 40 Female (34%)
Cute: 14 (12%) – 10 Male (9%); 4 Female (3%)Monstrous: 36 (31%) – 34 Male (29%); 2 Female (2%)
Humanoid: 67 (57%) – 33 Male (28%); 34 Female (29%)
Nunu: 1 – Humanoid? Cute? I couldn’t really make a decision. I feel like he should probably be in Cute, and we can discard Willump as like Sejuani’s boar.

It was fully a year before I realized that Nunu was riding the Yeti, and not the Yeti himself.

It was fully a year before I realized that Nunu was riding the Yeti, and not the Yeti himself.

What struck me as most interesting when I was going through the list of champions was how many I didn’t know the genders of with 100% certainty: Blitzcrank, Fiddlesticks, Galio, Kog’Maw, Malphite, Maokai. I checked their bios to make sure, and indeed, they were male. As well, Cho (Gentleman skin aside), Galio, Karthus, Nautilus, Nocturne, Rammus, Skarner, and Xerath could all easily be female. I don’t mean that their characters could have been designed female. I mean that, had I gone to their bios and seen “she”, I wouldn’t have thought “typo” (as I might about, say, Darius or Garen), I would have thought “didn’t see that coming”.

This is — I think — what creates the perception that the genders are ‘even’ in League of Legends. When it comes to humanoids, that is certainly true. It is just that all of the non-gendered champions are, by default, male. On the  other hand, when you have a female champion who could be monstrous, like Elise, she is very clearly female. If Elise’s bio said “he”, I’d think “typo”.

Seriously, what fan base is this service to? Who wants "sexy" and "spider" associated in their brains?

Seriously, what fan base is this service to? Who wants “sexy” and “spider” associated in their brains?

So basically, you have a 50/50 split between male and female champions, unless they’re non-human, in which case they’re mostly (88%) male by default.

Surprisingly, I came away from this data feeling somewhat good about Riot. An equal number of humanoid men and women is actually staggeringly notable in the field of fantasy.

Ever heard of the Smurfette Principle? Basically, it says that most casts will have a lots of different characters: the funny guy, the smart guy, the annoying guy, the single guy, the sneaky guy, the woman. Notice the difference? The guys have adjectives that make them different; the woman is different by virtue of being a woman.

Smart Smurf, Hungry Smurf, Romantic Smurf, Old Smurf, Young Smurf, Funny Smurf, Derpy Smurf, Musical Smurf, and…Lady Smurf

That is to say, you can vary personalities all you want amongst male characters, then add in a woman to round them out. You can read more about why this is problematic in this NY Times article; I don’t really want to get into it here.

By and large, Riot avoids the Smurfette Principle. But arguably where it matters most, the Monstrous champions (those champions who are the most different from normal), male characters are given all of the divergence from ‘normal’. What are the two exceptions?

  1. Anivia – the most boring champion to ever boring in Boring of Borings.
  2. Orianna – who is a robot girl built as a copy of a real girl, and is so like a humanoid champion that I almost put her in humanoid except…she’s cut in half.

This isn’t a new concern to voice; people have been asking for female monstrous champions for ages. The real issue is that Riot thinks they have produced female monstrous champions.

Now, you may argue that I’m being unfair in excluding Soraka or Cassiopeia, but you’ll notice that I’ve been pretty consistent in excluding Aatrox as well. When it comes to male champions, Riot has put out some seriously monstrous (and I mean that in a complimentary way) champions, like Urgot or Trundle. But when it comes to female champions, the ‘monstrous’ champions more resemble ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes than monsters.

Better hope you don't order the wrong Ninja Turtles costume!

Better hope you don’t order the wrong Ninja Turtles costume…

Suggestion #1 – Female Monsters

There’s an easy solution for Riot. Next time you release a genderless champion — a water elemental, for example — make it a lady water elemental, give it lady voicing, and for the love of god don’t give it breasts because it is a water elemental and why does it need to suckle young like a mammal?

Even cooler (Riot, you can hire me for this champion), why not make a cool Void champion that has two heads, is genderless, and speaks with two voices (one male, one female). Sometimes, you can have them talk separately, but you can also have them talk together for a cool blended effect! Call it Kor’Nath, the Progenitor of the Void. Ok, but that’s all you get for free! (No really, I even have a kit written up for them. You know how to reach me; I’m already working for you!)

Revealing Skin(s)

The second area in which female skins vary wildly from male skins is in the amount of skin per skin. For now, we’ll only be looking at humanoid champions. The cute champions are almost entirely clothed all the time, so we can exclude them, and the monstrous champions don’t need clothing because they’re…monstrous.

To give a strict definition, I’ll be calling a skin revealing if the torso below the armpits or the legs above the mid-thigh are revealed. I acknowledge that this is a general rubric and not a hard rule, of course. After all, Blood Moon Akali is technically revealing according to my definition, but I think we can mostly agree that it’s a pretty classy skin:

Blood-Moon-Akali

We have 33 male champions and 34 female champions, so we barely need to worry about equalizing percentages.

Firsts, looking at the base skins, 12 of the male champions (36%) have a revealing base skin, while 23 of the female champions (68%) have a revealing base skin.

And while there are 15 male champions (45%) who have no revealing skins, only 2 of the 34 female champions (a mere 6%), Kayle and Quinn, have no revealing skins.

On the other hand, there are 15 female champions (44%) who have no skins that aren’t revealing. Male champions who fit that bill? Not a single one.

Gentleman Gustaf, what are you, some kind of prude? There’s nothing wrong with partial nudity in a game!

Hey, I’m totally with you there! Like I said above, I think there is a way to handle partial (or even mostly) nudity in a way that is classy, not just fan service, and contributes to the quality of the game.

Jinx is one of my favorite characters. Is she well over 50% naked? Sure. But what Jinx cares about isn't being sexy, it's BLOWING SHIT UP. If you haven't already, check out her release video and tell me you're not in love with the character!

Jinx is one of my favorite characters. Is she well over 50% naked? Sure. But what Jinx cares about isn’t being sexy, it’s BLOWING SHIT UP. If you haven’t already, check out her release video (Get Jinxed!) and tell me you’re not in love with the character!

Nor am I trying to make some argument that women shouldn’t be wearing revealing clothing in a way that’s intended to be sexy.  There’s a time and a place for those characters, too! Take Ahri, for example:

Ahri

Ahri, as a character, is supposed to be foxy and sexy. One of her ability is literally called Charm. The description? Ahri blows a kiss…the first enemy it hits…is charmed, forcing them to walk harmlessly towards Ahri. She is literally a fox lady! Everything about her character says sexy, sultry seductress who will turn around and kill you. I think there is definitely a place in the game for characters like Ahri.

And you know what, there’s even room for characters whose characterization isn’t based around sex appeal to still be presented attractively. Me? If I were a video game character, my skins would be me:

  1. In my pajamas watching LoL and writing an article at the same time.
  2. Cooking something delicious
  3. Reading or writing fantasy/sci-fi
  4. Cuddling the ladyfriend
You think I just took this picture candidly? Please. I took maybe 10 shots before I had one I liked!

You think I just took this picture candidly? Please. I took maybe 10 shots before I had one I liked! And if I could have somebody photoshop a less fake smile on, I would!

But then again, I work out and eat right. And when I do go out? I like to class it up. The amount of days I leave the house for anything other than the market in anything less than a three-piece suit? Limited. The amount of days I leave the house without a waistcoat on? Please. If I leave the house in a t-shirt? You bet your ass it’s fitted.

But nobody says “Hey, Gustaf, you’re not a model, why are you trying to look good?”

Everybody — ok, most people — want to look sexy. There’s a time and a place for that.

That time and place just isn’t almost every female champion in the game.

Unfortunately, the data above shows that it is almost every female champion in the game.

As a follow-up, we should also note that ‘revealing’ often doesn’t mean sexy for the male champions. Let’s take a look at the  ‘revealing’ male skins; we’re not exactly talking about beefcakes here:

Sexy

Of course, as far as ‘sexy’ goes, your mileage may vary, so let’s leave such a subjective analysis out of the crux of this article.

As well, the ‘revealing’ skins for men almost all reveal some part of the chest. This is about the only sexy skin that reveals a male champion’s legs above the knee:

I made a joke above about Halloween costumes, but it is in the themed skins where we see the biggest difference between the male and female champions.

When a male champion gets a theme costume, they’re relatively serious and impersonate the role they take. When a female champion gets a theme costume? Look for yourself. Let’s take, for example, Doctor Shen and Nurse Akali.

Doctors

In this case (and many more like it), the message is clear: men are there to do things; women are there to be looked at.

Suggestion #2 – Skin Variety

111 of the 152 female skins (73%) are revealing, while 35 of the 134 male skins (26%) are revealing. That’s basically an inverse value. Only 2 female champions aren’t ready to strip down. Make some badass fully clothed (maybe even armored) female champions. And then, 6 months down the line, when you feel the urge to make a skin of them half-naked, just don’t. Instead, give us a sexy shirtless Jayce. Malzahar, too. Oh, and Vladimir. Riot pls ; )

(note: the below picture is fan-art)

Can’t Touch This indeed… Credit to sargent94

Champions like Varus, Aatrox, Leona, Diana, and Vi are all great starts. But instead of making exceptions, start setting your own trends.

Of course, it’s not just clothing that sends the message that women are eye candy, but also the positions champions are put into:

Being Sexy vs Modelling Sexy

Now, I’m not saying that revealing = sexy. Nor am I saying that the female champions are attractive and the male champions are dumpy. But the female champions — by and large — have skins that are about sexiness. The male champions on the other hand, may happen to be sexy, but it is rarely the focus of what they are doing.

Broke(n) Back Mountain

The easiest way to see that is from the poses. Let’s be real. If League of Legends were real life, half of the female champions would have severe scoliosis, and the other half have literally broken their spines. Let’s take Miss Fortune as our example:

MF-Spine

Before I talk about spines, let’s talk about the skin second to the right. I’m going to call this the “chest + butt” pose, because its purpose is…well, to showcase the character’s front and back. Given the 180 degree rotation between the two, this can create a logistical problem.

But on to the more serious issue: in the first 5 skins, her spine ranges from ‘that’s mildly uncomfortable’ to ‘seriously, how are you not yet dead?’

But Gentleman Gustaf, you’re not a spine expert, how do you know how bodies work?

You’re actually right on this one. I’m so used to seeing women posed in ads or billboards in ridiculous positions with half of their chest photoshopped out that my judgement was horribly wrong. So I called in two friends of mine with a lot of experience drawing the human body to second-guess me.

And what did they do? I categorized each skin as “That pose is totally manageable”, “That pose is uncomfortable looking, but I bet it’s possible”, or “Dear gods, what am I looking at?”

Rarely did they disagree with me when I said “Dear gods, what am I looking at?” For example, we all agreed that Soraka has clearly just suffered an spine-shattering fall:

OUCH

But almost every time I said “that looks uncomfortable, but I’ll bet it’s possible”, they turned, looked me dead in the eyes, and said “show me”. In the now four days since then I’ve had constant pain in my everything. My back feels like an elephant stepped on me repeatedly. But if you don’t believe me, ask this contortionist martial artist who has written on the same topic. But feel free to try it. Go ahead and photograph yourself mimicking the following 10 champion skins and submit that as a comment:

Again, this is not a female-only thing, but it is certainly a predominantly female thing. Aatrox, after all, is definitely giving us a little bit of the stock chest + butt pose:

How do we see both his chest AND his back?

How do we see both his chest AND his back?

Come on Gentleman Gustaf, I’d like to see you draw better!

Take note; I’m not criticizing the Riot artists for being unable to draw. Sometimes, you want a character in a certain pose, but you also want that character’s face visible. So you cheat a bit with perspective, you shave a bit here and there, and you bend your character just a bit to make the picture work. And in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with that! But it can be overdone, both in degree and in quantity.

To give an example, here is a side-by-side of how Lux looks, vs a re-worked version of Lux for less broken spine, courtesy of Escher Girls:

Luxes

When you see the following data, you should know that anything that I did not always disagree with my friends. If I couldn’t manage a position, but it was close, I let it slide anyway. Only things I upgraded to “that champion literally does not fit together/is dead” got counted as “awkward pose”.

32 champions in total were posed in a ridiculous fashion, and of those 32, 27 were female, and 5 were male. And the male characters were a real stretch. Aside from the already mentioned Aatrox, here is the worst offenders:

This may not look horrible, but consider the following. Master Yi’s sword is spinning (implying that his torso probably was spinning the same way somewhat). His legs, on the other hand, were rooted. He’s already got a bit of chest + butt going on, so imagine where his torso must have been oriented before that!

But there’s still a difference in presentation. The point of the Master Yi skin is to point out his awesomeness: check out how he spins his sword fast! The point of most of the poses of the female champions is to point out their sexiness: check out how sexy I am!

To give some data to this point, let’s narrow our search to champions who are both posed and revealingly dressed in the same skin. This leaves us with 23 of our 34 female champions vs 2 of our 33 male champions. Mostly, the men are posed to be cool, while the women are posed to be sexy.

In Riot’s defense, they actually have a decent lineup of male champions designed to be sexy:

Surf's up, ladies!

Surf’s up, ladies!

But with exception of Aatrox and Varus, the male champions are not trying to be sexy, they just are. Ok. They’re trying a little bit. I can totally see Graves sucking it in and walking with his shoulders back. But if that’s trying, what is this?

Now, I feel that I need to reiterate my thesis to make sure that the point is not lost at this point: I do not object to sexy skins or champions. What I object to is the huge dichotomy of variety. Male champions exist in all varieties: macho, boyish, lithe, muscled, sexy, and monstrous. Female champions basically have thin and sexy.

Suggestion #3 – Stop Trying so Hard

You have a great team of artists. Look at Iron Stylus being an excited fucking geek about the sword of one of the coolest champions in League of Legends (designed by him, no less). If I didn’t want to work at Riot Games already, I would want to just to meet Iron Stylus. Let’s not mention the wonderful champion designers you have. So trust their characters. We were compelled by Diana when she looked like this:

She’s a sexy, dark, powerful, scary badass with an underexplored storyline. And then we get this:

This skin has potential; it highlights her massive changes from her past in ways that a story could not. But it does that whether or not she’s arching her back impossibly.

Everybody trusts Riot’s ability to make new champions, develop characters and storylines, and tell stories with skins. Y’all are badasses. So rest on that, on the variety of stories you can tell, not on chest + butt poses.

Body Types

On the note of variety, on the male side, I count at least 5 types of bodies, with examples:

  • Barrel-Chested – Garen/Darius
  • Bodybuilder – Olaf
  • Buff – Draven/Lee Sin
  • Fat – Gragas
  • Lithe – Varus
  • Thin – Ezreal/Singed/Master Yi (look at those arms/legs)

As for the women? Mostly thin with maybe a few lithe champions (Ashe in a few skins). Even champions you’d expect to be buff like Leona or Riven manage to look like they could belong on a runway with a quick change.

Oh, and what is this? Stop doing this! It looks like Warwick got hungry and has been taking bites out of your female champions’ sides!

We said you could keep him only if you fed him!

We said you could keep him only if you fed him! We didn’t mean off of the female champions!

We get it, they’re thin. But that’s not thin, that’s “missing space for internal stomach organs”!

Suggestion #4 – Establish Your Own Archetypes

Riot really had a chance to break new ground in the representation of women in games with Diana and Leona. You already have the sexy/lithe male archetype with Varus/Aatrox.

You could have embraced the physically strong woman archetype with Diana and Leona. Unfortunately, they ended up with the same sort of stick figure bodies every other female champion has.

And that’s ok. Who am I to tell you how Diana or Leona should look? Those are your ideas, not mine. But the idea for a stronger looking, fuller, more buff female character? That can be your idea too. You only have to embrace it.

Game of Thrones did it, and they’re about as successful as fantasy gets.

Who Cares?

Why does this matter? Because media shapes the way we see the world. Because maybe this is the reason there are  so many fewer female League of Legends players. Because it’s real life, flesh and blood sports that are constrained by the old notions of male competitors and female cheerleaders. Fantasy is about imagining new and better things, and breaking the way we see the world.

Progress from Criticism

I truly think Riot Games has reinvented the gaming industry in so many ways with League of Legends, enough that I’ve devoted part of my career and so much of my life to it.

League of Legends is a fantastic game, in many aspects. It is the best esport in the world. Riot is the best company when it comes to listening to its customers (in my opinion). They have pioneered whole new methods of dealing with toxic players. And now Riot has a chance to blaze the trail when it comes to handling gender in a unique, progressive, and wholly modern fashion.

They’ve even made progress thus far. A quick trend line (the least useful statistical method of analysis ever) shows that the proportion of female skins that are revealing is down from 80% at the beginning of LoL to 60% now, although back-breaking poses are up from 25% to 50%… As for dudes? They strip down 30% of the time now, as opposed to 20% on release, and they even have an increase from almost no posing to 15% or so!

Overall


So what can we get from this all?

Gentleman Gustaf, I guess you want to do away with all the sexy women in League of Legends. They should all be monsters instead.

Look, I like attractive women. The pursuit, wooing, and further romancing of attractive women has not only historically been a major part of my life, but is also a significant part of my social and biological imperative.

But attractive female characters are even more compelling when they’re not trying to be attractive. So you can have your overly sexualized female champions (male versions: Aatrox/Jayce/Varus/Pool Party Lee Sin), but next to them, you can have attractive champions who aren’t trying to be sexy (male versions: every other Lee Sin Skin). You can even have *gasp* conventionally unsexy female champions (male versions: Gragas and most monstrous champions).

And don’t give me that “it’s a game, it’s about fantasy” line. First, we have to consider whose fantasy it is: the male champions are designed as somebody you might want to be, while the female champions are designed as somebody you might want to look at.

There are lots of fantasies, and I grant that some of them are about attractiveness. Sometimes I just want to be a hideous troll bashing people with a club. Sometimes I want to play Draven, and nobody thinks that facial hair is attractive. I’m not even really saying “make some unattractive champions”, although I don’t think it would kill you. I’m just saying that every female champion doesn’t need to be look more concerned with the observer than what it is she’s fighting.

Check out this difference. Lee Sin looks cool; he definitely looks sexy. But his sexiness comes from the fact that he’s physically fit and in a fighting stance. You know how I know that? Because it’s the same whether he’s wearing a shirt or not:

LeeSins

Lee Sin is an attractive badass who will fuck you up if you mess with him. And you know what? Sometimes he likes to go down to the pool, flex his muscles, and …tickle the chin of that female champion next to him… if that’s what he’s into.

But in League of Legends, female champions don’t really get a choice. Fiora, the Master Duelist, is the best fencer in all the land. Surely she gets a cool fighting pose?

I give up...

I give up…

Diana and Leona and Jinx and Quinn and Riven  and and Sejuani Shyvana and Vayne and Vi are all super well-designed champions (I don’t see it as a coincidence that IronStylus worked on Diana, Leona, Quinn, and Sejuani’s rework). They’re badass, they’re sexy, they’re cool, and they have distinct personalities. But making them preen doesn’t improve their characters; in fact, it can diminish them by masking the elements of their character that define them.

And you know what, Ahri is a super cool champion too. She’s all sexy and seductive and that is her character. And it almost doesn’t register, because your brain is all “so what, every female character is sexy and seductive”.

All the variety that goes into your male champions’ art? Just send some of that over to the female champions! Because variety in champions actually serves to make your unusual characters stand out even more because they don’t play by the rules of the other characters.

It’s really a simple thing to improve on, and what I’ve written is anything but simple, so here’s a restatement of my points:

  1. Diversify monsters: make some truly monstrous champions that are female. I’m sure your community (not to mention your already employed concept designers) have plenty of ideas for that.
  2. Change what “revealing” means. Make more revealing skins for male champions, and allow some female champions to go without revealing skins.
  3. Change what “sexy” means. The variety in male champions shows you understand this distinction. Some champions are sexy because they’re trying to be sexy. Some champions are just inherently sexy, but it isn’t their main attribute. Allow more female champions to fall into that camp: let them be sexy without forcing sexy.
  4. Let your creations speak for themselves. Don’t overstate something when subtlety will do, because it adds depth to the overall presentation.

Oh, and if you skipped the data for the conclusion, click here to hop back up to the data!

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Categorised in: Blog, Creative Design, Game Design, League of Legends

55 Responses »

  1. I think the whole broken back phenomenon is just the heavy anime influence on the game especially the art style. Anime is very popular, and I certainly watch more than my fair share of it. All of my league of legends friends watch anime as well including the Australian ones. I am sure loads of league of legends players watch at least some anime judging by some of the bishonen taric fan art or tsundere lux memes that come about. Mordekaiser actually got his concept and some of his name from the Mazinkaiser anime. We talk about anime’s we’ve seen and the next anime we are going to watch during loading screens, so Miss Fortune’s body being in an unrealistic position is no big deal.because we just watched Asuna from Sword art online do the same thing for 25 episodes.

    Like

    • Mordekaiser just comes from Latin:

      Morde – Death
      Kaiser – Caesar as in Julius Caesar.

      Besides, he’s basically just Sauron :p

      Like

      • That is what I thought too, but Ezreal actually told the story where the name came from in a thread. http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?p=32977837#32977837

        Originally Posted by EpikMagikarp View Post
        Hey Ezreal! It was really nice meeting you at the S2 Finals and I wanted to say thanks again for the Riot Graves code! Really appreciated the fact that you (and I think he said he was Jestercapp?) waited all that time to accompany that group of people at the swagbag line from beginning to end (that line was ridiculous btw :P). Was mind-blown to find out that Mordekaiser was named after that girl you waited in line with, care to go more in-depth? 😛
        Haha, that was a ton of fun, and a really long conversation.

        “As for the Mordekaiser story…well…it’s actually pretty simple. My girlfriend’s name on AIM (Aol Instant Messanger) has been Mordekaiser ever since she was 10. It was pretty much the easiest character to name that we’ve ever had. I mean, come on, how badass is that name?”

        His background on lolwiki used to say that his girlfriend was a big fan of the Mazinkaiser anime, but that got taken down so i’m not so sure about that anymore.

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        • that doesn’t mean it’s not the meaning of the name. Even there, the name Mazinkaiser comes from Mazinger (one of the words for mecha in that series) and kaiser, because it covers one of the greatest mazinger in the world.

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        • But I suppose that’s not really the point I should be making. That point is that being based on anime doesn’t make the art style less problematic any more than it would be less problematic to do a series ‘referencing’ blackface.

          Like

          • Anime is an art style where characters often do things that would be impossible for the human body. It seems to be a natural fit for League of Legends where champions do all sorts of impossible things. Drawing characters in impossible positions isn’t really a problem when that is your goal. Garen’s hands are bigger than his head for example, but it isn’t a problem, because he is supposed to be an over the top almost parody of a knight in shining armor. Katarina’s shunpo (a concept taken from anime specifically Bleach) has her covering distance literally in the blink of an eye. Obviously impossible for a human being to achieve. Champions are supposed to be inhuman or superhero like and they are drawn that way. Some people may say that female champions are too sexy which may have some merit, but it seems to be independent of female champions spinal columns being far more flexible than a real human spinal column.

            Sex positive feminism would also argue that judging women for being too sexy or putting limits on how sexy a woman can be is a major driving force for women being forced into a secondary or subservient role to men in today’s society.

            p.s. I love the new website.

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            • But nobody’s arguing for limits. Limits are not the same as adding appropriate variance in. It’s not “no sexiness”, it’s “value women by things other than (but also including) sexiness”.

              For some reason, people hear “every LoL champion is sexy and that’s a problem” and think “they’re trying to take all of the sexy champions away!” It’s the ubiquity and lack of variety that’s problematic.

              Like

              • I think people are going to naturally flanderize that argument. I just did it on accident and I am not sure why. Maybe people subconsciously just want to simplify it. Riot seems to be incapable so far of creating a female monstrous creature that isn’t a shape changer(Anivia exempted). Nidalee, Shyvana, and Elise all turn into unpleasant creatures, but they always turn back into their attractive (well elise pushes the definition of the word) human forms. Shape changers seem to be more work from a design perspective hence why they aren’t commonly created. I am not sure what a female monstrous creature would look like or if it would be well received though, so maybe Riot is nervous about taking a chance on an unattractive female monster. They were extremely adamant that Elise would not be a drider (human spider centaur) maybe they got some focus group data we didn’t?

                Like

  2. This is just pure bait, you’re just making up shit that suits your idea without looking at the whole picture.

    What you’re saying is you want less generically and stereotypical sexy female champions, but more generically stereotypical sexy male champions, I mean that doesn’t sound very one sided at all now does it? I mean it’s okay to be generically stereotypical sexy as long as you’re the minority right? that’s totally okay! Totally!

    As for you’re whole bit about the art, lemme explain something to you kid, in the world of fantasy art, there’s this thing called “exaggeration”
    It’s where you omit some tiny details for the sake of the flow and action of the picture., this is a very important thing to do with fantasy art, without it, you would have very flat and dull images, with little to no action in them.
    Once you stop confusing realism for fantasy, and actually take some time to learn all of the aspects of art, you’ll live a better life.

    Like

    • Gee, I dunno Dunked. He looks pretty happy to me. Are you sure your not projecting you man tears and butt hurt just a little bit? Good work Gustav. Expect plenty more of these elegantly articulated cogent thoughts should you wish to further explore sexism in gaming. You’re male though, so perhaps you’ll be spared the threats of rape. Here’s hoping for small miracles! 🙂

      Like

  3. Excellent write up! I would recommend them to draw from real models instead from comic book art – the broken spines are way too creepy.

    Like

  4. Thanks for your survey, I hope that Riot picks up some of your suggestions, I find them well thought and formulated.

    RunsWithBear (EUW)

    PS: +1 for reading Brandon Sanderson!

    Like

  5. I don’t think females are misrepresented in League of Legends. I think you’re simply looking too much into the splash art, it’s art! Focus more on the game and you’ll enjoy it more.

    Like

    • Dude, I’ve played over 5000 games over 4 years. I don’t think my problem is *not focusing on the game enough*. I enjoy the hell out of the game, or I wouldn’t keep playing it.

      You’re welcome to your opinion about representation, but I’ve got data, so I’ll stick with mine :p

      Like

  6. GG wants to see sexy men /thread

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  7. I love how people get all mad at Art from someones perspective of things then take it and make it negivite cause it isn’t somthing they want. someone took a lot of effort in making these splash arts and felt pretty good about it for them to be the final submission and your sitting here and saying your art sucks cause its too comic/anime style! how dare you make them look unrealistic when its a game thats fantasy. so stupid.

    Like

  8. “And while there are 15 male champions (45%) who have no revealing skins, only 2 of the 34 female champions (a mere 6%), Kayle and Quinn, have no revealing skins.”

    We got Woad Scout Quinn now. Looks like Riot disagrees.

    P.S.: Big fan, love your work!

    Like

  9. Was expecting a rant, got a really balanced and well thought out article. The female portraits have always seemed a bit off, but I never really examined them that way.

    “Stop telling women how they should dress!” 😛 – Good work though, a great read.

    Like

  10. Fantastic article, it’s great that you took the time to actually quantify the gender gap. I was personally really disappointed when Rivens Battle Bunny skin came out; I felt it’s so out of character for someone like her. Which is something that annoys me the most about female costume designs… is that ‘sexiness’ takes precedence over ‘practicality’ and it just looks silly. It can really ruin the atmosphere for me; I can’t really take a character like that seriously.
    It’s great that you highlighted the importance of media representation; it’s very difficult for women to gain self esteem and drive when we’re constantly portrayed as sexual objects.
    Anyway, thank-you 1000x times for writing this!

    Like

  11. I feel like another thing they don’t focus on enough is diversity of skin tones. I’m not an expert in LoL, but my sister, who’s a huge fan, once sat down with me to show me a few female champions that she loved, and most of everything I saw was “skinny white girl with long hair”. That’s it. When they weren’t white they had a skin of a different color, like blue or something, and I kept wondering why they didn’t have a single dark skinned, short and/or coarse haired girl. Sure, flowy, straight hair looks awesome in battle scenes, but it’s not that practical and it’s been done so much I’m kinda tired of it. It’s very upsetting to not see more diverse girls in games like LoL, where they have literally hundreds of characters to choose from. Sure someone in their creation team must’ve come up with a female character who’s a bit on the plumper side instead of the typical stick figure, and just the thought that they actually rejected the idea over something that’s more of the same makes me sad.

    But I 100% agree with your text, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one bothered by how they force most characters to be overly sexy or how they make all their body types to look almost exactly the same. Riot has a lot of potential and I hope that in the future they listen to their fans and step up to make a difference in the gaming community 🙂

    Like

  12. Riot did it! They will release a female monstrous champion in a few days/weeks. She’s called Rek’Sai and she’s a scary, human-devouring scorpion thing digging tunnels beneath the shurima desert:

    Now that’s awesome!

    Like

  13. you know, I play LoL now for a month and I had the same observation as you. All female characters with exceptions of clearly nonhuman and non-humanoid and not infantilized(like Annie or the yordles) champions are conventionally attractive even when not sexualized (like Kalista, Jinx, Leona, Diana etc) or they are really sexualized (like MF, Evelyn, Elise who also have the ugly implication of using theri sexuality as weapon to deceive men and this is their quality. Like MF isn’t good only because shes capable and intelligent, but because shes wearing impractical revealing clothes, has big tits and lets her ass and breasts waggle when strutting around.. Yeah, basically It says that her male victims are controlled by their dicks and Only GP is the one holding his libido in control and therefore eludes her (what basically says that shes not good enough without her sexuality/beauty)

    Well, from all the ladies who are badly clothed (Janna.. in fucking underwear? Shes inside a storm-.a metahuman mage still will freeze a bit when shes in her undies..) and How the fuck Morganas skirt doesn´t fall or gets snagged while shes sulks around I don’t really know… or Ashe who wears a mini-pencil-skirt IN FREEZING COLD (and her amethyst-skin has the worst breast I have even seen on a non-porn-game-model IN MY LIFE: They look like steel-wrecking-balls, someone please fix that, its preposterous..) Caitlyn has also just a mini-pencil-skirt on but at least a strange hat…and Evelyn,,well,s he looks like a domina. in almost all of her skins too.(I know of people who bought her heist-skin so that they don’t have to watch that train-wreck of a design.. although I like her idea, shes mysterious). Nidalee wears only underwear, but in a hot humid jungle ist something I could live with, if this underwear would look like fur-underwear underwear and not just showing a bit of sideass..And whoever designed LBs top has strange idea about natural behavior of cloth…because unless its glued to her or is made out of latex that would flap and flabber about and be annoying..
    even Shyvana has -for what reason? breast-like-protrusions and inexplicably, her scales form strange, underwear-shaped pattern on her very female-formed, therefore humanoid body..

    you have males of all ages except very young teens..
    Nunu is a child,, then Ezreal and Ekko are very young, then you have Varus, Lucian, Malzahar seems rather young so late 20 or maybe to early 30 for them. Then there are Vladimir and pantheon maybe, then the range 30-40 there is graves, Jayce, Jarvan, Olaf, TF and lee sin (who looks younger and less burnt than he should..) Victor and Zed both don’t have faces to really be able to say how old they are..after that 40+ would be master yi, Darius, Draven, graves to 50 and older would be Braum, Yorik, GP and swain the oldest “human” would be Zilean with maybe 60 to 65

    Ryze I cannot really fit in, the blue color makes that harder, but also maybe 40?

    women?
    dunno, the oldest in look might be Lissandra and Kalista, but none o then have wrinkles, all of them have the same weight-range (Jinx, Kalista
    are thinner but even Kayle and Leona who wear heavy armor show still the female “hourglass” figure and fucking breastplates with tits on it.. say bye bye to your sternum, Leona, no aura will save that)
    VI looks a bit grotesque because of her gauntlets, but she has still “armor” that shows her female form very clearly. All women have breasts, hips, long legs, they have even, symmetrical faces, none of them are considered ugly, no fattie like Gragas, no stocky figure like Yorik, Morde, Darius or Garen, no anthropomorphic animals like Nasus, Renekton, Volibear, Rengar or Warwick (nah, you have a bird.. and that we have also as man-see Swain -birdman) even the half-animal-half-humans are sexy, see like Cassiopeia who wears only a bikini and strange heard-garb because why not? or Elise who is basically sexy, skimpily dressed lady with a few spider-legs on her back e can easily ignore. Shyvana is also really pretty and has strangely formed scales,

    Rek´Sai and Anivia are basically the only nonhuman champions and both don’t really talk. (like bard, I suppose but bard HAS to be agender or polygender or genderless because they are an entity beyond human forms, so assigning a gender unto a cosmic force that just “is” is pretty.. well, okay, pretty human (see:concepts of god who are usually gendered)

    so we don´t have fat female characters like graggy,
    we don´t have bulky big female characters like Yorik, Garen or Darius,
    we don´t have old female characters (like Zilean, or just old looking beardy guys like Trynda or Olaf)
    we have 2 non-human monsters
    (in contrast to: all voidborn, Maokai, Malphite, Blitzcrank, (Alistair, Galio?), Tahm Kench, Bard, Rammus, Xerath, Nautilus, Fiddlesticks, maybe Trundle and Thresh)

    even the female anthropomorphic non-humans like Zyra, Lissandra, Ahri, Nami and Shyvana ** are really attractive or beautiful (compared to: Nasus, Rengar, Renekton, Azir, (Alistair, Galio?)twitch etc)l.
    We don´t have any ugly female monster-champions (like Sion, Urgot or Mundo)
    I really would like more. (I have ideas)

    And every.single.one-of-them.is.beautiful.
    I want ugly fat female heroes, old female heroes, maybe a female bear or lion without fucking tits (you can signify that in other ways, Its not as hard as it seems, yes, unless your users are without any knowledge of nature at all..)
    And I want genderless heroes or bigender heroes or inter or trans-hero.. I have ideas. Its not hard.

    Also I´d want more PoC (like we have.. Ekko, Karma (all other Ionians except Lee look very white.) Lucian and maybe Malzahar? If Riot gives Irelia and Akali a graphical overhaul, they should make them look more asian. I´d think that their fans would also love that.. And if they do another piltover-hero, make them maybe japanese, korean or chinese- looking- the connection to tech is there)
    Maybe a female champ thats less naked and has a headscarf?^^(yes, one is allowed to dream, yes?) (yes, I have ideas..)

    So I think i sat here for 2 hours, working in a language that’s not my own (so therefore I hope I didn’t make too much errors but there will be enough)

    This are just my thoughts as a female bodied queer and strange person who started the game about a month ago and really likes it (although its pretty complicated, the tutorials are so woefully inadequate (TELL PEOPLE TO DISABLE AUTO-ATTACK AFTER MOVING their CS will improve.) and the bots dodge like fucking challenger.players..)

    So, I like this game. I also even like sexy characters but I want more diversity for the female champions (btw.. the ONLY role with MORE female than male chaps is…yes? support.. Who would have thought..

    more hunky fat female bruisers and tanks please? (I have ideas ;> )

    so, now you have the knowledge that you are not alone in your assessment and know a bit about the picture this game sends to new female queery- nubs.

    _________

    *btw I really like Nami´s design, her eyes and the color, but still its well.. funny^^
    I also like sexy characters, But I´d like that her sexiness isn’t written as the sole weapon of choice to control dick-controlled men like well, MF and Ahri are built to do (at least)
    (btw 2, headmaster-Fiora is a really sexy skin and doesn´t show too much skin :] and I am happy about the graves and lee-sin skins.. A half naked T.F and Varus would be pretty rad too 🙂

    **(why do reptiles and FISHES need tits? Nami doesn’t seem to have primary genitalia, so WHY breasts, who also look like they would fall out of the undulating frills?*)

    Like

    • I must say that I believe this to have improved massively in recent years. Rek’Sai, Kalista, Jinx, Lissandra, Quinn, Vi, Nami, Elise, Syndra, Diana were the last 10 female champions.

      Unfortunately, there’s a long way to go, and with how few new champions are being released, it’s up to reworks to balance out representation.

      Still, I feel that Riot generally *gets* it.

      Like

    • illaoi prick.
      and your way of thoughts is so fucked up man.
      like somebody wants to see ugly women in game, like there are so little ugly women IRL. or ugly men. why aren’t you whining there are no ugly men in-game?
      it’s fucking game. everything must be beautiful.

      Like

    • also nami is mermaid and it’s conventional mermaids have tits. also probably he hides vagina somewhere. would you state fishes (or dolphins/whales) don’t have genitalia? how does hey reproduce.
      cassio is the reference to medusa gorgona which had tits too. and, as before, don’t tell me reptiles don’t reproduce.

      Like

    • You are reading too fucking far into this shit. It’s as simple as more men play league, so Riot can make more money off of men. Even in Counter-Strike, where everybody is a cube ffs, more men play. Riot is only doing what will make it money, and as for that, good for it.

      Like

      • also it’s simply looking good. beautiful/sexy/pretty women are admired by both sexes, but men usually don’t feel too excited about handsome guys in games. so why waste 50% of resources to satisfy 5% of audience if you can make those resources work to deliver twice more goodness to those 95%

        Like

  14. Just a question, how do you feel about the proportions of MF’s arcade skin? All my male friends say that her hip to waist ratio is soon natural and true. It’s disturbing how the images alter people’s perceptions of what is truly natural. There is absolutely no way her rob cage could hold her organs with that waist, let’s be honest.

    Like

  15. Hey! Just wanted to let you know I’m actually referencing this article in an academic paper as a pop culture source. It’s the best one I’ve read! You have some awesome points, and I just wanted to let you know, thought you maybe it would be cool to know people are writing on your things? I’m Making sure I reference you properly of course!
    Keep writing,
    Alicia

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I have always wanted to write an article on the depiction of female characters in League of Legends but this article is so damn good and thorough that I feel I have little to add.

    Recently Riot has gone through some changes in regards to the champions they create (maybe they have read this, too?), Illaoi sort of being the poster child for character diversity. (I actually squealed when she was released and although I hate the typical top lane champs I bught her, simply cause I loved the design so much.) Honestly, I hope she’s not just a fluke and Riot has actually become more open to releasing female champs that don’t look like barbie dolls. But the recent releases really give me hope.

    Now that I think about it, while you covered the majority of the issue, there are still some aspects left that deserve mentioning, so maybe I’ll get to write my article after all, with yours as a reference.

    Thank you for your work. I am so bookmarking this!

    Like

  17. I’m writing my senior thesis on gender representation in video games and this article is great! There are so many strong opinions on this topic, I was glad to find something so objective and level headed. Thanks!

    Like

  18. Thanks for the article, happy some else noticed too.

    Like

  19. lol fuck off you fucking feminazi

    Like

  20. it’s about “broken” backs, but let my touch “revealing” skins first.
    did you ever notice, female wardrobe IRL includes skirts, that are revealing a priori and male wardrobe doesn’t contain them? some stupid ass feminist may call it sexist but it’s not, it’s tradition. skirts just got shorter since the beginning of XX century.
    women’s wear also contain tops with revealed belly, tight pants and shorts, even t-shirts with cleavages. not because someone forces it, women just choose to wear it. because women’s bodies are often beautiful esthetically for both genders and men’s bodies are mostly may be admired by women. women’s wear is more revealing IRL and LoL’s champions characteristics is the exaggeration of every RL human characteristics, including image, style etc, that’s all.

    now about backs.
    the only character that has broken back is oriana. and TF in on of cinematics.
    other poses are easy to reproduce IRL. if you can’t, doesn’t mean nobody can
    the most poses you marked with red lines i can reproduce without any afford or pain. some with effort.
    all poses can be reproduced by ppl, more athletic than i am (and all LoL champions are athletic cuz they are running and fighting all the way)
    now look at this photos. if i were to draw red lines here.. you can do it yourself still.
    https://goo.gl/8ObzQe

    Like

  21. Hi, I am Mark. I am from Taiwan. Recently I have been involved in a facebook group called HeForShe in Taiwan. It’s about gender equality.
    May I quote this article for discussion between group members?

    Like

  22. While I think this is, on the whole, a well thought out and presented arguement, I have a couple qualms with it. First is the arguement that having champions like Elise be sexy is “weird” because she is also a spider. I think that the decision was up to the artist, and they made a very compelling champion out of the combination of sleek spider attributes mixed in with the sleek and beautiful nature of her human form. They could have made her more monstrous, but it would have given the skin a different personality. Another issue I have is with your interpretation of Fiora’s splash art. Whil her pose may be sexy, it comes from the same place as Lee Sin’s does. She is not scantily clad, she is dressed in an outfit of appropriate armor but also flexibility to be an excellent fencer. Her pose itself is that of a fencer at the ready, with another hand slinking back to her second blade if needed. It radiates poise and lethality, and it baffels me that you categorized it as you did, I think it is the epitome of the Lee Sin concept on a female figure. As I said before, this article had many good points such as Lux’s chiropractor disaster, but don’t reach when you don’t have to, it was plenty strong without those two examples and they don’t fit in with the overall point you are making. A champion that fit the monstrous role much better than Elise is Rek’Sai. I don’t think she was out when you did this article, but you can see how well she fit the role and how Riot is willing to branch out when they feel it will be a succesful champion.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Where Are The Warrior Women? | The Daily Geekette
  2. GUEST: Is League of Legends Unwelcoming to Women? | Girls in Capes
  3. Portrayal and Representation Issues : Quality of Life in the Videogame Industry
  4. Dustin Radloff
  5. An Insider’s Perspective on Sexism, Racism, and Homophobia in League of Legends | TheSmartWon Blog

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