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Ladies I have Loved

Ladies I Have Loved: Recent League Characters (Gendered Survey of League of Legends Champs Follow Up)

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Way back in August of 2014 I wrote an article that was a survey of League of Legends champions from a gendered perspective. Since then Riot has released some new characters that answer the critiques I made.

My other article ended with the desire to see more female champs that are non-humanoid, more humanoid champs of colour, less sexualized or fan-servicey skins, and more female Tanks and Fighters (and more male Supports).

Since August 2014 the following champions have been released:

Name Class 1 Class 2 Release Date Gender Non-White Human
Illaoi Fighter Tank 2015-11-24 F Y
Kindred Marksman N/A 2015-10-14 F/M N/A
Tahm Kench Support Tank 2015-07-09 M N/A
Ekko Assassin Fighter 2015-05-28 M Y
Bard Support Mage 2015-03-12 M N/A
Rek’Sai Fighter N/A 2014-12-11 F N/A
Kalista Marksman N/A 2014-11-20 F N/A
Azir Mage Marksman 2014-09-16 M N/A
Gnar Fighter Tank 2014-08-14 M N/A

Looking at the champions released since 2014, we can see a couple of interesting things.

On Gender

By adding 4 female characters, the ratio of female to male characters grew from 32.8% to 37%, but this is still a far cry from a 50% female champion pool that would be preferred. As well, these additions are  not happening at a rate that will create a champion pool that is 50% female any time soon.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 1.46.01 PM

Also, I would like to add a special nod here for Kindred who may possibly be the first intersex character. The character is actually a combination of two parts, the wolf and lamb, who have different genders. The character still falls into some sexist tropes where the lamb is female and the wolf is male and they are often considered two separate entities.

“Kindred is the white embrace of nothingness and the gnashing of teeth in the dark. Shepherd and the butcher, poet and the primitive, they are one and both.”

– League of Legends Wikia

However the part I want to address, and I’m not really sure whether to applaud or critique, is the fact that Riot used the pronoun “they” through the background article for Kindred on the League of Legends wikia, which is an accepted singular pronoun, but returned to using his or her when talking about the entities separately.

“Lamb’s silvered bow and her arrows will lay you down swiftly. If you refuse her, Wolf will join you for his merry hunt, where every chase runs to its brutal end.”

– League of Legends Wikia

I really, really, really want to see a game company do a gender fluid character without reverting to the crutch of gendering two separate parts, or chickening out  and not using “they” as a singular pronoun consistently.

On Race

Of the humanoid characters released, 100% are people of colour, which is a 100% increase to the existing champion pool. Previously, the only people of colour were, arguably, Lucian and Karma. This means that out of 67 human champions (from stats below + 2 new characters) only 0.03% are people of colour, and is only 0.03% of all champions.

 

Stats collected for my prior article:

My categories of human, humanoid, and other were based on my own subjective analysis of the characters bodies. I tried to approach it with some rubric, human is typical human proportions, with typical human limbs and facial structure. Humanoid were clearly non-human characters that had human face structure and characteristics (for example Nami the mermaid character) or characters that have compressed anatomy like Poppy, and Tristana. Other were characters whose anatomy is drawn directly from animals or other influences, this includes characters that are beastial or have gaseous bodies.”

 

Gender Human Humanoid Other
Female 31 6 1
Male 34 13 30

 

This is interesting because considering the UN’s prospects of world population distributions we can assume that the world is less than 30% white. As well, considering Riot games has offices in over 12 countries worldwide and players in even more, they are responsible for catering to a large and diverse fan base, so I think it’s really great that they are making an effort to increase the diversity in their human characters.

 

On Ekko and Illaoi

I want to acknowledge the characters that they have released, because I think they have done a really good job of creating an interesting foil to avoid stereotyping.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 1.42.10 PM

Ekko and Illaoi are both people of colour with almost contrasting beliefs, ideologies, and abilities. I will make a chart to illustrate:

Also a better shot of Illaoi is in game, because her splash art white-washed her. 🙁

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 1.42.44 PM

Champion Ekko Illaoi
Ability Source Science God
Physical Traits Small, quick Large, muscular, slow
Voice Over Topics Time, Trickery, Youth, Science Motion, Food, Chaos, Teaching lessons
Hometown The rough streetz of Zaun Buhru, Bilgewater (Island Nation)
First line of bio A prodigy from the rough streets of Zaun. Illaoi’s powerful physique is dwarfed only by her indomitable faith.
Accent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFY7Vp0KF9M https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPghBNPjZtU

 

I feel like these characters were made in direct opposition to each other, particularly because the influences are very different. I think that both are amazing additions to Riot’s champion line up and have deep complex backgrounds that many people with diverse backgrounds can relate to.

 

On Non-Humanoids (Rek’Sai the shark of my heart)

This. This is the 100% increase in non-humanoid females.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 1.43.36 PM

BUT I think Rek’Sai gives us more than just another female monster. She is an unforgiving, teleporting desert shark with a fucking mandible. Boo yah. The first line of her bio sums it up.

“The largest and fiercest of her species, Rek’Sai is a merciless predator that tunnels through the earth to ambush and devour her prey.”

– League of Legends Wikia

Rek’Sai is important, she exhibits unfiltered dominance, something we so rarely see given to female characters. She is depicted as something to be feared, a depiction that is unmuddled by sexual confusion. Frightening female characters are too often depicted in media as someone that the audience (presumed straight male) should be attracted to. She is like the Queen Alien from the Alien series, except without the focus on reproduction. Arguably there are many similarities between Rek’Sai and an ant queen, but the fact that she is without minions or offspring is important because it creates this powerful loner character that is not something female characters are usually portrayed as. Rek’Sai is awesome.
So to conclude on that note, I think Riot has made so much progress with their character design in the last year and a bit, and I’m so happy to see new champs coming out. For the future I would like to see more people of colour, more non-humanoid female characters, and more trans and non gender binary characters, and characters of different sexualities.

About the author / 

SarahBeck

Currently works as a software developer for Bioware. She has a BSc in Computing Science and enjoys JRPGS, anime, and Ruby on Rails. You can find her on Twitter at @essefbeck. All opinions expressed on this blog are her own, and do not represent Bioware or EA.

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