Elise, the Spider Queen; or How Riot Forgot That Women Wear Clothes
Hey, everyone! My name is Mandaray, or Gwenna when I’m playing League. I’ve been playing for almost two years now, but I’ve been a gamer for pretty much as long as I can remember. My usual fare when it comes to games are RPGs, shooters, and of course the occasional MOBA. I livestream these games as regularly as I can over on my Twitch.tv channel. When I’m not playing games, writing is one of my other passions. I believe that the written word is one of the most powerful and effective tools for education and change. As such, you can find me blogging about a variety of different subjects over at my blog, Note to Self. Today I was very excited to receive an invitation to join this blog, particularly so that I can write about a subject which is very near and dear to my heart: Female characters in video games.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about Elise.
As many of you will probably know, Riot has recently announced the release of its newest champion, Elise, the Spider Queen. According to the website, this is a character which has been in production for almost three years, and as such I am sure there are a lot of folks in the League playing crowd who are very excited right now. And, looking at her skill set, she does seem like she’s going to be a lot of fun, especially if you’re the sort of player who enjoys champions like Nidalee or Swain.
But what was my reaction when I saw Elise’s picture and skill set released on my Facebook feed?
Why disappointment, you ask? Here’s why, right here:
And, most recently– I think you see where this is going–here:
Notice any trends?
Yeah, so did we.
Look. Some characters are going to be sexpots. I get that. Cassiopea is a fine example. According to her lore, seduction was pretty much her job. So I would expect her to walk (or slither) around in revealing outfits, using her feminine “assets” to the best advantage possible. But every single female character that Riot comes out with? Really? At this point, pretty much the only champions who aren’t purely Tits-on-a-Stick are Karma, Lux, Annie, and the Yordle females.
And you know what? I’m bored. So endlessly, utterly, bored.
Where are the muscle-bound females? Where are the skinny little waifs that look as though they might break if someone sneezes on them? Where are the in-between folks who just kind of stumble around and do the best they can? Where are the old wise-women who have forgotten more power and knowledge than most other champions will ever have? Where are the mothers? Where are the women who were transformed, or cursed, or come from Somewhere Else that are a disturbing (not sexy) cross between human and…something?
Answer is: They don’t exist, because Riot doesn’t want them to exist, because Riot wants to make money. And, like pretty much every other video game out there on the market, for some reason Riot believes its only customers are young, heterosexual males. (This is especially shocking considering how many talented and intelligent women Riot has working for them.) Because of this, it’s going to keep on trotting out those characters with long legs, plump asses and huge, unrealistic breasts. They want you to feel that sudden urge to buy a certain champ you might not consider otherwise because it makes you feel good in your pants-region. How trite. (And if you’re a guy–how insulting. Unless you enjoy people assuming you only ever think with your genitals.)
As usual, it comes back down to the old adage: Sex sells.
But aren’t you tired of that excuse? I know I am. And I definitely know that I am tired of being ignored by video game developers. I am tired of them telling me over and over again that the only choice I get is either jailbait, or sexpot. I’m tired of being so limited all the time by these games which I love. (And I do love League of Legends!) I’m tired of watching all of my gay and female friends get the shaft because no one has bothered to think beyond the idea that heterosexual 16-year-olds rule the market. I’m tired of being given concept art that directly conflicts with the lore behind it. (I’m sorry, but if you live in a cold climate and ride boars all day, you are not going to traipse around in a bikini. You are going to be swathed in heavy furs and probably drink things with a lot of fat in them.) I’m tired of “upgrades” like Diana’s skin suddenly changing her beautiful, realistic armor into something which is only there so the game doesn’t get an AO rating. I’m tired of trying to figure out how Morgana holds up her girls with only a tiny little strip of (what I assume is) leather. I’m tired of wondering why Caitlyn, a sheriff and crime-fighter by trade, would even think about leaving the house wearing a poofy miniskirt that barely covers her bottom.
I’m tired of being given only one option.
Meanwhile, guy champions are rarely if ever left in their birthday suits. They’re outfitted with layers upon layers of heavy, intimidating armor. They tote around huge weapons and, despite being obviously muscle-bound, rarely show off an ounce of skin. The magic casters are clothed from head to toe in long, flowing robes, or comfortable looking pants. Occasionally you’ll get someone who’s not wearing a full outfit, (Varus comes to mind) but it’s pretty rare. Why?
Because, of course, women don’t get turned on by visual things. That’s why women don’t ever watch porn. Duh. Gosh, don’t you know anything?
Insert eye-roll here.
So, what are we going to do about this problem? Well, unfortunately there’s not a lot we can do, at least not until Riot comes to their senses and puts some more open-minded people on their art development team. But there are a few methods we can use to send our message. First and foremost, is we use our words. Start petitions. Write e-mails. Send them feedback. Tweet at them. If you go to a League event somewhere, and maybe you run into somebody who works at Riot, stop them for a second (politely!) and maybe talk to them about it. See if there’s a reason why they’re doing this, and if there’s any way we could possibly change their minds.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, stop giving them your money. Don’t get me wrong: Riot is a great company, and League of Legends is a fantastic game. But they’re a business, and businesses only change if their bottom line is in danger. Plus, because of how League is set up, they only get our money if we say so. So don’t say so. Don’t buy skins. Don’t buy champions. (Especially not the Tits-on-a-Stick ones.) Use your IP if you absolutely have to have a champ, or just wait for free weeks. Use vanilla skins. Yes, we might be outnumbered by people who find this character type appealing, but every little bit counts. You would be surprised how quickly it can all add up.
I’m not asking Riot to never put out another sexpot character ever again. What I am asking them to do is to stop slotting women into such tired, boring old stereotypes, and to treat them with the same respect they give male champions.
Because I, for one, want more options.
(This post of course does not even begin to touch on the fact that most characters are white, and that the majority of hardcore support champs are all female, which is an eyebrow-raising factoid all by itself. These are concepts which I believe are better left to another entry. ^_~)