An Open Letter to RIOT's Art Staff
As a preface, I want to make it absolutely clear that I'm not, in any way, questioning the technical skill of RIOT's artists, nor am I saying I am "better" than them. This is more directed at their design philosophy, as opposed to how they draw splash art.
Dear RIOT Art Staff,
With the sneak peek of Nami, the new support champion, I noticed two things about her right off the bat. One: She is completely and utterly adorabubble(see what I did there?). Personality, animations, and voice overs are fantastic; she’s a cutie. The second thing I noticed, however, was her exposed cleavage. It struck me as fairly odd as it added nothing to the character except s-ex appeal which, given her bubbly personality in-game, didn’t seem very appropriate. Even her core theme of “Regal Mermaid” doesn’t require her to flaunt her natural erm… “gifts”. But then I really got to thinking about all of the female champions of league and I came across something very disturbing to say the least. I’ve separated my core concerns into individual sections for both convenience and clarity. I’d rather my argument not be cluttered so much that one cannot make out what I am trying to say.
I. Show me the Boobies!
I’m going to go through the complete list of champions and write down all of the female champions who do NOT show off their breasts by way of exposed cleavage, insanely form-fitting clothing, or otherwise have parts of their breasts exposed. Please note that this is based off of their core design and not skins:
Orianna(Gets a pass because I predict a “she’s a robot” argument, which I’m not apt to argue against)
Shyvana(Form fitting in splash but it’s barely noticeable in-game, so she gets a pass)
If you’ll notice, half of these are yordles and a child. This might seem, to some, a sizable list but I would remind those people that this is a list out of 34 female champions (Nami included and assuming Orianna can be called “female”). This means that 76% of female champions show off their breasts in one form or another, be it blatant cleavage (Elise), side boob (Akali), or wearing tight clothing/armor that accentuate the full form of the breast(Leona(sorry baby, you know I love you but “breast plate” isn’t supposed to be literal)). Now let me start off with my actual analysis by saying: CLEAVAGE IS NOT BAD. If anything, it can add a hint of character to a champion’s design. Take for example Ahri: She’s pretty much a succubus that charms people to steal their souls. Her having her boobs in everyone’s face makes sense: you want to steal souls by seducing people? Show ‘em the goods. Another example: Cassiopeia. It isn’t so much with her core concept as it is her personality. The way she “walks”, talks, and her backstory make her seem like the kind of person to dress very provocatively. One more example for champions who have form fitting clothing: Vayne. Vayne wearing a catsuit makes total sense- she’s gotta be agile and stealthy and a black catsuit does just that; it’s not just “sexy”, it’s practical. I’m more concerned about champions who have accentuated sexual features where they really shouldn’t. Example: Irelia. Why does she wear a low cut top? She’s supposed to be this badass warrior and she goes into a battle with armor that exposes her jugular, lungs, underarm, and heart. That armor is ENTIRELY impractical. It reminds me of this one scene in Final Fantasy XII: in the opening cutscene, you see this prince wearing this really impractical armor that exposes his jugular via a hole created by the ornate design of said armor. In this same scene, an arrow goes STRAIGHT through that hole made by the design of the armor and kills him. Irelia’s armor is much in the same way: Impractical for the sake of showing off some skin. It doesn’t make sense in character or in a logical sense, so why the cleavage? Another example from everyone’s favorite classy lady: Leona. To her credit, Leona wears more clothing than any other female in the league save, maybe, Karma. But I gotta harp on the armor because it makes no sense at all. A breastplate that actually CONFORMS to the full form of the breast is both impractical AND sexualizes a character where it’s not needed. Tell me, what about Leona is supposed to be sexy? And let’s not confuse “sexy” with “beautiful”; these are two entirely different concepts. Leona, if she wore fullplate armor that covered up everything would still be beautiful. Why? Because even through all of that armor, we can still see that beautiful face, those gorgeous locks, the sheer radiance that this woman exudes. This is no more evident than in her Iron Solari skin. She’s wearing much more practical armor, it doesn’t show off her boobs, and she’s still as radiant as ever. So one has to ask oneself: why did Leona need to be sexualized? But that was RIOT way back when, things have changed and the art direction is much more solid. So let’s take a fresher example of women whose exposed bosoms make no sense: Syndra. Syndra’s backstory is, in a nutshell: She was a powerful mage, wanted more power, mentor tried to stop her from getting out of control, she kills mentor, seeks out more power. Ok, this is pretty good, it’s got that whole theme of “if you have power but no control then that power owns you”. Like I said, it’s pretty good. Where I become confused is where she decided to show off her boobs to god and everyone. It sounds to me that Syndra wants to be recognized for her talents and command respect from that. Unless the quick way to gain respect in Valoran is to show off the girls, the only thing she’s going to be recognized for is showing off those basketballs she’s taped to her chest. It makes no sense in character for her to dress like she does. Her Justicar skin is MUCH more impressive because it doesn’t IMMEDIATELY draw my attention to her chest.
So what I’m trying to get across with this is: Why show off breasts when it isn’t necessary? Because it’s hard to tell in-game if a champion is female if you can’t see their chest? Well that just begs the question: Is it practical to know the gender of a champion in game? There are neither abilities nor status effects that have different effects on champions depending on gender. Moreso, there aren’t any in-game consequences for having a specific gender ratio on your team. So no, it’s not important someone know if a character is female in-game because there are no consequences of it. It’s important to know when someone’s stunned- that’s why they have that little dizzy animation on them. But gender? It doesn’t really play any part in the game so having huge breasts to make the gender clear doesn’t help the player. So I ask again: Why do so many champions, especially the ones who in-character would not show off their breast, do so?
II. Body Types and the Liefeldian Model
I may have gotten some of your attention with “Liefeldian” but let me make it absolutely clear: I am in no way saying RIOT’s art is somehow as bad as Liefeld’s. This will be addressed later, but I wanted to make sure you knew I’m not trying to hyperbolize the issue.
Let’s take a look at some of this past year’s male champions and their overall appearance:
I’ve left a couple out because they weren’t human. This was done because it’s more the human designs I take some issue with. So let’s look at the designs of each one in order in the perspective of someone who knows nothing about league- just by looking at the splash art:
Zed: Badass metal dude who looks sharper than anything you’d find in a toolshop
Jayce: 50’s idea of “The Man of Tomorrow”, right down to the facial structure and outdated hair style
Draven: Crazy as Hulk Hogan looking guy who throws axes
Darius: Manly brute of a man who’s more trapezius than man
Varus: Got this elf kinda thing going on with the slender look and the bow
Viktor: Creepy armored guy with Science/Magic stuff
Graves: BeardStache with a gun
In the perspective of someone who knows nothing about these characters, all of these would be pretty accurate guesses to what kind of people these champions are. It’s a testament to the art staff when they can convey the core concept of a champion with just a single splash.
Let’s do the same thing, but with female characters from this year
Again, I’ve left one or two out because they weren’t human. Now let’s look at their designs in order, again in the perspective of someone who knows nothing about these characters:
Elise: Spider lady seductress(I can only assume because of gratuitous T&A)
Syndra: Sexy mage person (Again, one can only assume from the basketballs on her chest)
Diana: Creepy skinny lady with a huge sword
Zyra: Sexy plant lady (can only assume with T&A, are you seeing a pattern?)
Fiora: Fencer with a nice booty
Sejuani: Arctic pig-riding warrior that doesn’t wear enough clothes, may also be sexy because of popping boobs
Ahri: Kitsune/Fox-Lady mage
Shyvana: Dragon themed girl with huge hands/claws
Now let’s look back on those descriptions. How accurate are they considering the actual champions? Well Ahri, Shyvana, and Diana are pretty spot on. Elise isn’t really supposed to be a seductress. Syndra, given her background, has no reason to want to look sexy. Zyra looks sexy because of her dryad theme, so that’s forgivable. Sejuani’s splash was a design faux pas which has a story I love telling people about. It’s a shame that Fiora’s splash is such that all I can tell about her personality is that she’s a fencer and has a nice tush. Compared to the male champions there’s just not as much conveyance as to what they’re all about and I think a lot of that has to do with how little variation there are in female body types in league. If I asked you what was the difference in body types between Draven and Darius, you’d immediately know: Darius is a beef cake 3000 monster of a man, whereas Draven is buff but much balanced in terms of muscle mass distribution. The same can be said with Varus and Graves: Varus is a slender, agile character and Graves is a bit buffer and heavy. Now I’ll ask you the same questions about two female champs: Zyra and Syndra. Ignore that Zyra is a plant monster and ignore the headpieces: focus entirely on the body types. Both have huge boobs, both have tiny waists, and both have child bearing hips and legs that go on for days. Elise and Fiora? Well both have defined legs for different reasons, but it still creates a similar effect. Let’s look at this list of female champions and see if you can tell me what they all have in common:
All of them have generous bosoms, tiny waists, wide hips, and have huge chola lips. The same can be said for new Ashe, Caitlyn, Miss Fortune, Jana, Sona, Morgana, Soraka, Sivir and Evelynn. If you remove the hair, clothing, and skin tones of these champions then what you have are essentially the same physique repeated over and over again. This is what I meant when I said “the Liefeldian model”. It isn’t that they’re drawn horribly; they’re all drawn as the same body with different “accessory” features such as clothing, hair, or other accessories.
This link provided is an image I made in ten minutes (Clothing was more mindless practice than anything significant). These images are physiques that RIOT has not used in their champions. One may argue that Diana is the last example, however I would contest that Diana is slender, but not altogether underdeveloped. More to the point, all of these physiques are valid templates to use for champions and notice how each bust is either correctly proportioned or otherwise are constrained by means of sports bra/being underdeveloped/etc. Allow me to come up with a concept for a champion based on these four designs:
Defined Calfs: Melee fighter; could be a kickboxer, mixed martial artist, or otherwise hand-to-hand combatant.
“Plus Sized”: Hedonistic Mage(Live-Action Cruella DeVille mixed with magic); a mage that is more concerned with finery than studying magic
Highly Defined Everything: The boxing champion people have been wanting for a while, why not make it a female? Not only that, but a female whose breasts aren’t as big as her skull. Otherwise could be used as a legitimate female tank physique.
Twig: What Lux was supposed to be. Seriously, the literal “breast plate” thing is dumb. Lux having big boobs adds nothing to her character.
My question now becomes: Why are there so few body types for women? Why do they all have to be this same type of “attractive” woman? I’ve heard from some of the artists that they want to make attractive champions because that’s what people like playing and it’s the same reason why very few people play Urgot. While I understand that you want to create characters that people want to play, I think it reflects poorly on your skills as designers if you can’t create a female champion that steps out of this pseudo “objective beauty” model you’ve contrived while at the same time having them be a champion people want to play. Large girls can be beautiful too, as can athletic girls, built girls, and even girls who don’t have exaggerated breasts, waists, and hips.
Finally, I would like to thank any Rioter, Forum browser, and everyone in between that has read through this letter. I understand this is quite a lot to chew through and I sincerely hope that it was worth it, even if you don’t necessarily agree with me. As stated in the title, this is an open letter, so feel free to comment, reply, argue, counter argue, or otherwise contribute. I only ask we keep it civil as to make all of us as a player base look good.
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But I do agree.
I'd personally think that Nami needs to lose the chest COMPLETELY and have a more upbeat design. There's really no way for anybody to confuse her for a merman even if this happened - EVER - and frankly, with all the other designs that have been created in this game, the LoLverts have enough to stare at.
Besides, how many fishes do you know that have boobs? I mean seriously. From a physiological point of view, Nami isn't even a mammal. It just doesn't make sense. o_O
Even hydrodynamically boobs would be incredibly impractical.
Personally, I agree with you Mr.hater of bike shorts on the subject of your post. However, to be quiet honest, it seems absolutely obvious that the majority of the concept work as well as design of the character model was male. I, personally, do not know who makes up the art department for riot or even who suggests these new champions in the first place...
But it seems quiet clear that the problem is a mixture of factors.
Most important of all...
I own but one female champion, and that is Eve. However! My reasons for picking her were not due to looks, the sound of her voice, or just how silly her outfit is for a femassain...
But instead due in part to her mechanics, at the time, and how easily I saw people roflstomp their way through the competition with her. This is something I feel the designers should focus on, marketing a champion on their skills rather then have a design that seems incredibly impracticable.
And going on the subject of Nami....
Her voice really strikes me as belonging to a younger woman, rather then a busty fully developed one. Ignoring fish mammaries for the moment, the voice of the character should fit the look of the character. If the designers really want to stick with her having a bust...I'd be willing to compromise with simply having a smaller one on her that fit the overall feel of the character.
Right but the problem with that is you get champions like Urgot. Urgot's kit is really good, but aesthetically he's... well let's just say he's one of the most underplayed champions in the game. People want to play attractive champions. However where Riot missteps in the regard is assuming that "attractive women" all look like the exact same person with different clothes and hair.
That is a problem I have with Nami as well: the voice doesn't fit her model and it's solely because of her large, exposed breasts. And you can't tell me they aren't large- her small frame combined with those things is way out of line proportionately as-is. More to the point: if you're going to have a cutesy character, don't make them show off the goods because that's not cute, it's alluring.
There has been a discussion going on about the subject here.
I have to say I generally don't feel the design so far is as horrible as you make it sound. Sure I'd love to see her having at least a scales-bra or something (Like making it a bit thinner?) but overall it looks okay. So she has a human-cleavage to the belly button. If you'd cover that all she'd just look like a fish with a human head glued on top. it's sorta a merge-point between fish and human as you can see here. So maybe minor tweaks should be enough, can we agree on that?
On to the other subjects. Stuff like Leona or Irelia. Definitly gonna agree that those armor parts are impractical and should reflect their purpose a bit better. I read about Stylus' wanting to correct Leonas design some time in the future (soon TM), especially heels and I applause to that (Hopefully it get's done soon I love playing Leona).
Syndra - I own and love her justicar skin. I think it looks really great and way way better than the default one. The thing with Syndra is, why does she wear the clothing she's wearing? Is she naturally seductive? Nah I don't think so, looks more like a villain like Malefice. Is it practical for her? Justicar might for charging into battle but default? Not really. Is it ionian standard style? Look at Karma, no super cleavage there. She lacks, like others, the reasoning for her design. While it may look cool and all I think she could use some work there (Default that is, not Justicar which is fine imo). Either having more robe-like clothing for her or change the lore and her character to make it fitting <_<
Generally... I think the difference between female releases is not as much as it could be. Syndra could have been older (Like Malefice? :p), Zyra could have had more leaf-clothing, Elise could have had clothing (She's literally just wearing stockings atm, that vest-thing has way too many holes to be called clothing - And shouldn't she be hiding those extra legs? Which followers wouldn't be frightned by that?!)... A lot of small things which could have a big impact. As of now it really looks and feels as if all female releases are within 20-30 year old.
So I'd appreciate a bit more diversity especially age wise (First step, Nami sounds like more about 16-18 and I really like that).
Edit: @ the Urgot thing - I played him a lot before he became fotm due to how fun and strong his kit was. No one really knew how to play against him. You could even rock old TT alone with him. I never cared a lot about his skins or generally look. There should be less focus on the look, people should learn that as they miss a lot of fun and free wins...
Edit 2: Yeah that one, sorry. Fixed the link. And yes about that Urgot thing you remember correctly. Funny enough I wouldn't have played him if they'd made him like that from the beginning. While battlecast may be a cool theme I don't like it and I think it looks silly on Urgot. If they'd go more pulsefire it'd be cool but as they stand they're somewhat lackluster sci-fi inbetween non-pulsfire and pulsfire x:
Yeah, I see what you mean. With her current design simply covering it up wouldn't work. I'm not asking them to redesign it, moreso I'm asking them why they decided that feature was necessary in the design process. There were many other possibilities they could have explored but they went with the least common denominator of "show of the boobs". It's not that I hate her design JUST because of that reason, but it's very confusing to me as to why that needed to be there at all.
The heels.. I have a funny story about that, I spend MONTHS trying to convince my friends they were practical. I dunno if I legitimately thought they were practical or I dilluded myself because I was in my Leona phase(two months worth of only leona) but the end result is the same: the heels are really silly haha
That's pretty much my point with Syndra's design: it makes no sense outside of the headgear. The headgear I can say to myself "well maybe it's like a magic item that enhances her already potent abilities cause it's all runic and **** and because her entire character is that she wants to be more potent with magic". I sincerely do not thing her thong gives her more magic powers. Same can be said for her pushup bra. The Justicar skin looks gorgeous because, while it does have the literal "breast plate", it makes more sense in a practical perspective.
Even people who disagree with my stance on Riot's sexualization on the majority of their characters agree with me when it comes to Elise's design. Is she supposed to be a seductress? Well no. So why does she have rocking T&A? Not to mention her splash art tells me nothing about her character in the slightest. Your point about age diversity is interesting. I myself hope there will be more champions that look older. Perhaps not in the 60+ range unless they're mages, but anything below that has a lot of potential to explore. Case in point: Sniper from DOTA. Great design, old as balls, it all works out.
The problem in that regard is that Riot values aesthetics in a fiscal sense. They made urgot, no one bought him because he looked ugly as sin, they didn't make money off of him until people realized how overpowered he was. I think Morello even said that if they had the chance to redo the urgot release, they would have used the battlecast design because it was more pleasing to look at. Their misstep in this logic is assuming that people will ONLY want to buy female champions that conform to the, quite frankly, sexist ideal that videogames and popular culture have imposed on the female form. Thus we have Zyra, Syndra, and Elise: three champions that would look exactly the same without clothing or hair.
Wow! This thread is totally well-researched. Also, I really agree. I think the reason Riot is doing this is because a lot of their members openly express their sexual feelings for the "sexy" female champions that you described (e.g. Leona), in the form of "I would hit that," or "I am typing with my left hand," etc. Thus, the phrase, "s-ex sells."
But, of course, that's not all of us! A lot of people have been bashing on feminism, lately, but to be a champion of the mighty Institute of War, I would argue that one does NOT need to be sexy! They should be battle-ready, if anything. I don't want to write a ton, so I'll get straight to the point. I totally agree with you -- there are some champions that should be sexy and some that it doesn't make a lot of sense.
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