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.