Arcane, Riot’s new animated series set in the League of Legend’s universe, is scheduled for a 2021 release. The show will be set in locations Piltover and Zaun and will follow the stories of three legends in the universe; Jinx, Vi, and Caitlyn. Given the fact that League is one of my favorite games and Jinx is one of my favorite characters in that game, I’m not in any position to pretend that every fiber of my being isn’t floored about the series. To have one of my passions brought to life in its own show and to be able to delve deeper into the roots of a key character to the face of League is just… my goodness. To save you from some gushing, I’ll leave it at “I’m excited”.
But should I be?
Riot Games, to put it lightly, is pretty bad at designing characters. They’re good at designing hot characters. They’re good at designing characters that appeal to anime-loving 14 year olds. But they aren’t good at designing what I’d call good characters. Even Jinx, who is a character I’m very fond of, can’t be played in League without spouting the journal entries of a scene middle schooler.
“Let’s just behave… said no one, ever.”
“Ask me if I’m listening! Hint: I’m not!”
“Hold on! I’m about to say something really cool!”https://leagueoflegends.fandom.com/wiki/Jinx/Quotes
No Jinx, you’re not about to say something ‘really cool’. You’re just not. And why isn’t my character-voice volume muted?
This isn’t just a problem with Jinx, mind you. This article is about how all of Riot’s characters have, at best, mediocre writing and are not worth listening to 99% of the time. I think there was one time where Zed spoke up before I ran him down mid and said “Tradition is the corpse of wisdom.” And I thought to myself, “Hm.”
That’s actually the best its ever gotten for me. My absolute favorite character in the game, Irelia, is an absolute cringe fest when it comes to her voice lines.
“I have walked the silver plains and fished the rivers of grass. The land knows me.“ – Did you know Ionians were in tune with nature? No? Well the land knows her, moron. Pay attention.
“A single pebble may sink a warship. And a thousand pebbles… (laughs)”
“I’ve never killed a person… just a lot of Noxians.”https://leagueoflegends.fandom.com/wiki/Irelia/Quotes
That pebble one in particular wrings my face inside out with second-hand embarrassment. I mean what are these characters? Anime protagonists?
Riot Games, whether because they themselves are weebs or because their playerbase is, panders heavily to an anime-like writing style. Its gross. And look here, I don’t have a problem with anime. I’m not entirely well-versed in the culture of it, and I’ve only seen stuff like Death Note, Angel Beats, and Clannad (all of which I loved) so it’s not like I’m an expert. But I do like the stuff the genre puts out. The over the top character animation, voice acting, and plot lines are strengths of the genre for me when executed correctly, not the weakness. But for whatever reason, Riot Games doesn’t know how to execute it correctly with their writing.
Also, we haven’t even touched on the art direction of these characters. I mean, look at this champion that was recently released for League of Legends and tell me who you think this is supposed to appeal to.
Any guesses? I’ll tell you who it’s supposed to appeal to, people who say ‘uwu’, that’s who.
And OHH LORDDDDD we haven’t even gotten to – you know what? I’ll just post their photos and let you make of it what you will.
Here’s Nidalee. A Human-panther morphing jungler who had enough materials for some thicc boots, but not enough for her gargantuan breasts.
Here’s Miss Fortune. A sexy n’ seductive pirate lady who’s gunna shoot her guns at you if you’re not looking (at her eyes, you perverted uwu-user). You might think its a bit overboard on the sex appeal, but you just don’t get it, see? That’s her character. It’s on purpose, because Riot Games is am adult and sex am big person themes, you degenerate.
Here’s Ahri, a sexy fox lady that uses her appeal to seduce evil-doers into their death. You might think that’s a bit overboard considering the last champion I showed you having similar ‘sexy’ traits, but you just don’t understand, you moron. It’s her character. Its on purpose. It’s not like all female champions are like this. Get a grip.
Here’s Evelyn, a sexy seducer demon seducer that uses sex to sex. But wait here now, she’s not like Ahri at all! She sexes up people that aren’t evil-doers, too. See the nuance, you fucking inept peasant?
Need I continue?
I sure hope not. I hope you get the picture here (I’m a trash can). And you can just google all the League ladies and see what their designs are for yourself. There is no shortage of sex reliance in the roster.
The point isn’t that sexy ladies in games is bad. I love sexy ladies. I love video games. I love the two combined. But is a recurring theme of ‘she’s alluring and sexy, and you better watch out!’ really good writing? Is it really good character design?
And if Riot Games uses these devices over and over again to get players ‘interested’ in their characters, then can we say that they have a slight reliance? Maybe their beholden to a playerbase that is less than appreciative when it comes to character depth? I mean, I get you can’t pack an entire character into voice lines. And I understand being a sex appealing person is a real character trait, so having some portion of your characters be that person isn’t lazy. It’s just a true representation of how some people are.
But the lines, and how they are delivered, are so obviously aimed at impressing teenagers who watch anime on the reg. And the artwork is so obviously meant to be as sexy as possible in so many cases that when I couple those two things together I can’t see how anyone can expect me to hold Riot up to any real standard in terms of writing when its clear they put their ‘Riot standard’ before taking any leaps or risks with developing a character of real depth.
Another disclaimer in-case I haven’t said it enough: I don’t care about sexy folk or shallow voice lines in an otherwise interesting universe. I only care when those things become crutches for writers to convey a story. And Riot isn’t just crutching with these tools, they are actively holding them as a standard.
Take their short film “After Victory” as an example.
I won’t make you watch that, but you can if you want. The story is about Noxus, a nation, taking over a king’s palace (and city). To symbolize their victory, the Noxians take the king’s crown and prepare to boil it in lava. They are big, bad, and everything about them looks evil. Iron clankidy clanks as Darius, a Noxus general, strides into the palace. The king, frail and helpless, sits on his thrown in fear of the big bad antagonists.
Oh but what’s this? A young, tiny girl attacks one of the Noxian soldiers before he dunks the crown in lava. WOW. What bravery!
She takes the crown and goes to hand it to her king. He is joyous at the apparently divine judgement being shown for his right to rule in the moment. But then… a twist happens.
The joyous and inspiring music dims, and the king says thusly “My CrOwN, rEtuRnEd tO mE bY a SlAvE!”
Uh ohhhhh. Slavery === bad. And the music has turned to bad bad not good sounds! The king snatches the crown from apparent slave girl who for some reason didn’t want to be liberated by Noxus because she didn’t… know she was a slave I guess?
Anyway, the slave girl is now giving an ‘uwu, I’m so scared because of big bad king who you all thought was good guy!” look on her face at this point. The king then asks her to go and die for him for some weird as fuck reason and the slave girl, after suddenly remembering that she was a fucking slave this whole time decides that her slave owner isn’t actually the guy she’s supposed to be supporting in this situation and stands up and says –
okay guys seriously get your popcorn ready, this line made me piss myself with goosebumps when I first heard it.
She stands up and says – “NO!”
I still soak my pants every time I see that part. I mean, really. What a show of bravery and indecision and overall stupidity by that thing Riot Games would call a “Character”. It’s honestly a terrible short story.
I know what you’re thinking. “But there wasn’t any overtly anime-like qualities to their voice acting. There wasn’t any over-sexualization of characters. So doesn’t that disprove your point?”
No, it actually proves it. There was no sexualization, there was no over the top anime performances. There was just a short story with some attempts at regular writing, and the short story failed miserably at being half-decent.
And if you remember, this original point of this article was to talk about my confidence in Riot’s new show, Arcane. There’s a huge part of me that believes Riot is going to change of their strategy to preserve the integrity of the lore behind their game and we’re going to get something really special with the series. But there’s also a part of me that knows to keep some of myself reserved and prepared for disappointment. Track records aren’t a rule that serves as a 100% accurate indicator, but they aren’t standards that are always overcome, either.