*WINNER* Championing the Female Body: An Investigation into the Rhetoric of Design in League of Legends
In the past, video games, while frequently topics of societal debate, have been considered by gamers and many scholars as virtual spaces distinctly separate from the real world wherein everything that occurs can be attributed to harmless play. However, in recent years technical communicators have become increasingly aware of and interested in video games as rhetorical spaces that reflect the values of their creators and have meaningful impacts on their players. With this in mind, this study centers on the importance of character model design as a complex act of technical communication and the ways in which this act may impact a significant and growing minority within gaming culture: women. Specifically, the epicenter of this study finds itself at the gaming studio, Riot Games, responsible for the development of League of Legends, the world’s top-grossing online game, in which female characters are grossly oversexualized. Through a close reading of the game and character models, I come to argue that, by continuously hypersexualizing female champions in League of Legends, Riot Games is complicit in the perpetuation of a gaming culture that objectifies, marginalizes, and ultimately dehumanizes women. Moreover, I argue that while many hold the view that League of Legends is “just a game,” the hetero male-centric and misogynistic attitudes embedded in the game and its contents by its developers have repercussions that reach beyond the game’s immediate player base and ripple through the real world.