Yesterday, Riot introduced the world to Taliyah, League of Legends’ next playable champion. For the most part, people responded very positively toward Taliyah. Champion designer Daniel Klein responded to the vocal minority against Taliyah, however, by stating that “Restricting body types is limiting to us as creators.”
Taliyah, for those that don’t know, looks like this:
The teaser video went live only yesterday, but it’s already amassed 1.5 million views. A cursory look through YouTube comments tells me that the most common thing people have to say about Taliyah is that she reminds them of Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show that is pretty well-loved. Again: most people seem to like Taliyah’s design. Here’s the top-voted YouTube comment, just to illustrate what I mean:
Very rarely, however, you’ll see another type of reaction pop up, where a player berates Taliyah for not being conventionally sexy enough:
While these comments are in the minority, Riot employees do read them. Such was the case with champion designer Daniel Klein, who took to Twitter to respond to some of the nastier reactions to Taliyah. Basically, Klein takes umbrage with the idea that only sexy characters should get added to League, especially when A) League of Legends already has its fair share of conventionally beautiful characters and B) Riot designed Taliyah intentionally, with regards to who she is as a person, and not what might arouse a player the most.
Here’s Klein, responding to the few people who don’t like Taliyah’s design (as quoted from Twitter):
League has a less than perfect record objectifying lady champions. There’s nothing wrong with a champion putting her sexuality front and center if that’s what they’re about. MF and Ahri? Makes total sense.
The problem isn’t that there were some objectified women, but that there was NOTHING ELSE (if not a child/yordle). Restricting body types is limiting to us as creators. We can only make the one type? Screw this.
Our more recent ladies have been much more interesting. From Kalista’s monstrous looks to Reksai being an actual monster...From Illaoi’s badass broken-bones-teach-better-lessons-than-sermons looks to Lamb’s ethereal animal-like take on gentle death.
Those takes not your cup of tea? Cool! We already have 33 sexualized women in the game (I went and counted). I’m certain we will make a sexy lady again in the future. She will own it, and it will make sense for her.
Taliyah is a young girl struggling with an elemental power unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before. She’s a girl struggling with protecting her loved ones from an ancient power vs worrying that SHE will hurt them. She’s a girl coming of age in a time of strife centered on her homeland, and her journey is one of mastery over her power. Where in that does it say “and meanwhile I’m going to get sexy for my date at the Shurima social”?
Look at how cohesive all of Taliyah is. Who she is, what she does, what she looks like...They make sense taken as a whole. Why does she look the way she looks? Because it MADE SENSE.
Klein makes a well-reasoned argument here, so it’s unfortunate to hear that anyone is being shitty about a character that, frankly, could still be considered attractive. Worse, Klein claims that the backlash against Taliyah has bleed into his real life. Klein tweeted a picture of an email where an anonymous player calls his partner, a trans man who also works at Riot, a “stupid slut” who is just “sleeping with a designer to get sum ugly tranny bitch into League.” This of course is a preposterous accusation: “I’m a gameplay designer,” Klein explained. “I am not the person who draws Taliyah. I am not the person who writes Taliyah.”
The entire thing against Taliyah may not be widespread, but it is gross. Fortunately, outliers by definition can’t change what League is about.
“If your motivation is hate and your goal is to make others harm themselves, get the fuck out,” Klein said. “You’re not welcome here. League is a massive phenomenon and I love how inclusive the community is. It is a place of love. If you must hate, hate Teemo.”