Yesterday, a League of Legends player posted on the game’s forums to complain that a new animation was causing problems for those suffering from epilepsy. One of the game’s designers then apologized, noting that they didn’t have “time or bandwidth” to implement a toggle so that players could turn it off. Now, Riot Games says the animation will be removed.
“We take photosensitive epilepsy issues extremely seriously. In the spirit of being abundantly cautious, we’re going to turn off all finishers ASAP today,” a spokesperson for Riot told Kotaku in an email, referring to new “finisher” animations that were added to the game this month. “If and when we bring finishers back, we’ll make sure players have the option to turn them off themselves. In the meantime, we’re going to follow up with the player who posted the original boards post to make sure we fully understand their situation.”
The animation, which was added as part of a new limited League event called Mid-Season Trials, includes strobe lighting effects that could potentially trigger epileptic seizures in players who suffer from the neurological disorder.
“I understand that epileptics are in the minority for those who play the game, but League has brought me a lot of joy these past few years and it’s heartbreaking that Riot doesn’t take epilepsy seriously when developing and designing new game mechanics,” wrote player Apricot Princess. “Riot, please, create a toggle off function for house animation finishers so epileptics can stay safe.”
One of the game’s designers, Justin ‘Xenogenic’ Hanson, immediately posted a response apologizing for the lack of a toggle.
“The tl;dr is: the way we are rewarding and utilizing the finishers is new for Summoner’s Rift/ARAM, and as such, we didn’t have the time or bandwidth to have engineers rework this so that a toggle could ship with the finishers,” Hanson wrote. “We chatted about it at-length and ultimately decided we would rather ship them with no toggle than not ship them because we couldn’t do a toggle, but we knew there would be some level of frustration and risk with that. So again, my apologies for making League less enjoyable for you in the meantime.”
In its email to Kotaku, Riot said the “risk” mentioned by Hanson was not related to potential issues for people with epilepsy. “To clarify the initial Rioter response, we’d never ship a product that we thought could even potentially harm players,” the spokesperson said. “Our initial internal discussion about including a ‘toggle’ for this feature was due to concerns that players might find Finishers too distracting—not because we thought Finishers could cause harm.”
This isn’t the first time Riot has done something like this. Back in May of 2017 the company removed a special Dark Star animated login screen after one player reported suffering a petit mal seizure.
The incident has sparked a larger debate within the forum over what measures Riot should take to make the game more accessible and safe for people who have photosensitive epilepsy. According to the University of Maryland’s Trace Research and Development Center, photosensitive seizures can be caused by stimuli ranging from strobe lights to the way sunlight flashes off windows. “Video content, whether on television, film, in computer games, or on the web, may include unsafe flicker, colors, or high-contrast patterns that induce seizure,” the center says.
League of Legends currently has a colorblind mode, but options for photosensitive players are less robust. In a follow-up response, Apricot Princess stressed the complexity of photosensitive epilepsy and the difficulty in knowing what will and won’t trigger a problem. “I only became epileptic a year after I started playing this game, and that’s when I realized only roughly 10 things in this game messed with me,” they wrote. “My doctor is aware I play and he’s also aware of how much joy this game brings me, especially as my health has gotten worse (outside of epilepsy), and has just told me to be as safe as possible. Ultimately, anyone with photosensitive epilepsy plays video games at their own risk.”
Riot said the rewards for participating in the game’s current limited-time event will need to be changed, and that the company is still figuring out how that will work.