Riot May Be Getting Jinxed, but Their Character Design Isn’t

Last week, Riot’s newest champion (see: character) for their game League of Legends was finally released to much hype, and the internet lost its damn mind. It wasn’t restricted to the League fanbase, oh no. Everyone wanted a piece of Miss Jinx, the insane criminal that, through lore, made the city of Piltover her circus.

From a personal point of view, I really don’t care for her myself. She’s an AD carry, so I’d never play her as a support main. But from a character personality angle, she’s boring: she’s just a female Joker with none of the backstory to make her interesting. However, my feelings on her character as a whole aside, Jinx does continue an interesting trend in the recent female champion releases, and it’s a trend that I’m actually proud of.

Let it be known here that the female champions of League tend to follow the normal fighting game convention of “big boobs, tiny outfit” unless the character is a child or a different species. Alternate skins—costumes you buy for the characters with real money— typically are no better. Due to League‘s mostly male fanbase, who flips its collective shit when any modifying happens to any designs, especially if they’re female, this trend is a long way off from stopping completely. Luckily, though, it has gotten better. When you compare this year’s female character releases with the addition of Vi (who was released last year, but I think she was the start of the trend), the armor/outfits have been made with a focus on character and function.

Awesome Vi cosplay by ThelemaTherion @ deviantArt

Awesome Vi cosplay by ThelemaTherion @ deviantArt

I’ll briefly go over this year’s releases, and since I included her on a whim, let’s look at Vi first. Her role in the game is a bruiser, so she dives face first into the action. She has armor everywhere, but not enough armor to make mobility difficult. And though, yes, she has a boob window, attention isn’t really drawn to it. Compared to an earlier female bruiser type like Irelia, whose upper body armor makes no damn sense, or Riven, who may have just gotten a re-model, but still doesn’t wear armor like a former member of one of the largest in-game armies should know to do, it’s clear that they’ve put a little more thought into the purpose of armor rather than having it there just as an accessory. Quinn, the AD Carry, is dressed for stealth and easy movement while still being armored. ADCs aren’t exactly known for their amazing armor no matter the gender. And while something less armored makes sense for characters like Miss Fortune and Varus from a personality and lore view point, other characters like Caitlyn need to have more thought put into them. And that brings us back to Jinx.

“But wait,” you may be saying, “what about Lissandra?” Lissandra’s character design is fine, save for another unnecessary boob window, but I mentioned previously that this was a look at the designs for the human characters. Lissandra is most notably not a human.

But Jinx, Jinx is a human and originally a frustrating one at that. Her outfit is pretty much everything I hate in an outfit: gross colors, weird design choices, and an unusual amount of skin showing for the setting. Unlike a character like Katarina, who shows a lot of skin because that’s the method in which she drops her prey’s guard, Jinx doesn’t have any tactics like that. In fact, her tactic seems to be chaos. I truly think that could have been conveyed much better through the outfit, but I get it. And I get why Jinx’s outfit is actually brilliant. The reason of which has nothing to actually do with the character model itself, but everything to do with the accompanying video that I included in the beginning.

Even the camera puts her in a position of dominance

Even the camera puts her in a position of dominance.

Sure, Jinx is wearing something arguably revealing, but it isn’t sexualized. She isn’t sexualized any more or any less than the character herself wants to be. Jinx is in total control of herself and the chaos she creates, so the outfit isn’t really seen as more pandering to the male gaze. This, I think, is the true symbol of how far Riot has come in terms of female character design. That they can take a character that could easily be sexualized and gross and instead give her so much autonomy and… well, character, is a breath of fresh air. I may not like Jinx, but I sure as hell respect what they’ve accomplished with her.

This trend isn’t limited to the characters themselves either. In the past year, the alternate skins have taken this trend to heart as well:

Early skins (top) compared to skins from this year (bottom). There's no comparison

Early skins (top) compared to skins from this year (bottom). There’s no comparison.

Of course, there’s still a long ways to go. I’d love to see more body types for the female characters without making them non-human, for instance. But that will come with time. I also want to see more people of color in the line-up for both genders. If Riot keeps working on character design as much as it seems like they are, however, I’m certain that we’ll see these in the not-so-far future. I can’t wait to see where they’ll be by this time next year.

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About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.