league of sexism?

I love League of Legends. It’s a very fun game you can play with your friends, or alone. There are different roles, characters, a lot of lore, a lot of amazing cinematic videos that make the experience a lot better. Since I created my account back in 2013, I played hours and hours of that game. I met some very close friends through it. For me, LoL has always been a game I played for pure escapism. Even though I am not the greatest player, I love the game because when I play it, I can’t focus on anything else. By nature, I’m not a very competitive person (except when I play UNO). So I don’t really care if I win or lose that much, only that I (and my friends) have fun.

In the past seven years of playing this game, I consistently deleted and downloaded it again and again. Sometimes I deleted it because life got in the way, I was either studying a lot to graduate, or working, or writing my thesis. Sometimes I got bored, because my friends stopped playing. Sometimes I just fell out of love with it, it happens. But I always came back. Like just recently. And whenever I come back to this game, I notice that one thing never, ever, ever changes: sexism.

The community of League of Legends, unfortunately, is very toxic. It’s not just 12-13 years old kids writing mean comments when you “kill steal,” either. It’s everyone, constantly attacking each other. It’s very rare to go through a game without anyone flaming or cursing each other, and when it happens, it’s a very welcome change. Sexism is only one of the issues, because there is also a lot of homophobia, racism, ableism, or any kind of hate speech you can think of. But here in this post I want to speak about sexism, because it is an issue that affects me almost every time I log into my account.

Sexism in LoL shows itself in multiple ways. Its existence is so deeply rooted in the art style, for example, which is something I will talk about in another post (I will link it here when I do). But the kind of sexism I am talking about here is the kind perpetuated by the players themselves. The general idea is this: if you are a woman, you cannot be good at this game (or any game, really- sexism in the gaming community is not just limited to LoL).

There are several ways to “detect” someone’s gender in LoL. First of foremost, it is done through the role you play. If you play AP (ability power) Mid or Support, there is a high chance you will be branded as a girl. Then there is champion selection. AP Mage characters like Ahri, Lux and Orianna or Enchanter Supports like Janna, Lulu, Nami or Soraka are considered “e-girl” champions. So if you play these champions instead of opting for a brute or assassin, or even a tank, you are most likely a girl (who knew gender was this easy to detect!) The worst part, of course, comes after someone thinks you are a girl (even if you are not). You will be harassed to no end. You will receive incredibly sexist comments. You will be told, in detail, how they would fuck you if they could. You will be cursed and made fun of. Every little mistake you make will be blown out to be shown as bigger than they were. They will even send a message to the enemy team to let them know that you are a girl and that’s why your team is doing not so well. And eventually you will just become the reason your team is losing the game.

Of course, not all of this happens every game. But it happens more often than not. I have experienced, or witnessed these things time and time again. Recently I was in a game with some people. Only one of them was my friend, the other three, I didn’t know. We were also on Discord, so we could communicate better during the game. The other three players were horrible at the game. Beyond horrible. Really, really bad. But what I noticed was this: during the entire game, the boy (I don’t know his age but I don’t think it was more than highschool age) who played at the top lane, harassed the girl who played as ADC. He asked, maybe 7-8 times “Hey (name) why are you so bad at this game? You are SO bad. Why are you so bad?” The funny thing was that, he was as bad! And his other guy friend was as bad! But they did not see that. They just kept asking, to the girl, “why are you so bad?”

Another example. I was playing support to a friend who is excellent at the game. I met him recently, just a month ago. We play the bot lane really well together. We laugh when either of us makes a mistake instead of getting angry, or throwing a fit, or blaming each other. But at this particular game, we were trying a new champion duo. I don’t remember exactly what it was, maybe Swain-Yuumi, maybe Yasuo-Neeko. We were not good. The enemy bot lane crushed us. Really, really crushed us. They were extremely good. But the rest of our team was not doing that great, either. Then, one of the players started asking if we were girls. We did not respond. Because it is better not to respond in these situations. The answer doesn’t matter, it won’t change their mind or change the reason why they asked if you were girls in the first place. After years of harassment, I learned that you just don’t respond to people in LoL chats. Waste of time.

But as we did not respond, this person grew more and more frustrated. We were losing towers left and right, losing team fights, giving up dragons. The situation was bad, so he started messaging the enemy team (as one does) to let them know that the bot lane was an e-girl duo. Well, plot twist. Apparently, their mid-lane was a girl, as well. And she was livid. She responded with “so what?” And what followed was a heated argument between our sexist teammates and their mid-lane, and she fucking roasted them. She had amazing comebacks.

I added her after the game and thanked her. I said “thank you for dealing with that. I really don’t have any energy to deal with these types of people anymore.” She told me that she doesn’t play LoL anymore because of people like this, that she quit years ago. Then she told me it’s the same for other games as well, especially as soon as she joins the voice calls, and someone hears that she’s a girl, they stop listening to her advice or commands. And I knew exactly what she was talking about. Many of my friends, who are women and play games, know what she is talking about.

This post doesn’t really have a conclusion. Because I don’t really have a solution to this problem. The only one I could think of was to just talk about it. Because it is really, really unfair. I love League of Legends. I love playing games. I love escapism. But can League of Legends really be escapism for me, as it is for many white cis straight men, if I am subjected to hate speech almost every time I play it? I think, no.

I recently told a friend about how it was to play League of Legends as a woman and how toxic the environment is. She asked me “then why do you still play it?” Weird, because I never thought about not playing the game just because the people over there are sexist. Because if I do that, I let them win. And I may not be competitive during the game, but I sure as hell won’t give the sexist assholes the satisfaction of drawing us out of the things we love.

Please share below, if you have similar experiences with sexism in the gaming community.

x Rooby

image credit: sun haiyang