Historical Look at LoL Champions Gender –Pt 1


I’ve been playing League, not since beta, but since not long after that.  At least since 2009.  Its fair to say that I like this game a lot.  One of its problems, outside of mechanical issues like balancing, has been representation.  We see this both in the game in terms of race/ethnicity and gender as well as bodytypes.

So, back in the middle of 2012, there began a lot of discussion with Riot’s developers as well as content posts on various websites about how Riot lacked champion diversity, specifically in terms of race and gender and also generally in bodytype. Basically, it was pointed out that their champions weren’t diverse, but fit generic molds and stereotypes and were mostly white.  There were huge conversations wherein devs (mostly Ironstylus) both defended Riot’s stylistic choices and committed to making positive changes going forward.  So, today, I’m going to discuss and look into gender/bodytype and its representation in League of Legends, historically.  I’ll save the can of worms that is race for another day and then probably do a summary post on diversity using the conclusions of both of these studies later.

As a female player, this has always been kind of a pet peeve of mine.  Its not that I won’t play male champions, but I like to play female champions and I don’t want all my champions to be shoehorned into the same roles or bodytypes.  And lets be clear.  Here’s the bodytypes that most early League ladies had.  Either they were 1.)  Hourglass with huge boobs and tiny wastes, with boobs prominently on display or 2.)  Tiny cutesy doll-like creatures.  And in terms of roles, they were almost all ranged champions, mostly magic or support based.  And yes, that’s my impression based upon how I feel, but lets take a look at the actual numbers.

To date, League of Legends has 128 champions, 46 female and 93 male, with an average of 36% female and 73 % male champion release rate.

Starting in 2009, League of Legends had 42 champions, 12 female and 30 male, so only 29% of the champions were female.  Now, back in 2012, we didn’t have the roles as firmly identified as we do now.  Basically, you had some champions with clear support abilities (healing, shielding) and then you had either melee or ranged champions and they built either tanky, heavy attack damage or heavy ability power.  There are a few exceptions who could build AD and AP so those were considered hybrids.  Now, originally, almost all ranged AD could be built AP (Corki, Sivir, Trist, Teemo) as well but I’m going to list them how they were predominantly played.

Ranged AD Ranged AP Ranged Hybrid Support Melee AP
Ashe Annie Kayle Soraka Katarina
Sivir Morgana Nidalee Janna Evelynn
Tristana Anivia

So, most lady champions were ranged.  Of those champions, all but 1 scaled off of magic (Ashe scaled with AP, but poorly, whereas Sivir and Tristana could be played very successfully with AP).  Kayle and Nidalee are better played AP and could melee but were better played ranged and then the only true melee were magic based.  There were no female tanks at all.  Of these champions, Tristana is a yordle, Annie is a child, Anivia is a monster and with the exception of Kayle, all the other champions fit the hourglass bodytype with all of them showing significant t&a.  Interestingly enough, Kayle was originally considered a male and wasn’t seen as a female until she later received a skin which took off her mask.  She’s the only one in full armor and her original artwork still shows her with an hourglass figure.

So, in 2009, there was a lot of room for improvement.  There’s just not a lot of diversity.

In 2010 and in 2011, 24 champions were released.  The ratio for both years was 8 females and 16 males, so a 33% rate of female champions.  This is a small increase in female champions released.

In 2010, we actually saw a nice addition of champion role diversity, with the addition of Poppy and Irelia, adding some melee AD.  They were actual fighters.

Females are still pretty pigeon-holed into magic based damage.   And, they all fit the same body type.  They’re either the hourglass figure T&A figure or cutesy (Poppy is a yordle).  Even Cassiopeia, who is a “monster,” is scantily clad.

Ranged AD Ranged AP Ranged Hybrid Support Melee AP Melee AD
Miss Fortune Lux Sona Akali Poppy
LeBlanc Irelia

In 2011, we actually got a reduced spread of diversity with most champions being concentrated in the same categories, but we actually got more melee AD champions and our first female tank, Leona.  Females are still mostly mages and bodytypes are still exactly the same.  I mean, we have Leona, who actually wears full plate in her base skin (although she has scantily clad Valkyrie skin), but she fit the hourglass stereotype and she wears freaking high heels.  Yes, plate high heels.  She has the damaging boob plate (with the defense being that you wouldn’t be able to tell she was a female if she didn’t have boobs).  Shyvana and Riven, who are both melee champions, wear almost nothing, in spite of going into combat with people with swords.  Shyvana’s scales in human form don’t offer protection, but are more there it show skin. Even Vayne, the super mobile assassin, wears a skintight bodysuit.

Ranged AD Ranged AP Melee AD Tank
Caitlyn Karma Riven Leona
Vayne Orianna Shyvana

Now, in 2012, this is when we had the big conversations about female champions and champion diversity in League of Legends.  There were 19 champions released, 9 females, 10 males.  That’s 47% of their champions were female.  The closest we’ve gotten to a 50/50 split.   2012 had a lot of champion diversity for females.  Riot had mostly phased out hybrids from its champion design, so we don’t have any of those.  Females are still predominantly mage based, but we’re starting to see them increasingly in more diverse roles.  Its also the first year we don’t have a ranged AD.

Ranged AP Tank Support Melee AP Melee AD
Zyra Sejuani Lulu Diana Fiora
Syndra Vi Nami

However, in terms of bodytype, this year was pretty disappointing.  This year, we had the release of another female tank — who wore nothing but her chainmail bikini as well as Vi — a girl in robotic tank gear except for her corset. Neither looks like they have the muscles to wield their weapons.  Lulu is a cutesy yordle.  Zyra, Syndra, and Nami also all wear essentially bathing suits.  Fiora and Diana wear full clothing, but its still skintight and made to show off their body.  They’re still all hourglass figures.

After 2012, champion releases went way down.  2013 saw the release of 8 champions, 5 males and 3 females.  The 37% release of female champions demonstrates a return to the normal gender diversity for League.  Champions were Quinn, a ranged AD in a skintight bodysuit; Lissandra, a ranged AP in a skintight dress and Jinx, a ranged AD in a bikini top and daisy dukes.  The significance here was Jinx, because she’s the first non-childlike champion who has NOT had a large chest.  Although she isn’t wearing a lot of clothes, she’s actually flat-chested and scrawny, which is pretty significant.  So, we got a little more bodytype diversity.

For 2014, we only had 6 champions released, 2 of which were female for a 33% release rate.  We had Kalista, a ranged AD and Rek’sai, a tank.  Now, this year was pretty good for female bodytypes.  Kalista is scantily clad, but she’s a lot like Jinx because she has that scrawny, thin bodytype with small breasts.  Meanwhile, Rek’sai is the first true female creature.  While we had Anivia, she was an animal creature.  Rek’sai doesn’t even speak in intelligible language and is a true monster like Kog’Maw, Cho-gath and so on.

In 2015, we had our lowest amount of champions released with three males and two females at a 60/40 split.  Kindred is an interesting champion because she is actually a they and represents the first multi-gendered champion from Riot.  Kindred is a composite of Wolf and Lamb, the personification of death.  Lamb is the dominant personality, the one who communicates with the players more and the more active one.  She fits the same Jinx/Kalista bodytype, although she is more animal-like.  Even more excitingly, we got the release of Illaoi.  Illaoi is the first female champion that has been super muscular.  She is the first female champion who looks like she could wield her weapon.  (Significantly, she’s ALSO a lady of color, but that’s for another post!).

So, in summary

Year Champions Released Female Male Female % Male %
2009 42 12 30 29 71
2010 24 8 16 33 67
2011 24 8 16 33 67
2012 19 9 19 47 53
2013 8 5 5 38 63
2014 6 2 4 33 67
2015 5 2 3 40 60
Total Champ 128 46 93 36% 73%

2012 was the only year we were significantly above the average rate of champion release for female champions and 2009 was the only year we were significantly below.  If you remove these two outlier years, the average release of female champions is 35%.

Overall, the data reveals that in terms of gender, League is actually not getting more diverse.  Champions are still heavily male gendered.  Excluding the one year where gender diversity was a hot topic, Riot hasn’t actually made any visible effort to balance the ratio of male to female champions.  However, we are seeing significant improvement in terms of gender roles/bodytypes.  Female champions are being less pidgeon-holed into ranged roles, although that is still where they are predominantly placed, and we’re seeing far more interesting bodytypes on the few female champions they do release.

I don’t think Riot’s going to actually move to have more parity among gender representation in their game, which I think is a shame, because its been proven that gender representation impacts player and developer representation (which I will cover in part 2).  I do think we’re seeing significant improvements in terms of bodytypes/gender roles represented.  I would still like to see a diversion in terms of ages of bodies and I would love to see some large/obese female champions as well as more monster/creature female champions.  I think there are improvements being made, but they are not enough and they don’t reflect the effort that Rioters argued they were working towards.  There’s a lot more room for growth, but I’ll take babysteps over no steps at all.



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