Is Riot Really Changing the Game With the Game Changers?

Women in esports, a topic as old as, well, the esports. A few months ago we’ve barely scratched the surface talking about it, and now Riot has renewed it, stirring the pot with its newly launched concept Game Changers.

Game Changers Aren’t Changing Anything, Let Alone the Game

Game Changers is basically a boot camp for aspiring women (and all who feel like one) in LOL to help them advance further up the esports ladder aka to be a stepping stone towards finding their teams. At least according to Riot’s claims. Application is opened to the USA and Canadian residents (this is, after all, an LCS project, at least at this point in time) and there will be 10 players picked out of that pool to create two teams of five.

They will then be given the opportunity to gain “pro-level skills” in two weeks of training with coaches, learning strategies, and basically experiencing “life as a pro”, Riot suggests. At the end of the boot camp, or whatever you’d like to call it, “supercharged participants” will compete against each other and in that way showcase “their abilities while also building professional connections”. And that’s it, for the program Riot boasts it’s been in development “for years”.

We Know Best

So if you got the idea this whole thing has been done solely for the spectacle, that’s because it was. Riot is basically making itself look like a hero for throwing crumbs to women, who in return, should then be thankful 10 of them have even been allowed for two weeks “to feel like a pro”. Those 10 (TEN) chosen women will be given the opportunity to “feel like a pro”. Not to become pros, but to feel like them. Let that one sink in.

In addition to all of this, Riot also says: “We understand the importance of safety in the community, especially for underrepresented groups.  This program’s primary goal is to level up an underserved group of League of Legends players, and as such we will be respecting our participant’s privacy by not broadcasting this event live”.

So you are not even going to give these people visibility? If this was the case in which those people (aka women) were asked if they wanted to stay anonymous, then, by all means, proceed. But as those people (aka women) weren’t even chosen yet, this scenario is highly unlikely. Couldn’t this be handled a bit more gallantly? For instance, you ask in the application if participants want to go public and if they don’t then you make a decision.  Or any other option in the sun that doesn’t (once again) include deciding for those who can, believe it or not, decide for themselves?

Sure, the problem of women being harassed in esports is a whole separate issue, but don’t you think it’s on those participants to decide if they want or do not want to go public?

Only Smoke And Mirrors

Once more Riot, as one of the giants of the industry, is setting the wrong example: shifting blame and washing hands. They’ve basically said: we’ve given you the opportunity, now be grateful and preferably quiet for a certain amount of time, until we figure out what kind of crumbs we’ll feed you next.

Not to mention that the concept of a special program such as Game Changers is already discriminating by itself. Instead of promoting unity in the community, you are creating an even bigger division by separating a certain group of people. Why not just include them and give them opportunities on regular basis, then this issue wouldn’t even exist. Why not educate (and or appropriately penalize) your players and the rest of the community, and let that be your priority from day to day? Instead, you are confirming this group is even more “special” than we thought, by creating a concept promoting “inclusivity” which only emphasizes the difference. One more tale as old as time.

In the end, we should probably give Riot a benefit of the doubt, since they do mention this Game Changers concept is only a first step towards the goal. The problem is, at this pace, we’ll sooner be back where we started than anywhere near the goal.