Riot Games has been accused of basing its newest League of Legends champion, Seraphine, on a real person without her approval.
The woman, Stephanie, told her story in a Medium post, detailing how she had briefly dated “John,” a Riot Games employee who wanted to base in-game skins on her likeness and personality. Their three-month relationship ended, she moved to start her first job, and then “over a year after we stopped talking to one another, Seraphine — a pink haired, optimistic girl who had just started working toward her dreams — started posting on Twitter, and eventually, became the newest League of Legends champion.”
During their three-month relationship in 2019, John often told Stephanie about his work at Riot Games, including development on League of Legends. Stephanie was a fan of the game and played with him. Though he was not a character or skin designer, John claimed to have influenced the first “K/DA” skins, a set of pop star looks for four popular characters. He also told Stephanie he had pitched skins for the nine-tailed fox champion Ahri based on her.
John wanted to recruit Stephanie for a “top secret” voice acting project, and gifted artwork of her as Ahri in her K/DA attire, drawn by League of Legends illustrators. She claims the gesture “was strange for how short of a time I’d known him […] and we stopped speaking entirely shortly after,” though she does not cite the game as a reason for their breakup.
When Seraphine began appearing on League of Legends social media channels this fall, Stephanie was alarmed at the similarities between her and the character: their pink hair and facial features, their self-portrait doodles, similar names and poses holding their cats, and more. Seraphine was introduced as a new artist associated with K/DA, which has become a real-world band and marketing tool for the game.
“I’ve felt really grossed-out about it, to the point that I can’t play one of my favorite videogames,” Stephanie wrote. Besides that, it’s been kind of horrid to have a League champion who looks like you, has so many of your characteristics, and has a NAME that’s almost identical to yours. People I’ve never met send her to me online and point out the similarities, there’s already immense amounts of porn of her, I see people arguing about her near-daily […] and while I do kind of agree that she’s an out of place character for the lore of the game, it does suck to see your features torn apart on a massive scale every time you open your Twitter feed.”
“This whole situation has been really violating. Every article about her makes my stomach turn. It’s both a personal point of frustration and also, I guess, it may be just another way a giant videogame company has screwed over a woman without a second thought— and massively profited off it.”
Riot Games issued a statement to PC Gamer, denying Stephanie’s claims and adding John “left Riot more than a year ago and was in a department and role that has no input whatsoever into the creative design process.” This is far from the first serious allegation leveled against the developer, as former employees accused it of perpetuating a toxic working environment and rape culture, leading to walk-outs and petitions for change.
Stephanie is considering legal action against the League of Legends developer, and believes the matter is bigger than her likeness being appropriately without permission.
“When Riot makes a character that looks and sings and Tweets like a person, they’re knowingly creating a ‘person’ that doesn’t exist in a way that intentionally takes advantage of the way that human beings relate to other people, just biologically and emotionally, and then they’re making tons and tons of money from it. […] That’s something that we should all be really concerned with.”