Riot Games has been making some pretty big waves with League of Legends. Truthfully, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise to any of you. As of last year, the game numbered somewhere around 32 million monthly active players. That's bigger than World of Warcraft, previously one of the most popular games ever made.
As a result of this immense popularity (and a concerted effort by Riot), the world of competitive eSports has achieved an unprecedented level of validity in mainstream culture. Earlier this summer, for example, pro gamers were been recognized by the United States government as legitimate athletes; meaning, among other things, that any professional gamer hailing from outside the United States is eligible to receive a P-1A Visa.
League of Legends: it's kind of a big deal.
Evidence of the free to play MOBA's (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) influence extends far beyond American shores, as well. Even in Iran - where the game is currently banned by the government- there's plans to host an unnofficial League of Legends tournament this September. What this means is that the ban the Iranian government placed on the game may finally be lifted.
Unfortunately, that comes with a rather absurd caveat - every single female champion in the game save Annie, Poppy, and Anivia has been banned for being too revealing (although they're considering allowing Diana, Fiora, Karma, Kayle, Leona, Lissandra, Lulu, Lux, Nami, Quinn, Sejuani, Tristana, and Vayne). That's over a quarter of the champions in the game (approximately 30%, for those of you who want the actual statistic). Worse, the list contains a huge chunk of the top-tier champions for bottom lane.
Obviously, they haven't seen Heartseeker Vayne.
I've been trying to work out how they're supposed to host a tournament when some of the best champions in the game are unavailable. So far, I've come up entirely blank. It simply doesn't seem viable.
The fault doesn't lie with WCG Iran in this case. What we're witnessing here is a cultural clash. In the West, society as a whole doesn't have much of a problem with depictions of women - sexual or otherwise. In Iran, however, the ruling body of government is extremely conservative, and doesn't have the best relationship with women's rights, to boot(though the problem is hardly as significant as some news outlets pretend it to be).
Curiously, they haven't banned any male champions.
Side by side, these two factors - coupled with the religious leanings of Iranian society as a whole - mean that the depictions of women as seen in the game's graphics and splash art are a huge cultural taboo. Because, hey, let's face facts here: most of the female champions in League of Legends are extremely sexualized. That's not something anyone can or should deny. Whether or not it should be acceptable in the West; that's a can of worms we're not going to open today.
For its part, WCG Iran is hard at work trying to have the restrictions repealed, as revealed in a Facebook post made two days ago by Reza, one of the organization's representatives. I've included the full post (word for word) below.
Dear foreigner friends, I see lots of you are complaining about the situation that we have with LoL and its really appreciated to the gaming community that you all care. I call it the power of e-sports people.
I have to clarify the things:
Firstly, we're a private organization who are in charge of holding e-sport events including WCG2013 in Iran. As you know in every country you have to obey the laws and if we want to have LoL in our event we have to obey the Iranian minister of culture laws. The laws didn't designated by us and its on government side, so don't regret us.
And we are working hard to handle this event for more than 3 months now, its not fair to judge us without knowing the situation that we have with Iranian government, although we had much effort and negotiations to remove the restrictions it didn't happen yet, but we are still on it.
We need all Iranian gamers and also our international e-sports fans to support us on this mission: "to remove the restrictions that made by the government to this game and also many more titles."
If you guys can't support us and the Iranian gaming community, at least don't spam our channels and let us do it solo.
Thanks for understanding.
Reza - Iran SP
Here's hoping they manage to convince the Minister of Culture to lift the restriction. Otherwise, I suspect this tournament might well be a bust.