A common criticism leveled at gaming culture is that it’s a boys’ club. In Iran, that apparently goes double.
That’s the takeaway from a recent decision by the organizers of an eSports tournament featuring the game League of Legends. Bowing to government pressure, they blocked players from using virtually all of the game’s female characters.
Iranian leaders were concerned that the characters were too provocatively dressed.
The tournament’s organizers had reportedly been in negotiations with government officials for months and were concerned that, if they didn’t comply, they would be forced to cancel the event. Like much western entertainment, League of Legends is officially banned in Iran, but World Cyber Games (WCG), the international eSports organization hosting the tournament, has negotiated to have it it allowed under a certain set of conditions.
“This is essentially like removing half the pieces from chess,” complained video game blog Kotaku. “These characters are essential to gameplay and strategy. Banning them completely changes the game.”
While a ban was issued against 36 of the game’s female characters, a post on the League of Legends forum notes that negotiations are underway to let players use a select handful of female characters. Thirty-nine of the game’s more than 100 playable characters are female.
“The only ones left are Anivia, who is a giant phoenix made of ice, and Annie and Poppy, who are both little girls,” noted Geekosystem.
In a post on WCG Iran’s Facebook page, the company defended its decision to accede to the Iranian government’s demands:
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.
What do the tournament’s female gamers think about the dearth of female characters? Well, it’s hard to say because there aren’t any—WCG is an all-male event.