League of Legends and Art

Introduction

Riot Game’s League of Legends has the distinction of being considered both a game and a piece of art. League of Legends has multiple creations that have been spawned from the game such as machinima style videos, fan art, and fan fiction. The thing that I will be focusing on is the fan art of League of Legends and specifically, fan art from the artist OhNips. Fan art is important to the health of the game as it relates to how the community of the game is interacting with the game assets and if people are still interested in the game. Fan artists have varying styles that both have pros and cons to why different people like their art. Something that I really like about OhNips’ art is the fact that her humans look hyper-realistic and everything is well defined. The colors that are used in the making of the art and the positioning of the body parts make sense and in character.

The Death of the Author

In Roland Barthes’ The Death of the Author, he states that

“Once the Author is gone, the claim to “decipher” a text becomes quite useless. To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing. This conception perfectly suits criticism, which can then take as its major task the discovery of the Author (or his hypostases: society, history, the psyche, freedom) beneath the work: once the Author is discovered, the text is “explained:’ the critic has conquered; hence it is scarcely surprising not only that, historically, the reign of the Author should also have been that of the Critic, but that criticism (even “new criticism”) should be overthrown along with the Author.” (Barthes 1967 p.5)

Riot Games doesn’t heavily police the amount of fanart that is based off League of Legends. There is a lot of Not-Safe-For-Work (NSFW) which Riot doesn’t police the fanart and kind of lets it live in its own ecosystem of fanart. OhNips doesn’t have many pieces of NSFW work as most of her work is done of characters that wear lots of clothing or armor that are used as an identifying mark for the character in question.

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SKT Faker vs TSM Bjergsen

In this piece, OhNips is referencing a mid-lane match between SK Telecom T1 vs Team SoloMid at the 2015 Mid Seasonal Invitational where SKT Faker played Cassiopeia against TSM Bjergsen who picked Ziggs to directly oppose him. Riot also didn’t ask her to make this; this was something that she made of her own volition. But with Riot having a hands-off approach to fanart, there are some artists that try to be super gruesome and over the top which hurts this hands-off approach.

Art Worlds and Collective Authority

Howard Becker states that

“The list of things that must be done varies, naturally, from one medium to another, but we can provisionally list the kinds of activities that must be performed. To begin, someone must have an idea of what kind of work is to be made and of its specific form. The originators may get that idea long before actually making the work, or the idea may arise in the process of working. The idea may be brilliant and original, profound and moving, or trivial and banal, for all practical purposes indistinguishable from thousands of other ideas produced by others equally untalented or uninterested in what they are doing.” (Becker 1982 p.2)

Riot Games has an art department that creates champion splashes and skin splashes that are the official artwork of League of Legends. OhNips being a fan artist has the ability to change attributes of characters to fit her whims. If she wants to change the gender of the character and make the character female instead of male or even change what they are wearing to make a character a part of an Esports organization such as Team SoloMid (TSM), Cloud9 (C9), or even Fnatic (FNC).

By having the ability to change aspects of the subject OhNips has the ability to make aspects of the official version hers by having her version retain enough characteristics of the original to identify what champion she has modified and made it different than the original. And her style is different than the artists at Riot Games which leads to the diversity of art which is always a good thing to have.

Video Games and Art

Andy Clark and Grethe Mitchell who contributed to Videogames and Art state that

“Videogame art is a constantly evolving and mutating field. This is inevitable as it is not built on one dominant application, programming language, medium, or aesthetic, nor does it consist of a single, homogeneous, community. But this also means that the work is very diverse and cannot, therefore, be easily or rigidly defined in terms of its themes, technology or techniques. Even so, the work shares a number of common characteristics, and although not every work will have or display all of them, we can use these to help to recognize video game art and acknowledge it as a coherent genre of work (and a valid critical term to describe this type of work).” (Clark and Mitchell 2007 p.7)

There are many styles of fanart. Hyper-realism, chibi, and comic book style artwork are some forms that come to mind. And this allows for people to find a style that resonates with them. Being strong in one field doesn’t mean that you are stuck and are only allowed to do that one specific style of art. It’s just harder to branch out after being known for that one specific style.

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TSM DoubleLift portrays Lucian for Pocket Picks

In this piece, OhNips shows TSM Doublelift as his favorite character Lucian. This series Pocket Picks focuses on pros and their favorite champions to show the general community how to execute some of the high-level combos that he pulls off during his playtime with the champion. OhNips has done other players and other champions as most recently she has completed a picture that features IMT Dardoch and his favorite champion Lee Sin.

Imitating the Greats

Johann Joachim Winckelmann in Reflections on the Imitation of the Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture states that

“The taste which the Greeks exhibited in their works of art was unique and has seldom been taken far from its source without loss. Under more distant skies it found tardy recognition and without a doubt was completely unknown in the northern zones during a time when painting and sculpture, of which the Greeks are the greatest teachers, found few admirers.” (Winckelmann 1755 p.28)

Not everyone thinks that OhNips style of art is the correct way to portray the characters that she makes artwork. But with how great fanart is, there is no set style that everyone has to follow and believe it to be the holy grail of how to do fanart and the portrayal of characters. OhNips’ style allows her to create artwork that makes sense to her. It might be weird looking for the rest of us but at least we can make our own if we don’t like her rendition of characters.

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OhNips’ rendition of TSM at the 2016 World Championship drew the ire of many fans as most fans noticed some of the players looked the same and were hard to tell apart.

In this photo, OhNips drew Team SoloMid for the 2016 World Championships. People were outraged when the picture was released as three of the players looked similar to each other and had no other distinguishing looks to tell them apart. This kind of soured the relationship between OhNips and the general league of Legends community, but time has gone people have forgotten about the piece of artwork and the relationship has kind of repaired itself between her and the community.

Conclusion

League of Legends has a distinction of being a game and a piece of art outside of the game. It’s rich background of content from Machinima style videos, Fan art, and Fanfiction help keep the community growing as a whole and extends the lifespan of the game as if people keep an interest in things, those things tend to stick around for a while. Artists like OhNips need to be celebrated for her style as it is a trademark that instantly recognizable to some and to others it might get them interested in other parts of the community outside of the game.

References

Roland Barthes. (1977 [1967]). “The Death of the Author.” In Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang

 Howard Becker. (1982). “Art Worlds and Collective Activity” in Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press: pp. 1-39.

Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell. (2007). “Introduction.” In Videogames and Art. Bristol; Chicago: Intellect. pp. 7-22. 

Johann Joachim Winckelmann. (1998 [1755]). “Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works inPainting and Sculpture.” In The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, edited by D. Preziosi.Oxford: Oxford University Press: pp. 27-34.

Picture Sources

You can find all of OhNips picture and other creations at her DeviantArt

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