For those of you who don’t follow professional gaming, here’s how it works in League of Legends (the most popular game in the world and the most-watched esport in competitive gaming).
During each off season two teams from the Challenger series (think of this as the minor leagues) get the chance to play into the LCS (think of this as the big leagues, like the NBA, NFL, etc.). One such team this year was the Renegades which features Maria “Remilia” Creveling, a lauded Thresh player, at support. Creveling is a transgender female and, if she stays with the team, will be the both the first female and transgender player to compete professionally in League of Legends.
However, Remilia doesn’t want this to be seen as an LGBT victory. Remilia said of her accomplishment:
“i just want it to be known that i accomplished my goal for real, and i accomplished it for me, my teammates, and girls in esports. that’s it. no one else. don’t fucking put me on some lgbt agenda or some bullshit and bring that up. that’s not me,” Remelia posted on Reddit. “i don’t believe in that. i don’t want messages acknowledging that part of my life, sorry. that’s not for any of you guys.”
She asked Riot (the makers of League of Legends) to avoid putting her on camera as much as possible in the finals and Riot acquiesced.
Even though this might not be an LGBT victory for her, it’s inescapable: that’s what it is. For video games and in the 21st century this is a story tantamount to Jackie Robinson.
I have mixed feelings about this particular situation. Where my feelings aren’t mixed at all is the excitement of having a female and a transgender player break through into professional play in what is easily my favorite game. That’s awesome.
The discord for me comes from following the scene and knowing that the game could have better ambassadors than Remilia. Remilia is notorious for having a pretty unpleasant temperament. For instance, after Renegades’ victory Remilia took to reddit to say:
fuck man it’s like I finally said what i wanted to say and now i feel a lot better since it’s being received fairly well. i will talk it over with my teammates and chris to see if its a financially viable option to continue playing in LCS. riot if u read this i’ll promote your stupid game if u pay me more…
Imagine if Tom Brady had told the NFL, “Yeah, I’ll promote your stupid game if you pay me more money.” Yeah, he’s still be signed to a team for his talent alone, but the support for himself, his team, and any cause to which he was attached would be hugely and negatively impacted.
We fans follow the LCS because we really enjoy the game, so to hear somebody put themselves above the game is a tad insulting. She makes it sound like she’s doing us a favor playing the game, not as if she’s very lucky to play the game at its highest level, to have a fan base, and to get paid (pretty well) to do it. This is reminiscent of players like the NFL’s Terrell Owens or the NBA’s Allen Iverson, players with undeniable talent but who few people really liked because of their negative attitude.
Ultimately, I hope Remilia stays, and she’s indicated on her twitter that she will do so:
see u in january.
— Remi ♥ (@RNGRemi) August 15, 2015
But I also hope she grows up a bit and acquires a better outlook toward the game, because whether she likes it or not she’s about to get a lot of attention on gaming’s most prestigious stage and, as a result, she’s going to be thrust into the role of ambassador for women/transgender in gaming. Nobody can doubt her skill at the game, but the women in gaming pulling for her because of what she represents will require more character of her than she’s shown.
If you want a bit of history on women in pro gaming, keep reading. 😛
Should Remilia stick around she will not be the first woman or transgender person in professional gaming. That honor goes to Team Acer’s Scarlett, the only major female pro Starcraft 2 player, and the person I’d pick to be the iconic woman/transgender player in esports if I could (sadly, due to LoL’s popularity, that role is going to get ceded to Remilia no matter what). Not only is she kind in public she has a reputation of treating her fans extremely well. On top of that, she has immense talent sufficient to leave nobody questioning that she’s where she is due exclusively to her mastery of the game. She swept the 2012 SC2 World Championship Series in Canada as well as the 2012 Battle.net NA Championship. Even more impressively, she largely plays zerg, which was by far the most underpowered race in the game at the time. Stacking on to that, her favorite match up is against Terrans, the most overpowered race!
There have been attempts in the past to get women into professional LoL play. Starting in 2012 Team Siren attempted to be the first fully female team in professional gaming with their sights set on getting into the LCS. Immediately they were accused of trying to cash in on the niche of being pretty female gamers. Whether or not it was true, all five of their players were Diamond or Platinum level. That’s nothing to sneeze at. They were good, but not pro level (despite coaching from TSM’s Xspecial, one of the greatest players ever in North America). Once they were placed against Master and/or Challenger-level players (the two ranks above Diamond) it was clear they weren’t ready for the stage they were pursuing. They disbanded early in 2013 because they couldn’t get along.