The latest wizard in League Of Legends is Seraphine, a pink-haired pop star who has also sang with League's out-of-fiction virtual girl group, K/DA. Yesterday, a woman named Stephanie alleged that the character is based on her, and she's not happy about it. She says she had briefly dated a Riot employee who sure gave the impression that she might play some part in the game, and was unpleasantly surprised when League later added a character who at least looks a lot like her. Riot have responded saying the character is not based on any individual, and that the employee she dated wasn't in a role or department with input into the design process.
In her blog post yesterday, Stephanie said she believed Seraphine's look and interests were inspired by her. They certainly do share a physical resemblance. A League player herself, she said that in early 2019 she briefly dated a Riot employee, who she referred to with the pseudonym "John". She says while they only met in-person twice, he'd invited her for a tour of the office, got a Riot artist to draw a version of her as League wizard Ahri, said he'd shared some of her writing about League internally, and implied her relationship with League could go beyond being a player.
While John wasn't a character or skin designer, she says he told her he'd suggested "an 'e-girl' or 'awkward' skin for Ahri" inspired by her, and implied he had influence over earlier K/DA-themed character skins because he knew people on the team. He'd also suggested she should voice act on a secret project she'd be perfect for, she said. So when Riot revealed Seraphine this year, looking like her and sharing some behaviours, she began to wonder about things he'd said. She thinks Seraphine might be based on her, and finds it well weird.
"It may sound kind of fun at first, to have a League champion that looks like you," she said. "But I don't think I've even opened League, let alone played a game, since she came out. (One silver lining: I haven't gotten demoted in a while?) I've felt really grossed-out about it, to the point that I can't play one of my favorite videogames. 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."
I can see it being kind of horrid to have strangers keep telling you about your similarities, or criticise 'her' appearance, or make porn of the character, or to have Riot run a marketing campaign with fake social media accounts pretending Seraphine's a real singer talking candidly about her insecurities - especially when Riot are building a fanbase to buy expensive skins. Yeah, that 'real' Seraphine is a whole other iffy situation.
Whether Seraphine is based on Stephanie or not, I can see why she might think that and want to raise concerns publicly. That would be weird as hell for someone you only briefly dated to do. And his alleged behaviour would seem intended to make her think he could and would do something big for her in League, which is still gross and unpleasant if untrue. And a Riot employee being gross and unpleasant would not surprise me. But Riot do say Seraphine is not her.
"Seraphine was independently created by Riot Games and was not based on any individual, including Ms. [redacted cos hey she doesn't seem to want it out there]," Riot said in a statement to Inven Global. "Additionally, the former employee Ms. [X] is referring to left Riot more than a year ago and was in a department and role that has no input whatsoever into the creative design process.
"We take all claims of misappropriation seriously and immediately investigated Ms. [X]'s allegations after receiving a legal demand letter from her attorney last month. We confirmed that her claim of being the basis for Seraphine lacks merit, communicated this to her attorney, and invited him to further discuss the facts with us. We are still waiting for a response."
i keep wondering when everyone's going to figure out i don't actually know what i'm doing pic.twitter.com/SNfm5eTwM8— Seraphine⭐🌊 (@seradotwav) September 25, 2020
Confusing the issue further is a common belief that Seraphine, contrary to Riot's statement, is actually based on one Riot employee. She goes by the username "Whiskies" and is engaged to a Riot senior game designer who worked on Seraphine, Jeevun Sidhu. Last month on Twitter, Sidhu compared being around Whiskies to how Seraphine "makes everyone around her shine just a little bit brighter", and thanked Whiskies "for the inspiration". But while Whiskies has even cosplayed as Seraphine, I'm not convinced Sidhu means she was the direct inspiration for the character as much as perhaps she's an inspiring presence in his life. Especially when that seems to be just a sweet tweet about a partner rather than, y'know, an unambiguous declaration of adaptation intended to firmly settle the issue in anticipation of this situation.
Honestly, I had thought Seraphine's social media would be the peak of weirdness around her.