Riot have announced Ocean Week – a special League of Legends event on its Oceania server to coincide with Australia Day and Waitangi Day. One of the reward tiers will see an artificial reef themed around one of the game's champions sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Others include a larger-than-normal free champion rotation and influence point boosters.
How the event is set to work is that from 23 – 30 Jan players can earn points towards various rewards by winning a game while playing a designated Ocean Week champion in blind pick, team builder or Twisted Treeline. If you're queuing as a premade stack and at least one person is using an Ocean Week champion then everyone on the team earns a point.
The rewards are as follows:
The free rotation for Ocean Week goes up from 12 to 20 champions
A 4-win Influence Point boost (it's one of the game's currencies) if you contributed at least one point to the pool
Unlocking access to 4 aquatic-themed skins which have been retired from sale. You don't earn the skins, you just earn the right to buy them from the store for a limited period. It's Scuba Gragas, Sailor Gangplank, Frozen Shen and Angler Jax.
Unlocks a 2x chance to get a legendary skin when purchasing a mystery gift for a limited period.
Riot will create an artificial reef based around a champion (Fizz, Nami or Nautilus) and sink it to the ocean floor. If you've contributed at least three points to the goal at this point you get your summoner name recorded on the statue.
Looking through the rewards they're fairly standard, so it's clearly the reef that's the attention-getter. I always feel uncomfortable when a company incentivises you interacting with its products with an act which benefits the environment, simply because of how it reads when you flip the arrangement – if you don't engage enough with our brand we won't do the aforementioned good thing.
In this instance I'd say League has an absolutely enormous amount of playerbase research at its disposal and I'd be surprised if the reward tiers *hadn't* been calibrated to lead to a champion being sunk into the blue. After all, artificial reefs are fascinating and I think the photos and the story would be appealing outside the games media and LoL players.
According to Riot:
"Basically we're working with an artificial reef company in conjunction with a marine biologist and we need to gain approval for the reef site (where we can place an underwater artificial reef). We want to make sure it's in the best interests of the sea creatures we're making a home for to drop a champion on them. We'll provide more updates as it gets made - assuming the goal gets unlocked =)"
So what the hell is an artificial reef? I find them interesting so I 'm hijacking this post to talk about them for a moment. An artificial reef is a manmade structure which can mimic some of the characteristics of a natural reef. As an example, ships can be scuttled in order to create a home for marine life including sponges, fish and corals. But the League of Legends idea reminds me of the work of Jason deCaires Taylor. He's an artist whose work has included underwater sculpture parks off the coasts of Grenada and Cancun. The sculptures are made from materials specifically aimed at promoting coral life which then transforms the work. One of the intentions behind the Cancun project, The Silent Evolution, is that by encouraging visitors to come to the sculpture park for their sealife fix, pressure is taken off the natural reefs which can then recover.
One of the parts of the League of Legends idea I've been pondering is the part where you get your name on the reef, though. There's that EVE monument which has the names of all the players with active accounts at a particular point in time and you can go search for your own name if you ever fancy going to see the statue. But presumably with Ocean Week the idea is more about you being happy knowing there's a cool thing with your name on it. Underwater sculpture parks do get tourism but finding your name and keeping that name legible at all would presumably involve interfering with the reef in some way?