|Op-Ed: The League of Language - Hyperbole in League of Legends|
With the advent of Season 4 and the continued pre-season updates on the PBE, speculative discussion about items, champions and the metagame begin to surface across the Riot General Discussion forums and Reddit. We hear the same words and phrases frequently around this time: “godlike,” “OP,” “broken,” “trash.” But even outside of the off-season, these words and phrases find themselves as key components in the average League player’s vocabulary; none of these terms are uniquely associated with League of Legends, but every member of the community uses these words almost daily - whether in forums, in-game, or over Skype - and can readily conjure up a current flavor of the month champion or a past “League of [Insert Item Here]” associated with each term in their heads. |
It makes sense as to why we cling to these words. In the game itself, there’s not enough time to actually type out more than a few words, so instead of going on a tirade about how and why a champion is “broken” or “OP,” we settle with saying one of the two and everyone understands to some degree. That sort of comfortable behavior then translates outside of the game and we come to the present situation. It’s a shorthand way of communicating. It’s easy and efficient, but is there anything missing every time we say a champion or player is “trash” or “broken?” What’s missing every time we use “godlike” or “OP?”
In some regard, it’s interesting to think about how these words inhibit the actual discussion in which they come up. Taken literally, they almost never hold up. So many things have been labeled “godlike” that we would have quite the veritable pantheon full of players like Doublelift, Faker, and Madlife. Something “broken” doesn’t actually mean it has broken the game. And that all wouldn’t matter, because hyperbole isn’t meant to be taken literally, but our actual use of these words in place of discussion does, when a declarative, attention grabbing statement like something being “OP” is meant as an entrance into discussion.
Take the Season 3 Nunu fiasco earlier this summer for example. Nearly every discussion centered around the Yeti Rider would deride the champion as broken. These phrases aren’t meant to be taken literally, but if we actually think about what the word means, it becomes a less apt term for discussion. Nunu didn’t “break” the game; Nunu was problematic with his own specific set of issues that need to be addressed, but the word “broken” helps very little in remedying that problem. The Nunu problem was a special case in regards to his “brokenness” because the onus in reducing his problematic impact in a game lied in the willingness of a team to work together. Nunu was “OP” or “broken” because the player-base didn’t know how to properly react to the pick (once the understandable nerfs were made), so the use of either word became doubly problematic: 1.) they couldn’t accurately assess the problem, and 2.) they denied the opportunity to learn with each use.
Similarly, in his most recent interview with Thooorin, Doublelift argues against a word we’ve come to cherish in the many off-season roster change discussions: “potential.” In the interview, he states that “potential is just a stupid word that people use to justify losing.” “Potential” is a unique case as its hyperbole isn’t inherent like “broken,” but with every move, addition, and change, it always comes up as a shorthand way of analyzing a team’s strengths without actually doing just that. It encapsulates meaning and reason in a more manageable word at the hopes that everyone will read “potential” and understand what was meant. The “stupidity” of the word, as Doublelift says, comes from its use as an excuse for losing, but even more generally, it excuses any thorough discussion by exaggerating what is actually meant by the word.
Hyperbole runs rampant in League of Legends, and in some ways, we use it as a crutch. It’s not the easiest thing to form an opinion and present it in a coherent, articulate fashion, so these exaggerative words, passed down from years and years of gaming, fill the gaps. “Nunu is broken because his Q does more damage than Smite” or a simple “GG” in place of “We gave up first blood so we’ll certainly lose this game” are succinct in their intention, sure, but clarification becomes quite essential if the intended result aims at anything substantial or meaningful.
It would be a little remiss to not acknowledge that these words do lack some sort of thought as they, in essence, serve to condense in a similar stereotypical fashion. Hyperbole in League of Legends is discussion on auto-pilot. It’s easier, but at the cost of going nowhere besides pointing out a problem without offering any solution. It’s cruise control--waiting for someone else to explain or substantiate. My intentions don’t lie in siding either way, condemning the shorthand or praising articulation, but rather to point out that, in situations where a champion is “broken” or “trash,” we only make said situation worse by relying on those words as if they neatly sum up the problem.
These words or phrases will never die out; the League of Language will always exist, but it never hurts to think about what’s missing--what falls by the way side--every time we condense, exaggerate, and shortchange ourselves because not everything is “trash,” (though Doublelift may disagree) or “OP” without a reason.