Riot Games has announced it will reverse changes to Karma’s facial features and skin tone in her promotional material for League of Legends: Wild Rift.
Known as the living embodiment of an ancient soul reincarnated countless times, Karma was introduced in League of Legends in 2011. However, she’s only just making her way over to the MOBA’s mobile counterpart at the end of March. After the release of some promotional assets for her Wild Rift debut, fans noticed her appearance had been changed. Her face was transformed to look generally more eurocentric, with specific features such as her nose, mouth, and jaw looking smaller and more rounded. Though Karma’s violet eyes only turn green when she uses her ultimate, they were changed to be normally green. Most immediately glaringly, though, is that her brown skin tone was drastically lightened.
It’s unsure how the change happened in the first place, but Riot is working to restore Karma’s original model.
“Hey gang, we’re going to be updating Karma’s face/skintone in some of our promotional assets,” Ben Forbes, the communications lead for Wild Rift, tweeted on March 22. “We did this on a pretty short turnaround, so please forgive us if she’s not updated everywhere in time.” He goes on to thank Twitter user @_spacecate for bringing up the issue, as well as to reassure fans that the art and production team are taking “the concern seriously and making changes.”
hey gang, we’re going to be updating karma’s face/skintone in some of our promotional assets. we did this on a pretty short turnaround so please forgive us if she’s not updated everywhere in time. thanks again to @_spacecate for the detailed and respectful feedback pic.twitter.com/aIqfLbpjox
— Ben Forbes (@draggles) March 22, 2022
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This isn’t the first time Riot has found itself in a similar controversy. Back in 2021, a similar incident happened when the champion Taliyah was added to Legends of Runeterra, the collectible card game counterpart to League of Legends. Though fans should have been excited to see the mage in the game as part of the Empires of the Ascended expansion, many were instead disappointed to see her whitewashed appearance.
Riot also responded fairly quickly at the time. “Hey folks, thanks for the feedback on Taliyah’s visual design,” the official Legends of Runeterra account tweeted. “Her current design isn’t representative of her character, and we’re making changes. Due to time constraints, her updated art won’t be in at the launch of Empires of the Ascended, but we’ve started on revisions.”
The statement goes on to explain the choice to recast Taliyah’s voice actor. It ends with the reassurance that “the entire team strives to ensure our champions and followers all authentically represent their core themes and respective cultures,” and that the community feedback is both appreciated and “a key pillar” for the title.
I appreciate seeing Riot’s quick response to issues like whitewashing and colorism. Nonetheless, one has to wonder how these errors occurred in the first place. It’s not something that has happened to non-white characters. In fact, it happens quite often to characters of color in games — and though I should be used to it by now, it’s extremely disappointing to see every time. Karma looks beautiful, and I hope her design won’t be impacted like this in the future again.
Karma will be released with Patch 3.1 of League of Legends: Wild Rift, which is set to arrive in the coming weeks.
[Disclaimer: Both Riot Games and Fanbyte are owned by the same parent company, Tencent. I’ve never met a Tencent person in my life, though. I love Arcane but don’t play League of Legends, and this article isn’t super positive about it, so there you go.]