The Politics of a Game Patch: Patch Note Documents and the Patching Processes in League of Legends


May 2023

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This thesis traces the histories of the digital game League of Legends through the game’s patching processes and the documentation about these patches written by the game’s developers, Riot Games. Specifically, by analyzing the game’s histories of racial representation and professional player labor through a focus on the effects of Riot Games’ patching processes, this thesis investigates the politics of a game patch in constituting a post-racial logic and precarious labor practices for professional players and beyond. In this investigation, I begin by examining the introduction of racial and sexual diversity game patches during the process of League of Legends’s rise to global popularity. By considering the introduction of characters that are explicitly coded as racially and sexually diverse, such as Caitlyn, Lucian, and Neeko, alongside the inclusion of microtransaction cosmetic appearances that alter the racial coding of player characters, I argue that Riot Games reproduces the logics of racial othering in these patches through a positioning of these differences as merely aesthetic preferences, which collectively contribute towards League of Legends’ status as a globally palatable game that aestheticizes race and reinscribes a post-racial logic into the game’s universe. Building on this, I proceed to analyze the patching processes and consequences surrounding the professional gaming event Worlds 2015, a prestigious international tournament. Building on accounts of professional players alongside the journalistic entries on Worlds 2015, I connect the tenuous and precarious labor conditions of professional eSports players at the whims of developer patches with scholarly theorizations on the processes of technological obsolescence and decay. In so doing, I argue that patches are far from its conception as a strictly reactive process. Instead, patches and patching are locations whereby developer goals are actively negotiated with players. To conclude, this thesis investigation ends with a story of the rise and fall of a localized League of Legends’ competitive scene that connects the post-racial logic and precarious labor practices in game patches. By problematizing how race and labor are intimately tethered to the processes of game patching, I highlight how patching processes can reproduce ludo-Orientalist logic in reality.



Information Science, American Studies, Mass Communications