October 5, 2020

Seraphine: Riot Designs a Human

From a business perspective, social media is an excellent marketing tool. The goal is to create an emotional bond between the account holder and their followers. To give them glimpses into their lives and make them feel welcome. It taps into a part of the human brain that evolved before the invention of the internet, which sometimes can’t tell the difference between someone we know irl and someone whose content we consume. 

We’re part of their lives, aren’t we? We know so much about them! 

This glitch in our mental software is part of why we can feel so invested in celebrities, pro gamers, and even brands. And Riot has expertly employed this tactic with Seraphine.

Anyone who’s been keeping up with League of Legends news has probably heard about Seraphine. The self-described “songwriter + producer” frequents Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud. She was undercover for a few months, only posting about her life, her music, and her cat Bao.

But thanks to some deep-dives from LoL fanatics, we learned that Seraphine is in fact Champion 152. The entire persona is for someone who doesn’t actually exist. 

And since she has 288,100 followers, she’s also probably more popular than you. 

Seraphine’s existence pushes the boundaries between the game and the real world, which is something Riot has been up to for years. Augmented Reality has become a staple of their Worlds Finals Opening Ceremony since 2017, and it’s unlikely to change now. With the announcement that Seraphine is working with KDA on their upcoming album, including featuring on a track, we’re probably going to get our first true glimpse of Seraphine (and her champion spotlight) at the Worlds finals Opening Ceremony.

Her music. Their album. Despite the fact that Seraphine is actually a clever combination of a marketing team, a dedicated artist, and a large budget, it’s hard to figure out what else to call her. She’s still a character, to be addressed by her name or by pronouns, and yet this time she’s been manufactured to be more than a champ with a backstory we’re not going to read. She’s supposed to be relatable. There are pictures of her scrapbooks, the last day at her job, sunbathing at the beach, and even retweets curated to show us her personality. What she cares about. What she dreams of.

As a concept, Seraphine has a deeper potential for a fanbase than other champs based solely on her online interaction. The psychological phenomenon that humans can feel close to, perhaps even friends with, strangers who don’t speak to us preys on instincts most of us aren’t aware of. And what Riot has done is employ that tactic, develop that sense of intimacy, in a League character.

They’ve created living lore.

There’s no one else in esports, and maybe in gaming as a whole, that’s trying to capture your attention so thoroughly as Riot is. They’ve expanded the LoL universe into a digital card game, several mobile games, an entire catalogue of licensed music by bands that don’t technically exist, board games, comic books, an anime, and non-league game titles. League of Legends is no longer a game. It’s an empire. And it’s constantly raising the stakes.

If nothing else, we should all be asking ourselves what comes next? Where does Riot go after they’ve designed a character that could be mistaken for a person?