As the international community watches the conflict escalate between the United States and Iran, an unexpected secondary effect has occurred in that both Iran and Syria have had access blocked to the online game League of Legends, developed by Riot Games.
Within the esports industry, this appears to be a first of its kind. Generally, when such conflicts arise, there are sanctions put forth on physical goods and on the acts of buying and selling from embargoed nations. Tariffs and threats of military conflict are often the norm, whereas the blocking of civilian access to video games is somewhat new.
Developer Riot Games is based in the United States, though the game League of Legends is one that is played internationally, and the move feels out of place. Hopefully, the act does not set forth a new precedence for future conflicts between countries, where it is only consumers and players who lose out in these political conflicts.
What is interesting in this case is that the game is free, and so in theory, the only parts of the game that need to be shut down in League of Legends are the microtransactions, which form part of the commercial trade that the sanctions aim to limit.
One must wonder if Riot has reached out in some way to offer this temporary measure so that its players may not be affected. Then again, they may simply not be in any position to be offering such accommodations in a time of political tension, as the entire block may simply be part of sending a message.
Of course, just because something is blocked in a region does not mean that players have no means to access it. VPN's have long allowed individuals to access digital content that is region-locked and can also be used for playing League of Legends.
Unfortunately, the result from this method is a laggy game with a ping that makes the game all but unplayable at competitive levels. In addition, VPN's can be quite expensive, and many players may simply consider the cost too great to continue playing their games.
For now, players in these regions are stuck in indefinite limbo. Whereas they may have had active accounts for the better part of a decade, now they must wait to see if they will have access restored at some point in the near future.