Riot Games apologized recently after a portion of a League of Legends event put players with photosensitive epilepsy at risk. The company first stated that the option to disable the specific animations as part of a finisher that risked triggering seizures in some photosensitive players had been considered, but as one of the game’s designers described, it did not have “time or bandwidth” to implement a toggle so that players could turn off the problematic animations.
The way Riot initially responded to this issue caused a bit of an uproar online, and it has since released more information clarifying what it meant (via Kotaku.) “To clarify the initial Rioter response, we’d never ship a product that we thought could even potentially harm player," said a spokesperson. "Our initial internal discussion about including a ‘toggle’ for this feature was due to concerns that players might find Finishers too distracting — not because we thought Finishers could cause harm.”
Riot has now affirmed that the animation will be removed. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for the game. In May of 2017, a special Dark Star animated login screen was removed after a player suffered epilepsy-related issues.
The issue of creating games that are accessible to most players is not new. Recently, a 14-year-old named Danik Soudakoff worked to make Overwatch more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing players.
This, of course, speaks to a range of accessibility issues. The goal is to make visual points available to compensate for the audio that plays such a large role in the game. Here, however, the issues pertaining to certain flashy animations are far more serious, as they can harm players.
Currently, League of Legends offers a mode for colorblind play, but this is not the same as specifically-tailored visuals that should be added for players who may be photosensitive. According to competitive player Apricot Princess, one of the most difficult parts of dealing with photosensitive epilepsy is the appropriate knowledge of what could trigger a seizure. She states that there are roughly ten animations in the game that can be troublesome, but the addition of new ones without warning can leave her and others with similar issues in a vulnerable state.
Ultimately, Riot Games needs to do better. We may be able to excuse the fact that this happened once since the issue had not been previously been realized, but there is no excuse for this to happen again.