League of Legends reunion story shows games as the new pen pal letter

Not sure how we missed this one. Riot Games asked San Francisco agency Muhtayzik Hoffer to show what League of Legends means to its millions of players and the result was a short called “Tim’s Story.” 

Tim lives in Nebraska, but grew up in Arizona. After his father endures a coma, the family decides to move to the middle of the country, thousands of miles from Tim’s good friends and his girlfriend. But they keep in touch via videogames, an experience that writer Jason Killingsworth (who actually now works as a senior writer at Riot) explored in Kill Screen’s Maturity issue.

One of games’ enduring contemporary projects is unraveling the public perception that they are anti-social. Fueled by moral panics and self-inflicted PR gaffes, videogames lost the requisite social friction that birthed the arcade and now find themselves reclaiming their original purpose and vision. Per Twitch’s recent study on its demographic, more gamers said their friends were the “most important thing” in their lives and “spending time with my family is a top priority” than non-gamers. It’s a start.

In past eras, letter-writing was the popular form of communication and holds a cherished place in the pantheon of the arts. Illustrator Edward Gorey wrote marvelously constructed notes to his editor Peter F. Neumeyer; painter Georgia O’Keefe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz carried on their romance by mail; and the apostle Paul’s letters to young churches in Ephesus and Corinth are canonized in the Bible. (See Maria Popova’s list for more examples.) In fiction, the epistolary novel, a tale told through letters, was popular through the 18th century and reached its apex in tales like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

While I don’t know that chat banter from League of Legends will make the shelves of the future’s libraries, the connection does speak to the enduring legacy of mediated communication.