The Heart is a Lonely Jungler

In a time of decreasing face-to-face interaction, League of Legends players forge intimacy over their favorite game.

“You’re gonna hate me after I int.” The previous loss drags her voice to the bottom of her register as it layers on top the click-clack of her trackpad, emphasizing the livestream’s subdued get-together vibe. “Don’t worry she only ints guys she thinks have hot voices,” says a member of the stream chat. Immediately, Onyx’s voice perks up in repudiation. “Neny, shut up! Neny, why you gotta expose me?” Onyx’s reaction conjures an image of a young girl maneuvering through a minefield of classroom flirtations, clutching valentines to her chest. In the world of League of Legends e-dating, these brief moments become hotbeds of implication that drive Onyx’s Twitter posts, and entertains a dedicated audience of those who relate to these moments of whirlwind infatuation or live for the melodrama.

Princess Onyx is a League of Legends streamer, but she’s perhaps more well known for her infamous LF DEDICATED ELO DADDY post on the official League of Legends player recruitment forums some years ago. Onyx and her mutuals occupy a unique space on League Twitter. Their content is more confessional in nature. They concoct hyperbole about interactions they have with the boys they pine for, the boys that they support in-game. Their manner of speaking when it comes to the crushes they carry is reminiscent of after-school tv specials in how anxious and genuine everything is. “It’s very possible to develop close connections with people by talking online, even by just playing video games together,” says Paigelol, a high-school student from British Columbia who wrote a detailed Twitter thread on how to get an ‘elo daddy,’ or a player that will win games with you in an arrangement similar to the sugar daddy/sugar baby dynamic. “With how much technology impacts everyone’s lives today, I think this is a concept that should be normalized. The problem I usually see is that e-dating has a negative connotation due to its association with gaming communities. Most people within these communities aren’t inherently mature enough for a relationship, but are lonely and feel pressured into being in one, so they look for relationships online because it’s easier.” 

When looking at the kind of posts that get made in the e-dating space, they’re typically lampooning e-daters, selfies, or brief bursts of personal yearning. “I think my posts appeal to my audience because I post when I get hurt and it’s relatable. I speak from a girl’s perspective and what it feels like being in and out of relationships. I’m willing to be vulnerable in a space where everyone’s trying to present themselves as flawless, and people who may feel insecure admire me because I’m not afraid to be open.” Princess Onyx’s tweets ring true to her identity as a young, love-struck woman open to the spectrum of intimacy that her particular online space offers her. 

League players have long used the game to seek companionship. Videos about e-dating in the game provide a timeline on the phenomenon as well as the perspective of the scene’s male participants. The scene has become so prominent and accepted within League’s ecosystem that an app was developed to better connect interested parties with potential partners so that they can get to know each other and enjoy the game together. Besides the in-game messaging system, there are subreddits, discord servers, Twitter, and the official player recruitment forums where people can try their hand at romance on the Summoner’s Rift. 

League’s inherent game mechanics create an ideal scenario for couples who want to grow closer to each other. When asked about the bottom lane and e-dating, Paigelol notes that “the bot lane dynamic is inherently attractive to those seeking deeper, interpersonal relationships, and the roles in that lane facilitate that. Winning a lot with someone is a good feeling, and you tend to bond with people you share this positive experience with.” The community within the game sees bottom lane as the ideal position for those with burgeoning romances building between them. The ADC (attack damage carry) and Support roles in League of Legends are positions that rely on one another to create success in the game, and encourages active communication and investment into the well-being of your lane partner. 

However, there are times when the investment is too much, and things like entitlement and abuse surface. Paigelol herself has seen it first-hand. “I’ve been active in this space since I was 14. There’s tons of predatory behavior since it’s happening over the internet. So many girls feel pressured to send nudes. I know girls who have been afraid to leave their house because they shared their address with someone who later used it against them.” In a 2014 research article on cyberstalking for VU Amsterdam’s computer science department, of approximately 6,400 participants, 42% reported concurrent online and offline harassment, and 16.5% reported online stalking transitioning into offline harassment. Of these participants, 42% were female. In 2015, The Pew Research Center reported that women typically outranked men on popular social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. The possibility exists that the number of women who have faced harassment online is much higher, but they may feel pressured to be silent in spaces occupied heavily by men, such as online gaming.

Despite the drama, the irony, the distance, and the maturity level of everyone involved, what’s happening with League and e-dating isn’t anything relatively new, even if it has the veneer of the world’s most popular e-sport on it. People have been using the internet to build connections, and its managed to draw people together from opposite sides of the world. The CEO of our company met her husband playing Everquest, and I met my girlfriend through Dota 2. The League e-dating community has seen a lot of jokes made at its expense by other spaces online, but they themselves are aware of the community’s problems and the overabundance of ego, clout chasing, and superficiality present within. Despite pressure from external and internal sources, there are still genuine relationships being formed because of League. “The person I’m currently talking to is a very genuine and kind person, and he’s made my life a lot better. He doesn’t ask me for anything or pressure me for favors, and we’ve been taking it slow, similar to the natural progression of a genuine relationship. I think that’s the big problem with e-dating in this community; people tend to rush things and get close really fast as if a relationship is an objective they have to accomplish before they move onto the next thing.” Paigelol’s statement on the mentality of the e-dating community mimics the mentality of many players of the game bemoaning their rank and how it doesn’t suit them. A relationship isn’t like climbing rank and spamming games. You have to adjust to the pace of the connection being formed and not focus entirely on it. Allow yourself to develop outside of the game, and you might find yourself winning more often.

Wanna plan the perfect evening with that special duo partner? This week, Axis Replay is offering special Duos and Solo packages to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Come in with your partner and get a free dessert, or have a drink on us and four hours to spam jungle with.