Riot wants to destigmatize video games with its upcoming animated series, Arcane

Riot co-founder Marc Merrill wants to get rid of the stigma surrounding games with the new series.

Image via Riot Games

Riot Games has much bigger ambitions than just drawing a big audience for its new animated TV show, Arcane. It wants to change how society views gamers, Riot co-founder Marc Merrill told The Washington Post.

“Fast forward another 30 to 40 years, no one is even going to call themselves a gamer because everyone is going to be a gamer, just like how no one calls themselves a moviegoer now,” Merrill said.

A tainted reputation permeates the video game industry. At best, video games are a childish pursuit. At worst, they’re plagued with toxicity. Riot’s award-winning title League of Legends is one of the biggest games in the current industry. But even with all that popularity, League is best known for its toxicity and immature appeal.

Merrill wants to turn video games into a “meaningful life pursuit”—and Arcane is the first step. Merrill hopes to draw more than just League’s established fan base. Arcane, if successful, could attract more people into the gaming world to legitimize it. He said that it’s not about the recognition, but rather, the judgment.

Video games aren’t the first objects to suffer from such a stigma. Comic books, the origin for many popular movie titles, faced the same stereotype before their rise in the film industry. The Marvel movies based on comic books are blockbuster hits, bringing in billions with each film. The popularity of the films has drawn more readers and helped destigmatize comic books.

This is an ambitious pursuit by Riot. While it may draw more viewers and fans, using animation, a medium with its own stigma, may not yield the desired results. Animation aside, the video game industry may struggle more with destigmatizing, especially in a high stress and competitive environment where insults and vitriol fly at the first mistake. 

Arcane was announced in October and will follow Jinx and Vi in Runeterra. The challenge will be bringing a narrative to the game. It’s planned to follow the origins of two major League champions and is expected to be released in 2020.