I could describe Amumu in one of two equally telling and emotive ways, and that’s why I love him so much. Amumu as a character is not, as many characters, mythologies, and stories are in gaming, divorced from his mechanics. You can learn as much about the sad mummy from playing Riot Games’ eSports giant League of Legends as you can from the pristine promotional video and song created to market his use. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest possible achievements in game design. In solely artistic terms, storytelling through mechanical means is the highest use of the interactive medium, and the small way in which League of Legends utilizes this is what I seek to explore in this article.
Let’s become acquainted with Amumu. Amumu is dead in both a figurative and literal sense. He has no community through which he can find value and recognition, so his identity is forced to deteriorate down to the one feature that can describe someone who others are repelled by: lonely. Everything Amumu does when he first meets another is in good spirit and friendliness but his emotions always manage to get the better of him. He cries and he pouts as human and beast alike are frightened or disgusted by his very existence. Normally, this wouldn’t be concerning and some kind soul would accept him anyway and help him grow as an individual, but Amumu is dangerous. His tears burn and his bandages whip as his emotions rage like the storms of Jupiter. As his potential friends flee, he hastily chases them, unaware of the damage he is responsible for until it is too late.
Now that you understand Amumu as a character, let’s note the way his character design functions. Amumu’s four abilities are as follows; a bandage toss that drags him to whomever he hits, tears that spread around him and deal damage to anyone daring to draw near, a tantrum that lashes out at an area around Amumu with a thrashing animation, and a wide spread rune-like magic ability that stuns enemies in a certain radius. In practice, these abilities tell Amumu’s story with elegance. His opponents will run at the sight of him or become paralyzed with fear. They’ll desperately dodge his every attempt to come near as his tears spill to the ground and he pouts with frustration.
Amumu is the clearest example of the kind of character and game design Riot Games practices. Riot Games have strictly adhered to innovative design philosophies for the past 7 years, growing their small game into the largest, most played interactive experience in the entire world. Finely balanced character rosters and gameplay that rewards every kind of play imaginable make League of Legends a stomping ground for experienced gamers and new ones alike. That being said, League of Legends lacks a central narrative and all the artistic weight and significance that entails. It will be important as the game industry grows to think back to the sort of designs at play in the psychology of the MOBA. League of Legends might exhibit the human experience, but it does not evoke specific, powerful, and educational thought on its own. It’s important moving forward that we are able to abandon the episodic and purely developmental basis on which League of Legends is formed. Amumu can’t grow up any longer, he’s a shell of his former self, but interactive media is still in its infancy. We’re just now hearing its first words.