League of Legends: discovering our inner Yordle

This article originally appeared in issue 231 of PC Gamer UK.

What, seriously? She traps Yordles?”

Owen is incredulous, bordering on upset. I confirm his worst fears. “Yeah man. They're like bear traps. She baits them with cake, and they snap shut on little Yordle knees.”

“No. No, she can't do that. That's sick.”

Yordles are League of Legends' dwarf/ gnome analogue. They love social interaction, and are 'marked with streaks of joviality and light prankishness', according to the LoL wiki. Among their number are: Tristana, a blue-skinned, cannon-toting munchkin; Corki, a three-foot genius who flies in a gyrocopter, Heimerdinger, who can chuck sentry turrets, and – Owen's favourite – Teemo, who is a gnomish Easter bunny.

I play as Caitlyn. She's a ranged character with a six-foot rifle. She's the one with the traps. Owen plays as Yordles exclusively. He's never explained exactly why.

We're getting ready to play a five-on-five match when I tell him about the traps. He's usually a bundle of energy before matches, drumming on tables and excitedly chittering battle plans between our desks. This time, he's subdued and sullen. His mood doesn't quite tally with the character he's chosen: Teemo is the smallest of the Yordles, and Owen's version is kitted out in a full, fluffy rabbit suit. Looking at his character art – caught mid-skip, with a basket full of eggs – I get a strong sense of deja vu.

LoL's five-on-five games have three 'lanes' – paths down which march constant streams of auto-attacking minions. Our standard setup has two characters on the bottom and top lanes, leaving one champion to battle for the middle. Teemo has his size to his advantage: he's best used to launch surprise attacks and melt back into the long grass. I know how to orchestrate my Caitlyn around him to get the most from her talents. So I ask Owen if he wants to join me in the top lane. The tiny fluffy man in the rabbit suit responds. “OK. I suppose.”

As the game progresses, he gets back into character. I watch Teemo bounce around our lane, skipping on every second step and ducking behind hedges. He reminds me of someone. I can't place it.

Forty minutes later, we've won. Owen is cheerful again – until I recall one particular opposition kill we combined on: “I trapped her with my Yordle trap, so you had time to get the final shot in!”

His face darkens. “I don't like you using those Yordle traps you know, Rich. I just don't think they're right.”

I'm confused. I've forgotten his earlier reaction. “What do you mean? They helped us win.”

“I JUST DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD BE TRAPPING YORDLES, OK?” Then it clicks. I look down at Owen's furry face, contorted with anger and sadness.

Yordles are fluffy creatures who bounce around when they walk. So is Owen. Yordles require increased social interaction to function. So does Owen. Yordles are marked with streaks of joviality and light prankishness. SO IS OWEN.

Our web editor is a Yordle, cruelly trapped in a Welsh body. It's so obvious, now I think about it. Like Heimerdinger, Owen loves tinkering with mechanical stuff. Like Corki, he loves shooting things. Like Teemo, Owen likes nothing better than dressing up a bunny outfit and gambolling around laying exploding eggs. And here I am, using a woman who singles out other members of his race, lures them with the promise of delicious cake, and then snaps their tiny leg bones like cute twigs.

I see myself through his Yordley eyes, and I'm ashamed. It's taken Owen a quarter of a century to find people he belongs with, and now I'm catching and killing his brothers and sisters. I can't do this to him. I switch character for our next game.