In an unexpected turn of events, people in Iran and Syria currently cannot play League of Legends, one of the most popular and massive multiplayer online games in the world, due to growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Because Syria is a close ally of Iran, it has also been affected by the ban.
When trying to log into the game, players in Iran and Syria are met with what looks like an error message, but actually reads: “Due to U.S. laws and regulations, players in your country cannot access League of Legends at this time. Such restrictions are subject to change by the U.S. government, so if and when that happens, we look forward to having you back on the Rift.”
The message was first shared online on the League of Legends forum over the weekend by a user based in Iran. They expressed their frustrations with the situation, arguing that “political problems between IRAN and america is between governments. players and people have nothing to do with this.”
This ban is a result of of President Trump’s recent move to impose trade sanctions on Iran, which blocks businesses from Iran trading with the U.S. Since League of Legends features microtransactions, it counts as a business transaction between the two countries, and is therefore also prohibited by Trump’s sanctions. Slate spoke with a representative from League of Legends developer Riot Games, who explained that it is the company’s “interpretation of sanctions that providing access to League—even if it didn’t include access to the store—could be construed as a service under U.S. sanctions”
Of course, players in the affected areas have already found ways to get around the ban, such as by using VPNs to login without the “U.S. laws and regulations” message. This fix isn’t accessible to everyone, however, as depending on the area, VPNs can be very expensive.
It’s unclear when the ban will be lifted, and the situation begs the question of if this will happen again with other countries that the U.S. may have conflict with in the future.