LGBTQ+ representation in games – League of Str8 Peeps – a rant

So here we are folks, another day another rant about Riot and League of Legends. This one is a real bucket-flipper people, for I am about to talk at length about Xayah and Rakan: the League’s latest and straightest champions to date.

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So for those of you not in the know, Riot has been working on two new champions and recently released a teaser for them, along with their own respective spotlights. Who are these champions you ask? Why it’s Xayah and Rakan, quote unquote “The Charmer and the Rebel” (not respectively) and their whole deal is that they’re just so in love you guys. Xayah is a woman chimera person and she’s rebellious and wants to avenge her tribe, or something to that effect, whereas Rakan (male chimera person) is a travelling bard/dancer that once briefly glimpsed at Xayah and it was love at first sight. These two merry jokesters spend all their lives protecting the forest, giving public speeches about the benefits of going vegan and -more notably- just plain ol’ loving each other. Like, a lot. I swear to god these fucks have over 8 minutes of voice lines where they just go on and on about how in love they are. Honestly, at some point you go from a realistic, functioning relationship to Romeo and Juliet and nobody wants to see that shit. Disgustingly (ugh)  ~cute~ couples aside, what’s so special about those two, separate new champs? Well for one thing they’re League’s first champions to be in a relationship, even to the point of having their own shared passive when they recall to base. And they’re super Heterosexual TM. This is groundbreaking news, provided you discount all previous straight relationships  mentioned both in-game and in the Lore (which are sometimes subtle, sometimes less subtle and –again– exclusively Heterosexual TM). Keen readers might detect a pattern emerging right about now.

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So yeah, Riot has added yet another straight couple into their game, setting the number of canonically confirmed LGBTQ+ characters in LoL from zero to negative one. And this takes place not one month (at time of writing) after an interview with Polygon  where design director Greg Street said that LGBT characters will appear in the game “at some point”. Which is not to say that those inspiring words led me to believe LoL’s next champion would be as Gay as a Gyroscope, but the situation does feel suitably absurd. Like a gaming company unable to create a character that isn’t straight. Some discussion has already taken place within the League’s forum boards regarding this new pairing and why it was exclusively designed from the start to be 100% heterosexual. Rakan in particular is an interesting element in this debate, since his lore seems determined to vanquish all non-straight hints and speculation about his sexuality. Here’s a short excerpt from his bio: “Though countless human and vastayan women had fallen for him in the past, this violet raven seemed immune to his charms, though not uninterested”. That’s right folks, no men like Rakan at all and even if they did they wouldn’t come to his stupid concerts. In fact, Rakan is so Straight that his mere presence repels any and all non-women individuals that might potentially ever find him attractive. You’d think that since he’s supposed to be a bard -and historically speaking bards have been more Bi than a bipedal bee on a bicycle- they’d at least let him keep his options open. Replacing “women” with just “people” is not exactly a confirmation of progressive, LGBTQ+ representation but gods know it’d be leagues (*snort*) better than anything Runeterra’s gotten so far. I suppose Xayah might potentially, at “some point”, in another reality be confirmed as bi, but only if it’s May and the first 8-leaf clover has yet to blossom.

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You know I think Riot did go a bit overboard with the Straightness on this one, even by their standards. Aside from the teaser and the voice lines that only slightly make me want to throw up, there’s also an added hint to their eternal love for each other (till death do them part). No, not the bit where they’re constantly referred to as “lovers” 24/7, it’s actually their videos inside the LoL client; if you fire up League you’ll see two thumbnails of Rakan and Xayah dashing to each other in the Home page, which I thought was… a nice touch? I guess? Hey, you know all those “arguments” people use against potential queer representation in a game, when they say it’s like “shoving your political agenda down our throats”? Well if I was a lesser man I might draw a parallel between that little sentence and Riot’s constant reminders that Rakan and Xayah are a) doing the do and b) also married. But since I, as has been stated by the Powers that Be, am a superior being such comparisons will not be made in this post. Even though I do think said people are super hypocritical for not reacting to this relationship as they would with a theoretical queer one. Food for thought everyone.

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Actually I’m going to take a moment to talk about the Polygon interview, quoting Greg Street himself. When talking about the possible inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters in the game, he was very adamant to point out that any queer characters have to be “conceived from the beginning” to be non-straight or non-cis and that “it has to be that character’s identity”, a statement for which I have mixed feelings. I mean yeah, designing new champions that are LGBTQ+ sounds pretty rad but like, would it be impossible to have existing champs confirmed as LGBTQ+? I don’t really buy the whole “it has to be that character’s identity” shtick either because guess what Riot, you’ve been rewriting and changing your game’s story since day 1. I can’t even remember the amount of times you changed Runeterra’s  Lore, much less the champions’. Does anyone remember Nidalee’s original lore? Or Cassiopeia’s?  Trundle’s? Riot has a tradition of going back on established plot points, adding more lore, changing existing characters’ origin stories and tweaking everything to fit their new, ideal story. Like, the entire Vastaya deal that has just been added is further proof of Riot updating League’s lore so that there’s space for new champions to fit in the story. So, if rewriting your world is an easy peasy task for the sake of adding two new champions, why not rewrite it to add LGBTQ+ representation? Why not add in new lore that portrays Ekko as being Bi, or Jinx as being trans, or Diana as being aro/ace, or Leona as being gay or SOMETHING! Saying “it has to be that character’s identity from the start” is not only a poor excuse, it goes counter to nearly every creative decision Riot has made when handling the story aspect of their game’s world! Again, there’s more than a little trace of hypocrisy here, buzzing around our heads like a vibrating mosquito with a serious deathwish.

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On the flipside, this might not be the generic, slap to the face I perceive it to be. No matter how improbable, it could be that Riot purposefully designed Rakan and Xayah so that they’d able to include LGBTQ+ representation later down the line. Can you hear the winds? A sinister game is afoot, conniving curs have already made their first move towards victory. The tables stir and shudder, knowing with dead certainty that they are about to be flipped. What if, I say as I don my tinfoil hat, what if Riot made a disgustingly ~cute~ (ughthrewupinmymouthagain) straight couple just so they could later introduce an LGBTQ+ one and use people’s reactions against them? What if this is all a big conspiracy, a clever ploy to throw us off our game, when in fact we were part of a bigger game all along. Picture this: Riot releases a straight couple that is very very Straight TM all the time to an inhuman degree. Then, entering phase two of their master ploy, Riot later releases a champion that is clearly shown to not be straight. The homophobic League community is furious “How could you??” they ask “We don’t want your agenda!” they shout unintelligibly “We don’t care about sexuality or relationships, we just want to play the game!”. But, says Riot, you were fine with Xayah and Rakan, our super in-a-relationship couple that we released a while ago. We kept calling them lovers and everything, how come they didn’t upset you, eh? Could it be you’re…

❥✧¸.•*¨*✧♡✧Homophobic ✧♡✧*¨*•.❥ ?

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By Jove I see it all now.

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In all seriousness, despite my very jaded and cynical nature, I am excited at the prospect of getting eventual representation “at some point”. I think that Rakan and Xayah are the straightest characters that ever straighted, but I kiiinda like their abilites, their character dynamic and their voices (except Rakan’s, jeez that fucking birdman’s screeches make my ears bleed). I would like to call attention to Greg Street’s contradictions about LGBTQ+ character design though. It’s weird for someone to say “What I don’t want to do is be like, Okay, team, next character, whatever you do, has to be a lesbian” and then follow up with “But from the beginning, it has to be that character’s identity”, because it seems to me that’s how you’d start making a lesbian character “from the beginning”. Unless there’s some sort of pre-pre-beginning stage of a champion’s conception that I’m unaware of. It’s also worth noting that we wouldn’t be having this discussion if Blizzard hadn’t announced that Tracer is gay last Christmas and that Greg Street’s response in such a scenario would be something like “We have no plans for LGBT champions yet”. Of course after Overwatch showed the world how easy it is to include representation in your globally famous, successful game, well the same old excuse of “it’s just too hard” doesn’t cut it anymore. Still, being told that we’ll maybe, probably-ish be getting some representation at “some point” is gotta be worth… something. Right?

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-The Fairy Wizard

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Posted on April 19, 2017, in Geekology, Rambles, Rants, Video Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Um…with all due respect — this coming from a gay man — I don’t see how having a straight couple in LoL is an issue at all. You made the argument that because these two characters are straight, it sets the number of LGBT+ characters “from zero to negative one,” but as you yourself pointed out, Rakan and Xayah are (if you don’t count things hinted at in the lore) the first canon couple. Even if we are to assume that all people in heterosexual relationships are heterosexual themselves, which erases anyone who identifies as bisexual, pansexual, etc, then that still just means that only two out of all the champions in League are actually confirmed heterosexuals. Any number could be gay, bi, etc. Just because it was never explicitly stated doesn’t mean it can’t be so, and it also doesn’t mean that Riot a.) has no plans to confirm them to be LGBT+ later on or b.) is inherently against or not planning/trying to include LGBT+ characters.

    You also seem to be under the impression that these characters are somehow flaunting their heterosexuality because of the emphasis on their relationship. I really don’t see how this is the case. Riot wanted to experiment with two characters who were lovers, so that’s what they did. If Rakan were female, thus making them a gay couple, but all their interactions, lore, and quotes stayed exactly the same, then would they be flaunting their homosexuality? No. They’d just be two young girls in love.

    TL;DR: straight people existing =/= homophobic or an intentional lack of representation.

    • The Fairy Wizard

      I think you may have misinterpreted a lot of my commentary. When I said that they set the number to “negative one” I was being facetious and more than a little bit bitter about the fact that Riot chose to add another straight couple in their game. Also you kinda missed the entire point of this post, so I’d suggest you go back and re-read it. I’m not complaining because Xayah and Rakan are a straight couple, I’m complaining because they’re yet another straight couple in a game that already has a bunch of those. Plus they’re not the first canon couple, they’re just the most overt one so far.

      Regarding your comment about LGBT characters: in our heteronormative and cisnormative society, if a character is presented to an audience and that character is not portrayed as explicitly queer, then the audience will automatically perceive that character as both straight and cis. There might potentially be characters that are LGBTQ+ in LoL right now, but unless Riot tells us, then they’re all presumed to be cishet until proven otherwise (see: Schrödinger’s Queer). On that note, Greg Street specifically stated that if they make an LGBTQ+ character it has to be “that character’s identity from the beginning” so that’s him basically saying that no currently existing characters in LoL will be confirmed as queer. Then I used that nonsense excuse to point out that no, it’s very easy to confirm existing characters as LGBTQ+, especially since Riot tends to rewrite their world’s entire lore every other week.

      And I never said that Xayah and Rakan (who by the way are fictional and therefore not “straight people existing”) being added was “homophobic” just that it was very disappointing and… kinda sad? Because it’s 2017 and Riot still hasn’t added any LGBTQ+ characters, but boy hoi here’s some more straight people for ya! Unless, again, it’s all part of their master plan (*X-files theme plays in the background*).

      So yes, it’s possible that Xayah is bi, but will she ever be confirmed to be so? Hell no! Over the last 8 years Riot hasn’t confirmed a single one of their characters to be queer, much less made one from scratch. Statistically speaking, odds are rather against either of those things happening any time soon and Greg Street’s statement of “at some point” including LGBTQ+ champions doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. At the end of the day, Riot may not be openly against including LGBTQ+ characters in their game, but they sure as hell ain’t rushing to add them in.

      • “You also seem to be under the impression that these characters are somehow flaunting their heterosexuality because of the emphasis on their relationship. I really don’t see how this is the case. Riot wanted to experiment with two characters who were lovers, so that’s what they did. If Rakan were female, thus making them a gay couple, but all their interactions, lore, and quotes stayed exactly the same, then would they be flaunting their homosexuality? No. They’d just be two young girls in love.”

        I notice how you didn’t respond to this part at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, because if I am, then it’s because of genuine ignorance and not any malicious intent, but were you not making them out to be overly straight? (“The straightest characters that ever straighted”, anong other things.) I just don’t see how characters can somehow be too straight. To me, that just sounds too similar to all the homophobes out there complaining about gay couples “flaunting their sexuality” every time they hold hands. Are Rakan and Xayah annoyingly love sick? Sure. But that really has nothing to do with them being straight; it has more to do with their characters being young and stupidly in love.

    • The Fairy Wizard

      Gosh darn and here I thought I already answered that when I said I was being facetious. Fun fact: there have been zero people complaining about Rakan and Xayah’s sexuality or general overt relationship, because those two characters are straight and it’s A-ok for straight people to have relationships in games. Again, the whole “they are so Straight” shtick is supposed to be a sarcastic joke and I don’t understand how it went over your head so completely. When I call those two champions straight, I’m referring not to their constant declarations of undying love for each other (which do indeed get quite exhausting after a while) but rather the fact that they were designed to be super straight from the start.

      To put this in better perspective, actual people congregated (possibly over a bubbling cauldron) and said “Gosh we really want to make a couple that is very in love. I know! Let’s make two straight people! But what about bi people, maybe like, the guy can be bi? OH NO! Why on EARTH would that even cross your mind, no no no, both the guy and the gal are uber straight so jot that down Mr. Big Ideas.” I didn’t say the characters were “flaunting their sexuality” and that’s not even what this post is about (again, maybe re-read it). This is a post about the fact that it’s 2017 and Riot has yet to release or confirm a single LGBTQ+ champion. This is a post about how I remain dubious and unconvinced about Riot doing so “at some point”. I don’t hate Rakan and Xayah because they’re straight -though actually, I do hate Rakan for unrelated reasons- but I am angry that Riot made another goddamn straight couple.

      And on the hypothetical subject of Rakan being a guuuurl, you can bet your butt it wouldn’t be “just girls being in love” for at least two weeks. The words “flaunting homosexuality” would be in the mouth of every dudebro in the forum boards before you could say “double standards”. Just look at what happened with Overwatch and Does Lena Oxton is Gay, those fuckers went wild when Tracer was confirmed to have a girlfriend.

      And in the same, still hypothetical scenario, an openly and overtly queer couple in LoL would be a huuuge deal for any LGBTQ+ people around the world, gamers or not. Of course, no (potential) LGBTQ+ champions in LoL are likely to ever get the same treatment as Rakan and Xayah, since Riot won’t be giving them 8 minutes worth of voice lines talking about their lover, or a special passive, or champion spotlights where they’re explicitly shown with their partners. Rakan and Xayah are now essentially a summary of all the things queer characters won’t be getting in the League: voice lines about their LI, character designs that emphasize their romantic relationship, game mechanics to go along with that etc. Riot has basically said “Hey, we’d like to add LGBTQ+ champions at some point, but for now take a look at all the things they won’t be getting since we don’t want the game getting potentially banned/restricted”. So yeah, even though there are larger issues -aside from Riot’s executive decisions- to blame, I’m currently being very bitter about all that.

      • Hey, I was never trying to be rude. Frankly, though, that “zero people complaining” is a blatant lie. There are a lot of complaints in the League forums about their relationship. It doesn’t take more than a Google search of “Rankan Xayah LGBT” to find them.

      • The Fairy Wizard

        I actually did google that beforehand and found a total of zeeerooo people complaining about a straight couple being included in the game. Again, to re-re-clarify, no one is saying that Xayah and Rakan are being “pushed down people’s throats”. No one is treating this straight couple with the same aggression and hate they would a gay one. No users have made posts saying “RIOT RUINED EASTER BECAUSE THEY MADE TWO STRAIGHTS AND ARE PUSHING THE STRAIGHT AGENDA” or “WHEN I FOUND OUT THEY WERE STRAIGHT I FELT LIKE I GOT SHOT” or “STOP TRYING TO MAKE CHILDREN STRAIGHT”.

        Unless of course you’re reffering to this one, single post in the forum boards (which, by the way, is downvoted to hell right now). I scanned through the boards and this is literally the only one I could find. The OP is basically saying the same things as me: Why is no one complaining about a straight couple when they constantly lose their shit over queer one, isn’t this a terrible double standard we’re seeing, doesn’t this seem rather hypocritical etc etc. I mean the post literally starts off with

        Anyway, I have nothing against the new champions. It’s why the post isn’t labeled “FUCK XAYAH AND RAKAN” because I like them, they’re cool. What’s not cool is the situation surrounding them.”

        So… no one is bashing Xayah and Rakan for being straight. Not a soul. If you can find anyone doing so though, feel free to drop me a link.

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