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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ✧♡✧*¨*•.❥ ?
By Jove I see it all now.
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?
-The Fairy Wizard
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