A couple of weeks ago at the Game Developers Conference, League of Legends design director Greg Street gave a talk on the constant struggle to balance an incredibly complex game like League. Before that talk, Polygon spoke with Street on a wide variety of topics, from class updates to upcoming champion redesigns.
During that conversation, we got onto the topic of the growing fandom surrounding different characters in League of Legends, and how some parts of the fan base may not see much representation in game yet. So will the game see champions who are openly identified as not straight? Street says yes, eventually.
“We owe it to the players and, I think, to the world to do something like that,” Street said. “What I don’t want to do is be like, ‘Okay, team, next character, whatever you do, has to be lesbian.’ I don’t think we’ll end up with something good there.... From the beginning, it has to be the character’s identity. I’m sure we’ll do it at some point. I don’t know which character or when it will happen.”
LGBT representation in character-based competitive games has become a hot issue recently. Last year’s new shooter from Blizzard, Overwatch, saw fans become very invested in characters as the developer hinted at various relationships and sexual preferences among them. Near the end of the year, an Overwatch comic revealed that fan-favorite character Tracer identifies as a lesbian.
While both Overwatch and League of Legends are multiplayer-focused with minimal in-game storytelling, both also feature extensive lore and backstory presented outside of the game by way of comics, short stories, animated short films and more. Street noted during our talk that he thought the way Overwatch did the Tracer reveal was “awesome,” and that it was likely any future LGBT characters in League would have their sexuality explored in a similarly out-of-game manner.
“You know, both League and Overwatch are global games,” he said. “There are countries whose laws around things that we consider pretty normal at this point in the U.S. are not the same way. One way you can get around stuff like that is by having some of the storytelling outside the game....
“There are times when it’s worth having that battle. We just have to be careful, because it’s not necessarily just about a game company taking on the government of some other country, which may be very exciting for players. It could end up with players in that region not being able to play a game, which may be striking a blow to those players. We don’t want to indirectly hurt players.”
For more on the present and future of League of Legends, check out Rift Herald, Polygon’s League fan site. We’ll be publishing our full interview with Greg Street there tomorrow.