Riot Games revealed they would be censoring elements of the League of Legends’ new, gay Black champion, K’Sante, in some regions.
K’Sante, the Pride of Nazumah, was released in League of Legends on November 3, 2022—with a special K’Sante Prestige Empyrean skin co-designed by pop superstar Lil Nas X. Riot Games announced days after that the character was both the first League of Legends’ first black LGBTQ+ character, and the first to have his sexuality featured in the game. In a recent interview with Sky News, the League of Legends executive producer, Jeremy Lee admitted that they have censored elements of the character in certain regions.
Lee stated that words like “lover” were replaced with “partner”, and said that “each region can localize and publish that story in what they feel like is best for the players.” The global relations lead, Hanna Woo also added that the game itself was the same globally and featured almost entirely word-for-word translations.
Woo shared that the in-game characters were there for players to interpret themselves: “Even if it’s not explicit, even if it’s not direct, even if there are changes made, or things are just not as much in the forefront of that character’s identity, it’s like you are meant to see them.” Twitch streamer, Ben Austwick commented on the admission from Riot, noting he was “sad, yet not surprised… Video games are part of culture and should be at the forefront pushing boundaries, especially in places where LGBT+ oppression is rife.”
Austwick continued: “The straightwashing of queer characters from games in countries with a poor record of LGBT+ rights is sad and proves that there is nothing more important than making the most money.” This weekend the League of Legends World Championship 2022 was held—with a stunning performance from Lil Nas X (an openly gay man), who debuted his track leading up to the championship. The championship saw DRX take down the mighty SKT1 team in front of 5.1 million concurrent viewers.
While the fandom of League of Legends has been one of the biggest of this decade, it has certainly had some trouble with the game company who could not take a full stance on LGBTQ+ matters, despite its efforts. Riot has had a troubling past, most recently when a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit was filed almost a year ago.
A game that sort of handled a similar situation better was Overwatch. The “mascot” of the game, Tracer was revealed in a holiday comic that her character was gay. The video game designer and previous vice-president at Blizzard, Jeff Kaplan stated how the Blizzard team wanted to portray Tracer’s sexuality realistically that was respectful to the character but was not simply “”checking a checkbox on a list.”