Riot has admitted to censoring League of Legends characters in certain countries, in the wake of releasing its first gay Black hero.
K’Sante is the latest champion to be added to the game, which had its Worlds 2022 tournament this weekend featuring a performance from rapper Lil Nas X.
Yet the game’s executive producer has admitted the developer would replace certain words such as “lover” and “partner” in countries with poor LGBT+ rights.
Speaking to Sky News, Jeremy Lee said he was “very proud” of the new character and Riot Games wants “everyone who plays League of Legends to find a champion that resonates with them”.
However, he then admitted “each region can localise and publish that story in what they feel like is best for the players.
“Each region may publish certain aspects of the game a little bit differently to fit into the local culture.”
When asked specifically if changes or omissions to some character backstories were made in certain countries, Riot’s global public relations lead Hanna Woo said: “Yes, I would say we do”.
Though the game is the same globally, its website is localised separately.
Woo said in-game characters are 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,” she said.
K’Sante, the game’s first Black LGBT+ character, is also the first to have his sexuality featured prominently in the game.
“We definitely wanted to make sure there was a real, romantic relationship,” K’Sante lead narrative writer Michael Luo told The Washington Post.
“To me, I always felt like romantic relationships are where both your best self and your worst self come out because it’s such an intimate relationship between two people and all your vulnerabilities show… I wanted to make sure that Tope [K’Sante’s lover] didn’t just exist as an idea, that we could depict him in a story, visually and although he’s not a playable character, I wanted us to be able to do as much as we could to show that these two people existed in time and had a meaningful relationship.”
League of Legends is one of the most played PC games in the world with a huge audience.
Worlds 2022 had 5.1 million concurrent viewers during its final, setting a new esports viewing record.
With such a wide audience, it’s disappointing Riot has chosen not to stand up for LGBT+ rights worldwide.
The tournament was won by South Korean team DRX.