As the world celebrates Pride Month in 2021, there aren’t many developers out there in the gaming industry that actively work to promote and include the LGBTQI+ community. However, Respawn Entertainment have become the gold standard with Apex Legends.
Identity has been something I’ve always struggled with. My Catholic all-girls school taught me to find a straight white male, get married, and have kids. But, I knew for years that wasn’t to be my destiny.
Back in the good (or not so good) ol’ days, LGBTQI+ representation in real life was pretty scarce, so there wasn’t much to educate yourself with. Instead, I turned to video games; specifically Dragon Age Origins.
With the system letting you romance whoever you liked pending their sexuality, I found myself ignoring the likes of the handsome Alistair or charming Zevran, and instead falling head over heels for the mysterious Morrigan and sharpshooting Liliana. Only many years later did it dawn on me just how much the game shaped my understandings of queer culture, as well as my place within it.
While LGBTQI+ characters appear in thousands of titles these days, there’s one specific game that stands out to me as getting it right, and that’s Apex Legends. So, let’s take a deep dive into why Apex is hitting the diversity nail on the head.
Not a stereotype in sight
One thing that most LGBTQI+ people condemn is societal assumptions of how they should act. Gay men should be flamboyant and overly feminine, whereas gay women should be much more masculine. Bisexuals get “the best of both worlds,” while non-binary and trans people are entirely left out of the debate.
What Apex Legends does so well is normalizing what it means to be gay. If you didn’t know Gibraltar was a gay man, or Loba was a bisexual woman, you probably wouldn’t know, the same way that if you look at someone in the street, you have no clue what their sexuality is.
Respawn have artfully crafted Legends’ voice lines and characterizations to let you know their identity, but it doesn’t feel forced. All of these Legends are real people (except Pathfinder) despite their insane abilities. They’re people we can empathize and resonate with.
That’s what makes Apex stand out above the rest.
Bloodhound isn’t a dude – shock horror
If you get a game without a Bloodhound, then something has gone very, very wrong. The androgynous Technological Tracker sits at the top of the Apex Legends food chain, but their presence is somewhat revolutionary.
Bloodhound is a non-binary character and therefore doesn’t identify as male or female. While most assume they are male, their voice actor, Allegra Clarke, is indeed a woman. Various effects are used to scramble her voice, but it’s proof that Apex isn’t too bothered about gender boundaries.
Bloodhound’s prowess within the game means that they’ve become iconic, and for a lot of non-binary people the character is a symbol that they’re finally getting included in wider media and popular culture.
Bloodhound is mowing down gender binaries left, right and center, just like they’re mowing down your entire team in-game.
Every color of the rainbow
Another thing that Apex does well is representing every color on that iconic rainbow flag. We’ve got gay, pansexual, bisexual, and non-binary characters all traversing the Outlands. That’s how it should be.
It’s easy for a developer to throw in a gay character and call it a day, but Respawn have represented almost the entire LGBTQI+ spectrum. There’s someone for everyone to look up to, and that’s where Apex triumphs.
While the Apex Games may be a far cry from our current reality, the game itself has its feet firmly planted on the ground.
But who cares about sexuality in video games?
We’ve all seen those comments asking: “Who cares if they’re gay, it’s a video game. Stop bringing real-life issues into games smh.”
Well, we care.
To borrow the words of Ben Prendergast, the man behind our favorite pansexual Aussie, Fuse: “It’s a really interesting time in popular culture, and Apex Legends and gaming, in general, is beautifully progressive on that front.
“Having representation is crucial to normalizing our differences and breaking the toxic cycle of hate. A lot of people don’t realize how strongly our opinions are informed by popular culture, when a great film, TV, or game paints a fairer picture it seeps into our daily lives.”
Loba’s voice actor, Fryda Wolff, echoes Ben’s sentiment: “Representation matters! Rather than including a singular token character to embody tired stereotypes and calling it a day, Respawn has made extensive efforts to create a wide range of LGBTQ characters across the gender and sexuality spectrums.
“While it’s special that Apex Legends does it, including LGBTQ characters should be average and expected of all fictional worlds. Providing a myriad of gender and sexuality inclusive characters is an early step towards normalizing diversity in fiction.”
When I was a kid, I needed a Fuse to look up to, a Loba to enchant me, a Valkyrie to prove that the sky wasn’t the limit, a Gibraltar to teach me freedom is a feeling, a Bloodhound to blow gender stereotypes out of the water.
Playing Apex as an adult has forced me to grapple with my own sexuality, and I’ve come out of the other side stronger. I’m jealous of the new gamer generation because they’re growing up with such a wealth of knowledge and inspiration that I didn’t have.
When young people look at Apex, they see that it’s okay to be the person that you’re meant to be, whoever that is. They see that it’s okay to be proud of yourself, believe in yourself, be yourself.
And that is how Apex is doing diversity right.