"Having an openly gay character or punishing a player for calling another player a racial slur doesn’t feel political to me. It’s just a reflection of Earth circa 2017."
- Riot Games' Greg Street, responding on Tumblr to a question about whether players should be worried about "liberal politics" being forced into games.
During GDC earlier this year, League of Legends lead designer Greg Street had a conversation with Rift Herald that touched on the incorporation (or lack thereof) in the game of characters who explicitly identify as LGBTQ.
Street's perspective is interesting because he leads design on a game that (as of last year, at least) has over 100 million monthly active players. On his personal Tumblr blog, Street has since fielded a reader's question that touches on the topic of a bit more broadly, suggesting that games which don't have a diverse cast can often be less believable and approachable to players.
"For some players (like me), it seems really weird when a game doesn’t acknowledge that the real world of other gamers or the fictional world of game characters are diverse places with different religions, genders, skin colors, and economic statuses," Street wrote. "Having an openly gay character or punishing a player for calling another player a racial slur doesn’t feel political to me. It’s just a reflection of Earth circa 2017."
He went on to identify with (and quote) Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan, who noted during this year's DICE Summit that the Overwatch dev team made an effort to make the game more inclusive and welcoming -- in part because they hoped it would help players stay engaged with the game over time.
What's also interesting about Street's response is that it cuts both ways when you have a game with global reach: while having a diverse cast of characters in your game helps potential players not feel excluded, it also (according to Street) raises the chance of the game being banned or restricted in some countries.
In a later blog post, he told a reader he believed League of Legends would eventually have a "canonically LGBT character" but that the dev team has to consider how such an addition would affect the game's availability in other countries.
"It’s the players in those regions that suffer if you try to take a stand and the country cuts off game access for those folks," Street wrote.