Apex Legends, Respawn’s new free-to-play battle royale multiplayer hero shooter, came out of nowhere to surprising success. Despite a lack of marketing hype leading up to its launch, Apex Legends managed to gain over 1 million players just eight hours after launching on PC, Xbox One and PS4.
Now, Apex Legends becomes even more notable for featuring not just one, but two queer playable characters as part of its main cast. According to the character bios released online, Gibraltar is gay, and Bloodhound identifies as non-binary.
In Gibaltar’s backstory, it describes when “he and his boyfriend stole his father’s motorcycle, took it on a joyride”, and were saved by his parents, which motivated him to become the hero he is in the game. In the case of the masked hunter Bloodhound, they use they/them pronouns, describing their identity as “a mystery wrapped in layers of rumours.”
According to a tweet by Allegra Clark, Bloodhound’s voice actor, “There’s been some back and forth on the subj, but Bloodhound, through my recording process, has always been NB with they/them pronouns. This distinction might not be important to you, and that’s fine! But it’s important to others, so please be respectful and use neutral pronouns.
In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Apex Legends’ Community Manager Jay Flechete describes how diversity was an important factor when designing Apex Legends’ player cast. “Our studio is comprised of a diverse group of people, the playerbase of battle royale is comprised of a diverse group. Having a diverse cast is super important. You want everyone to have someone they can connect to.”
Whilst the sexualities of the main characters doesn’t really impact gameplay in a multiplayer battle royale like Apex Legends, it is still pretty awesome that developers are creating characters that a more diverse range of players can identify with. The case of the non-binary Bloodhound is especially noteworthy, considering how rare NB and gender-diverse characters tend to be in mainstream fiction in general, let alone an impressively successful new free-to-play game.
Apex Legends is not the only popular multiplayer shooter with LGBT player characters; Overwatch has revealed both Tracer, and more recently Soldier 76, as being queer. Overall, it is great that developers of AAA games are considering that players on the LGBT spectrum want characters they can identify with, and are being inclusive with their player characters.
Hopefully, the success of games like Overwatch and Apex Legends demonstrates that targeting a broader demographic of gamers can make games appeal to more players.