Social change is often said to take place at a frigid pace, but sometimes people fighting for it can recognize progress more easily than those on the sidelines.
At least that’s a conclusion of GamesIndustry.biz discussion with Riot Games People Program Manager Alexander Quach and game designer Jake Street to understand how they address those concerns during Annual Riot Pride Event.
At Riot, the focus groups are known as “RIG” (troublemakers identity groups) and one such group is the Rainbow Rioters, which Quach co-founded.
“When I founded Rainbow Rioters [identity group] It was in 2017, we had to explain different identities to people and what they wanted to say, “says Alexander Quach.
“In general, the world in general was still understanding different phrases, terminologies and pronouns. To this day, I think about the level of information that has been disseminated in the company and the world, the growth of everyone in that area has been Amazing. For me the process has been easier and easier, and this year has been the easiest. ”
As a designer, Street explains that creating in-game content that resonates with the LGBTQIA + community is more complicated than simply putting a rainbow on everything.
It requires talking to multiple teams, such as development and product teams, to determine how much time and resources are required. Additionally, the team collaborates with employee resource groups to better determine whether the target audience will be receptive to the products. Working with these team members allows them to get multiple feedback on your ongoing projects and efforts.
So for all products, art, and more, RIGs provide key feedback.
The physical merchandise collaboration process is somewhat different in that it involves working with external parties, says Quach. The choice of the items, the supplier, the shipping time, etc., are some of the details needed to make sure that the customers receive their items on time. This process also involves talking to RIGs to determine what products people are likely to buy that year.
Merchandise manufacturers are not the only external entities that Riot has to coordinate with to carry out its Pride promotion. This year, Riot partnered with the charity Get a better project, with 100% of your proceeds from the Pride event going to the organization. This association adds an additional stakeholder to the mix, as the merchandise also represents the charity.
While Street and Quach say running the Riot’s Pride promo has gotten easier over the years, some aspects remain difficult.
Quach says an ongoing challenge is working with partners to navigate local cultures, laws, government, and age ratings for the regions they plan to release Pride content for. This process often takes time, as regional laws and sentiment towards the LGBQIA + community are changing over time.
“For example, in some regions our event is not called Pride, it is called ‘new colors’. We did it intentionally so that our players could experience this content, “says Street.
“We were unable through local laws, or in some cases through more regulatory restrictions, to launch it as Pride.”
These commitments allow the team to get content to as many consumers as possible. And even if it’s not explicitly labeled under the Pride poster, they say the LGBTQIA + community in these regions would recognize that the content is for them.
When measuring the success of the event, they look at the interactions and feedback from the players. Social media, player sentiment, and game participation allowed them to see what resonated with the community. Quach and Street say that actively listening to the players is key to helping them improve year after year.
“We work with charities, we work outside of June, we speak on panels and more.”
Alexander Quach, Riot
Companies that celebrate Pride month regularly receive criticism that they use queer marketing simply for financial gain. Although they sell seemingly inclusive products, many are not active social justice allies for the LGBTQIA + community. Without this work, people feel that it is performative or just “rainbow capitalism.”
When asked if people feel that Riot’s Pride work and merchandise can be performative, Street and Quach point to their past and present work as an answer. Street explains that part of alleviating those concerns is communicating that the drive to celebrate Pride begins with the queer community team members who work at Riot. Pride-focused events, merchandise, merchandise, etc. are not a corporate mandate; They are the work of people who decided to act.
And while Pride month is over, rest assured that the work continues.
“We work with charities, we work outside of June, we speak on panels and more,” says Quach.
“It is the culmination of [Riot’s] employment history to the community. That speaks for itself, so consumers can look at it to see that their actions and work are ongoing and not just at a certain time of year. ”
In recent years, the games industry has become more aware that it has a long way to go with diversity, fairness, and inclusion. Both Quach and Street believe their ongoing work aligns with this, as Riot continues to support the LGBTQIA + community.
“It’s also important when there isn’t a story in the news to drive that,” explains Street.
“What I’m really trying to do is continue that momentum so it’s not just a moment. This should be a trend that we need to reinforce, not because we only worry when something happens. [That] it would be reactive rather than proactive. “