Riot Games’ popular online character tactical first-person shooter game Valorant is about to get a lot more colorful according to a recent leak. Top Valorant dataminer RumbleMike revealed Friday that Riot Games is reportedly planning to release Valorant player cards depicting seven different Pride flags in a June 3 update.
Players will be able to purchase player cards representing the overall LGBTQ+ community as well as the trans, pansexual, non-binary, bisexual, asexual and lesbian communities through the official Valorant website. The cards will be visible to other players, giving players the opportunity to openly represent LGBTQ identities in the game.
The leak has drawn plenty of praise from LGBTQ Valorant fans and falls in line with Riot’s recent efforts to create more inclusive spaces within Valorant. The developer introduced the Valorant Champions Tour Game Changers program in February 2021 as a way to increase participation and representation for “women and other marginalized genders within Valorant esports.” It also introduced Pride-themed merchandise and in-game items to its other popular title, League of Legends, in recent years.
But the potential addition also comes in the wake of several recent controversies centered on Riot Games’ higher-ups. A 2018 Kotaku report revealed a culture of misogyny and sexism throughout the studio. An investigation into allegations of sexism and sexual harassment against Riot Games CEO Nicola Laurent earlier this year cost the studio its partnership with gaming PC maker Alienware and Rito Games co-founder and chairman Marc Merrill tweeted and deleted an article about “critical race theory” last week.
Riot Games Turkey also drew criticism in April 2020 when it decided not to punish players for directing homophobic slurs at former League of Legends pro player Mustafa Kemal “Dumbledoge” Gökseloğlu because the comments weren’t reported within its twelve-month statute of limitations.
Concern doesn’t lie solely with the company’s practices, though. Some LGBTQ Valorant players express hesitancy at publicly displaying their LGBTQ identity while playing Valorant due to the regular use of homophobic, transphobic and every other kind of -phobic slurs by other players in the game’s voice chat.
“I’m gay and would be really nervous to use one of these in Valorant [to be honest],” said Reddit user Aphet. “I had Yoru highlighted and then 10 seconds later someone else grabbed and instalocked him and said, ‘Sorry, I had to grab Yoru because you smelled like a F*-slur’ out of nowhere. No one had spoken. And that’s indicative of a lot of experiences I’ve had. It’s super uncomfortable and it makes me sad [because] these look so cool.”
Riot Games has not confirmed the reported addition of Pride player cards to Valorant.