By: Peter Allen Clark
Leading Asian Internet platform Garena performed a quick reversal Feb. 4 after announcing a restrictive LGBTQ policy for an upcoming League of Legends tournament.
Them's the rules
Garena Philippines eSports first announced the rules Feb. 3 for their second monthly “all-feminine tournament” The Iron Solari, to take place Feb. 22 at an Internet café in Manila, Philippines. The ruling unleashed new stipulations on the make up of teams.
“Each team will be allowed to have a maximum of one Gay/Transgendered woman for the entirety of the tournament day,” the announcement read. “Therefore, teams cannot do the following: Team_A's first game will be 4 female members and 1 gay, then on Team_A's second game, they will have 4 female members and replace with another gay or transgender member.”
The new rules came after a pledge that the eSports team had given them a “lot of thought” and spoke to members of lesbian, gay and transgendered groups.
“For any events we do, we always want to make sure we are able to have an inclusive environment where no one feels left out, and of course for everybody to enjoy,” the announcement read. “And there are arguments and concerns from other participants who disputes that Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women members may probably have some unfair advantage.”
Back up a bit
League of Legends developer Riot Games responded very quickly to the circling story with its own message of inclusion:
LGBT players are welcome at official LoL tourneys. We're working with partners to ensure consistency with our values across all regions.— Riot Games (@riotgames) February 3, 2015
Garena served as the publisher for League of Legends in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, so an established relationship exists between the two companies. And not a day later, Garena Philippines eSports retracted the rules with an updated statement.
“Our initial ruling on LGBT player restrictions within the Iron Solari League has created a lot of good discussion and debate over the past 24 hours,” the statement read. “After discussing the ruling with our partners and re-examining our approach, we have decided to remove these restrictions completely. This means that any player who self-identifies as female will be allowed to participate. We sincerely apologize for any offense we caused to the LGBT and gaming communities.”
They said their original intent was to “promote diversity” and in the future the Garena eSports team promised to continue an open dialogue with planning.
We all know League of Legends is popular.
Last year, Riot Games revealed that over 67 million people play League of Legends each month and 27 million playing every day. That enormous fan base also contains a large diversity of players, many of whom were disappointed with the initial ruling.
I think the tournament scene makes for a great place for these discussions to take place because they involve people actually interacting in person.
Sal Mattos, Managing Editor of GayGamer.net told us the ruling did not sit right with him. As a Filipino, he wanted to shed light on what might have simply been a cultural mistake.
“The Garena eSports' decision was a frustrating one, to say the least, as it was as discriminatory as it was bizarre,” Mattos said. “But it's important to understand the cultural context that may have influenced the original decision. It speaks to a larger problem of queer cultural misunderstandings in Filipino culture, a culture that is for the most part rather progressive.”
He spoke gratefully about the rule reversal, giving a little credit League of Legends’ developer.
“Thankfully Garena has retracted the restrictions following the negative response from fans, and no doubt thanks to some push from Riot Games,” Mattos said. “Riot has always done an admirable job of fostering positive communities surrounding their games. And it can't be forgotten that Garena's original ruling was intended to be supportive of LGBT players, and their quick response does imply that they're listening to their fans.”
Mattos also shared his own breakdown of the rule change over at GayGamer.net.
The large and diverse group of League of Legends players can be found many other places on the Internet. In fact, a subreddit exists, r/LOLGaymers, solely dedicated to house inclusive LGBT community discussion around the game. That subreddit alone boasts 2,300 subscribers, compared with 630,000 subscribers to the League of Legends subreddit.
In the end, Mattos spoke positively about the evolution of tournament culture and how collecting the passionate players together would help forward everyone’s understanding.
“The competitive gaming scene has been the stage for a number of big stories on diversity for the last few years, from Sasha Hostyn, a trans woman who became a Starcraft II world champion, to Smash Bros. player Lilo's study on sexism and abuse at tournaments to this recent Garena controversy,” Mattos said. “I think the tournament scene makes for a great place for these discussions to take place because they involve people actually interacting in person. It's a very different dynamic from the anonymous online harassment that takes place in virtual gaming spaces, largely because of IRL interactions that take place. So while things aren't perfect there is a lot of great work being done.”