Diversity and inclusion have risen to the fore in League of Legends over the past few years. Riot's two flagship games, League and Valorant, are at the forefront of the company's efforts to represent various cultures and people in its games.
K'Sante, the upcoming League of Legends champion, will take Riot's "diversity ambitions" to new heights with his debut later this year.
In addition to being a brash skirmisher in the top lane in terms of gameplay, K'Sante's narrative reflects the company's objective to diversify its characters.
Since 2020, the majority of the new champion releases have been included and inspired by disenfranchised communities in the real world. With K'Sante as its first openly Black and homos*xual member, the game's roster of more than 160 champions enters uncharted territory.
Michael "SkiptomyLuo" Luo, narrative designer at Riot, at a recent developer roundtable event, said:
“Diversity and inclusion is something that, specifically for League champions, we’ve come a long way but still have farther and farther to go. In no way does one character make up for years of D&I work that we still have left to do.”
Real world scenarios inspired Riot Games to structure League of Legends fantasy
Riot significantly boosted its company-wide D&I work in 2020, making progress in a number of titles to represent various cultures, nations, backgrounds, and orientations.
In K'Sante's official introduction video that was unveiled last week, he is referred to as the "Hunter" and his "love" is referred to as the "Archer." DeObia Oparei, a voice actor at Riot, expressed happiness at "making history" by revealing K'Sante as the first Black LGBTQ+ champion in League of Legends. He tweeted:
In the video game Valorant, it seems like every new agent that joins the roster represents a different country, and only two of the game's protagonists come from the same nation (Viper and Brimstone, United States).
And while it's simpler to portray real subsets of people when a game's setting is literally planet Earth, difficulties start to develop when League of Legends' designers are obliged to go beyond the restrictions of cultural inspiration and incorporate elements of real life into a fictional context.
Thomas "Hylia" Randby, skin designer on Riot's K’Sante team, said:
“Being able to reach people and achieve a specific level of representation that’s going to speak to certain people and allow people to be seen in the content that we’re making… it’s really exciting, energizing, and wonderful to feel empowered, to tell those stories, and to allow ourselves to weave those stories into the overarching fabric of League of Legends.”
Similar to many other works of art situated in the Runeterran nation of Shurima, K'Sante draws its real-world ideas directly from Africa.
While the entire country of Shurima draws inspiration from many different civilizations, including that of North Africa, Egypt, and even sub-Saharan Africa, Riot claims that K'Sante's hometown of Nazumah, which is part of Shurima, is specifically influenced by West African culture.