League of Legends has introduced its first ever lesbian champion, Neeko—and she’s a shapeshifting badass who’s not afraid to speak her mind.
The multiplayer online battle game, which is played by around 100 million people every month, unveiled Neeko—a queer chameleon who is able to take on other forms—on Monday (November 19).
After Neeko’s interactions made players wonder about her sexuality, Matt Dunn, senior narrative writer at League of Legends developer Riot Games, replied to a fan on Twitter, writing: “Neeko *does* like female champions more than male champions.
“Neeko identifies as a lesbian.”
Gamers had spotted that when Neeko takes on another character’s female form, she makes comments such as: “Neeko is joyful to become you” and “wish I could stay like this forever,” and asks other female characters questions like: “Does dragon lady want to eat lunch with Neeko sometime maybe?”
This is in stark contrast to her reactions when she takes on a male’s appearance, with the chameleon throwing out quips like: “Yuck! Take a bath! Gross” and asking: “Do I smell as bad as I look?”
Dunn also tweeted that Neeko was “currently single and looking. She loved (fellow champion) Nidalee, but it was unrequited.”
The game has previously introduced a gay champion called Varus, who fuses with his lover, Kai, and a dark spirit to create a whole new being.
League of Legends players delighted with lesbian Neeko
Queer fans of League of Legends were ecstatic at the news.
“As a young queer person, it’s great to see characters like Neeko in media who represent my reality so accurately”
Though there was, of course, anti-gay outrage from some of the game’s players, the rainbow wave of support was much more powerful. Comments like “She is ME. I lOve hER” and “You saved my life” were common.
One enthusiast tweeted at Dunn, writing: “I know this is going to get lost in the ocean of replies but I wanted to thank you and the others who worked on Neeko for this representation.
“As a young queer person, it’s great to see characters like Neeko in media who represent my reality so accurately. Thank you so much Matt.”
Another fan said: “Thank you for Neeko and I am beyond happy to have a gay / lesbian character.
“Please make all the merch you can for her. I will buy every bit of it. Even if it is a 300.00 statue. Keep up the amazing work! I am in tears at work.”
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And one person wrote: “You tell everyone who helped make her she is awesome and wonderful! She is perfect the way she is and a welcome addition.”
Others couldn’t express their emotions in simple lower case and resorted to capitals, with one tweeting: “NEEKO IS A RAINBOW LIZARD WHOS AN ADORABLE LESBIAN WHO FLIRTS WITH GIRLS IN GAME THANK YOU RIOT.”
Another said: “NEEKO IS A LESBIAN. I’M CRYING!!! IT REALLY IS 20GAYTEEN!!!!!!”
And one supporter made a meme, combining fan art of Neeko with the phrase: “YEAH NEEKO GAY. KEEP SCROLLING.”
League of Legends has a pro-LGBT history
In 2015, League of Legends took a radical new approach to tackle homophobia in its online community, and saw overwhelmingly positive results.
The process relied on users reporting each other for good or bad actions, and in doing so teaching an automated machine-learning system to identify hateful content.
And in 2017, when explaining why League of Legends was about to see its first LGBT+ character—who was eventually revealed to be Varus—design director Greg Street said the game “owes it to players and, I think, to the world to do something like that.”
He added: “Having an openly gay character or punishing a player for calling another player a racial slur doesn’t feel political to me.
“It’s just a reflection of Earth circa 2017.”