Earlier this week, EA and the studios under the publisher’s umbrella were in the news as employees threatened a walkout regarding the company’s refusal to speak out on ongoing attacks on trans people’s bodily autonomy during Pride Month. This was because it was feared EA would throw a rainbow on its logo on social media, but still not allow employees to speak out regarding things like the state of Texas ruling parents of children seeking gender-affirming care could be investigated for child abuse. The walkout was called off after the company changed its social media protocols to allow employees and brands to speak out in support of the LGBTQIA+. Among the EA brands that did so was Respawn developer Apex Legends, which posted an image of the game’s queer characters to its social channels, along with declaring support for trans rights. But while most developers would be content to let that stand on its own, Respawn took it a step farther and put it directly into the game.
I booted up my PlayStation copy of Apex Legends and was greeted with the same graphic sporting “TRANS RIGHTS” in all-caps and the same message that had been posted on the game’s social media accounts. It showed up just as I got to the main menu, so that means there’s no way for anyone who plays the shooter to avoid it. It’s a small thing, but given that EA employees had to threaten to walkout to make it happen, I’m happy to see this not just be a social media post, but something every Apex Legends player will have to engage with.
The full message reads:
Pride is the opposite of shame: it’s about being proud of who you are. Respawn stands with transgender community members— our colleagues, partners, families, friends and players— facing discrimination and attempts to curtail their autonomy. Trans rights are human rights.
Prior to the ban being lifted on EA social accounts, Head of Respawn Entertainment Vince Zampella was one of several EA employees tweeting advocating for trans rights on their personal accounts, which eventually spilled out to brand accounts after the walkout was cancelled.
Trans rights are human rights. It is as simple as that. Respawn has grown on the principles of diversity, equality, and inclusion and strives to uphold those values. Let's be better humans.
— Vince Zampella (@VinceZampella) May 31, 2022
This isn’t the first time Apex Legends has used its platform to advocate for queer players. Along with having several queer characters in its roster, players can also use a badge of the Progress Pride Flag on their in-game profile, which was made available for all players last year.
Update: Respawn continues to voice its support for the queer community, and in a way that requires everyone who plays Apex Legends to deal with it. The new message is a bit more general, and tries to be encouraging to queer fans who might be struggling to nail down their identity. But like the previous one, it pops up as soon as you boot the game up. It reads:
Figuring out your sexuality can be confusing, and it can feel overwhelming to not have answers. But there’s no deadline. Discovering who you are is a lifelong process—put in the time, move at your own pace, and make space for yourself to grow. You’ll get this squared away.
Like last time, Respawn also shared the message to its social channels.