Xbox has announced its plans for Pride 2023, and they include a “long-term” partnership with media-monitoring organization GLAAD, the option for players to donate Microsoft Rewards points to several LGBTQIA+ organizations, and a curated list of games that are made by queer-identifying developers, feature inclusive gender and romance options, or have queer lead characters.
“What unifies our team at Xbox is the desire to make gaming a place where everyone feels welcome to play. One of the ways we can help members of LGBTQIA+ communities to feel invited to play is through increased visibility & representation in video games,” writes Pav Bhardwaj, chief of staff at Xbox marketing in the blog post announcing the company’s Pride plans. The partnership with GLAAD aims to “bring more LGBTQIA+ stories, characters, and lived experiences to Xbox in ways that will resonate with gamers around the world.” Here’s hoping that means Master Chief is gay in the next Halo game.
The post also details the importance of and need to bring more diverse stories into gaming, as “2 in 3 LGBTQ young people reported this year that escalating transphobic and homophobic rhetoric has had negative effects on their mental wellbeing,” according to a Trevor Project report.
Xbox will also make Don’t Nod’s narrative game Tell Me Why free for the entire month of June for the third year running. GLAAD worked hand-in-hand with Don’t Nod on the game, which features a young trans man as co-protagonist.
Xbox players can donate their Microsoft Rewards to GLAAD, Outright International, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Microsoft will also give $200,000 collectively to Outright International, Stonewall, SAATHII, Casa Rara, and GLAAD, as announced in a separate blog post on the official Microsoft site. “That’s in addition to the $1.4 million we’ve donated together with our employees since last year, and over $30 million we’ve donated in the last 30 years,” the post reads.
Interestingly, last year Microsoft drew some ire from our own Kenneth Shepard when he was at Fanbyte for donating a set amount while also offering Pride-themed Xbox gear for purchase—the proceeds of which did not go to any queer nonprofits.
“Despite all this merch covered in symbols of queerness, none of the proceeds from these sales are going to queer causes. Each store listing makes mention of the $170,000 donation, as well as that Microsoft has collectively donated $8 million to queer causes in the past year. But there’s nothing about the money received on these sales being used to help queer people in any monetary sense,” Shepard wrote.
Starting in June, Xbox will also have a collection of games curated by LGBTQIA+ communities who work at Microsoft. Crucially, the “collections will exist year-round as part of [Microsoft’s] ongoing work to create more inclusive gaming ecosystems and elevate content that resonates with communities.”
Pride is more than just a month, guys, and making sure queer people are visible year-round is vital.