In 2005, two weeks before the release of the Xbox 360, the offices at Microsoft UK were bustling with energy for the new console launch, and it was my first day on the job. I was a Channel Marketing Manager, working to market the console, all the new games and accessories to gamers across the UK. I was thrown into an exciting whirlwind of a major product launch with Xbox, which was a world away from my previous job, and I knew this was an opportunity I could not mess up, so I would have to quickly find my place somehow.
I was also the only gay man of Indian descent in the office. If there were coworkers who were also part of the LGBTQIA+ community, it wasn’t discussed openly. I could not have been alone, but like me, they probably had a lot of experience covering. I had been covering for as long as I could remember – in previous jobs, at school, for what seemed like forever. Covering drains me of energy I could have invested in having more impact in my role. I had become an expert at simply fitting in – never realizing the value I’d bring to my colleagues, my work and myself had I brought my whole self.
I was doing well, and in time, naturally found the confidence I needed to be myself at work. I never had to have a “coming out” moment at work, but I see now that it was only when I stopped covering and brought my whole self to work did I really begin to thrive. The one place I didn’t have to cover was whilst getting lost in the rich, vibrant worlds video games can create, where I could throw myself into a vast array of characters, alternative worlds and games. Gaming offered a place to be free but it lacked representation and visibility of queer narratives and characters, something that is slowly appearing.
Today, I serve as the Chief of Staff for Xbox Marketing, & Co-Lead for Team Xbox LGBTQIA+ driving the business and culture for a team of hundreds of people globally. Our team is filled with people from different backgrounds and diverse, intersectional identities. I am proud to be so visible to so many people and help spark important conversations about representation that might not otherwise have been raised.
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. Representation is a vast and multifaceted topic: it can mean more LGBTQIA+ characters, more story moments featuring LGBTQIA+ themes, or even creating worlds LGBTQIA+ players can feel at home in. For us, it includes empowering our LGBTQIA+ team members to create the kinds of change they’re hoping to see in our games and in the industry at large. In that spirit, here are a few ways that Team Xbox will be supporting LGBTQIA+ communities this year, including a partnership between Xbox Game Studios Publishing and GLAAD:
Xbox Game Studios Publishing Partnership with GLAAD Promises More LGBTQIA+ Storytelling and Representation on Xbox
Xbox Game Studios Publishing is announcing a long-term partnership with GLAAD to support our LGBTQIA+ team members, our partner studios, and other game developers in our community in increasing representation in Xbox games. Through this partnership, we are hoping to bring more LGBTQIA+ stories, characters and lived experiences to Xbox in ways that will resonate with gamers around the world.
We recognize the need and demand for more diverse stories, especially as many places become more hostile to transgender, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ communities.
According to recent data from the Trevor Project, up to 2 in 3 LGBTQ young people reported this year that escalating transphobic and homophobic rhetoric has had negative effects on their mental wellbeing. However, this same cohort cited access to affirming spaces – including online spaces – as one of the best ways to offer support.
We believe that as game makers, we have a unique opportunity to offer spaces which may be affirming to youth, and to the broader LGBTQIA+ community – especially because according to a study from Dentsu, 65% of Gen Z gamers and 60% of millennial gamers feel more comfortable expressing themselves in gaming than in the real world. Through games, we not only have the ability to tell diverse and representative stories, but to also provide spaces where players can experience and explore identities in an affirming and supportive environment.
With this in mind, our LGBTQIA+ team members and their allies in XGS Publishing have engaged GLAAD with the primary goal of helping our partner studios create games that can offer much-needed visibility, understanding, and support for LGBTQIA+ people for years to come. We’ll be collaborating with GLAAD and amplifying existing resources through workshops and consulting to bring genuine, heartfelt, and aspirational LGBTQIA+ representation to more of our future games.
XGS Publishing previously worked with GLAAD on Don’t Nod’s narrative adventure Tell Me Why, which will be free for the entire month of June for the third year in a row. GLAAD’s involvement on Tell Me Why helped to empower trans, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ creatives on the project and ensure that co-protagonist Tyler Ronan, a young trans man, was portrayed in a way that would resonate with as many trans gamers as possible.
Gaming and Impact with Microsoft Rewards
Microsoft Rewards members in the United States can earn and donate points to organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ communities with Xbox. The organizations below will be featured on console throughout June:
- GLAAD: Founded in 1985, GLAAD – the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization – works with television, film, video games, Spanish-language media, journalists, and social media to tell stories and consult on LGBTQ media representation. GLAAD tackles tough issues and provokes dialogue that leads to cultural change through increased media accountability, public campaigns, corporate engagement initiatives, and advocacy programs that help to ensure 100% inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. (US)
- Outright International: Outright International is dedicated to working with partners around the globe to strengthen the capacity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) human rights movement, document and amplify human rights violations against LGBTIQ people, and advocate for inclusion and equality. (US)
- National Center for Transgender Equality – The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender and non-binary people. In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice. (US)
Xbox gamers can earn Microsoft Rewards points in various ways, such as playing or purchasing games after downloading the Microsoft Rewards app on Xbox. Earn points and redeem them for real rewards. Join us today and donate through Xbox.
Explore Games Curated by LGBTQIA+ Communities at Microsoft
Immersive game narratives provide a unique lens into perspectives outside of our own lived experiences. By amplifying voices of LGBTQIA+ creators, providing the opportunity to play as LGBTQIA+ characters, and encouraging engagement with LGBTQIA+ narratives, Xbox invites you to play with pride.
During June and beyond, we are featuring a variety of game collections that showcase LGBTQIA+ creators, lead characters, and games with inclusive gender and relationship options. Available on the Microsoft Stores on Xbox and Windows, check out the transgender and non-binary community games collection and the LGBTQIA+ community games collection. These collections will exist year-round as part of our ongoing work to create more inclusive gaming ecosystems and elevate content that resonates with communities.
- Garden Story (Available with Xbox Game Pass on Console, PC, and Cloud) – From non-binary and Filipino American creator Picogram, Garden Story is a cozy game in which you play as Concord, a grape tasked with rebuilding their hometown in a world populated with fruits and vegetables that exclusively use they/them pronouns. Thematically, the game is all about the importance of community involvement and how we are stronger together, even when times are tough. The more residents you befriend, the stronger you become!
- Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan (Available with Xbox Game Pass on Console, PC, and Cloud) – In this kid-friendly adventure-puzzle-platformer, the main character, Billy, identifies as non-binary and the story explores the topic of identity outside of the heteronormative binary constrictions that exist in a black-and-white world. While on a quest to restore color to all the realms, Billy befriends several characters that talk lovingly about their same-sex partners. The game teaches acceptance and kindness through an innovative ‘combat’ system that focuses on empathetic communication.
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Available with Xbox Game Pass on Console, PC, and Cloud, Rated M) – There are multiple LGBTQIA+ playable operators to choose from in this tactical, team-based shooter. The first gay operator in the series was Flores, a master thief from Argentina dedicated to calling his husband every night. For the first trans woman in the game, Ubisoft consulted with the trans community and cast a trans woman to be the voice of Operator Osa, a skilled inventor and head of Nighthaven’s R&D. The most recent LGBTQIA+ operator added to the roster is Sens, a non-binary combat engineer.
- The Big Con (Available with Xbox Game Pass on Console, PC, and Cloud) – Play as Ali in this coming-of-age adventure that explores the morality of how far we’re willing to go to save our family. Voiced by Erika Ishii, who is openly pansexual and genderfluid, Ali is on an all-important mission to save her single mom’s video store from loan sharks. The story engages players to make decisions that are not adherently good or evil and follows through to ensure players actively face the consequences for those choices. While Ali’s identity as a lesbian is not the focus of the story, it is refreshing to see her same-sex relationship presented simply as a fact.
- Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers (Console) – Fiction Factory games is dedicated to delivering representation that stays with you and this sequel does not disappoint. Spearheaded by asexual writer and director Stefan Gagne and non-binary narrative designer Aenne Schumman, you can choose your pronouns, customize your look, and romance whoever you want (or no one at all) in this visual novel about arcade culture, mental health, and gender identity. With multiple endings and romance paths, players have several storylines to discover, including options to be aromantic, asexual, or polyamorous.
Xbox Ambassadors Celebrate Pride 2023
This year the Xbox Ambassadors Program is continuing our proud tradition of highlighting stories, experiences, and game recommendations from Xbox Ambassadors in the LGBTQIA+ community. Check out the spotlight below and head over to our Xbox Ambassador’s blog to see more featured Ambassadors sharing their experiences, game recommendations, and messages to the community.
What would you like to share about your experience as a member of the Xbox Ambassadors community?
My experience being an Ambassador has always been so awesome and positive, but even more so now! I recently came out as transfemme (yay!) and the community has been super accepting, welcoming and accommodating to me! It makes me so happy and grateful to be part of such an inclusive and welcoming community like the Xbox Ambassadors community.
What message would you like to share with other members of the community?
My message to share with our community is simply this: Love. Love yourself, love others and do your best to share love and kindness in a world that’s severely lacking in it. With all the anti-trans and anti-queer hate and bills and legislation happening, it’s more important than ever to share love and support and stand with the queer communities. Allyship and friends are so appreciated! Black, Indigenous, People of Color and disabled queer people are especially in need of allies and support.
Artist Ari Liloan on the Xbox Logo Redesign
In recognition of Pride Month, Xbox commissioned artist Ari Liloan to design the artwork for this year’s campaign. Ari is a Filipino-Italian illustrator based in Berlin, Germany. With the theme of “unapologetic,” Ari immediately had the image of a knot of ribbons, celebrating the unapologetic diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community. The iridescent texture is an interpretation of the classic rainbow, which allows the display of flags winding up together in unity, an expression of the complexity that is a gift of being part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Xbox Plays Celebrates LGBTQIA+ Community
The Xbox Plays team will once again be spotlighting creators from the LGBTQIA+ community, inviting streamers to take over the channel at Twitch.tv/Xbox – Tune in on Mondays to support your favorite streamers or make some new friends as they play!
Kiyoshi playing Tunic (11am PT)
MarisolLords playing Dead by Daylight (3pm PT)
Willowmvp playing Minecraft (11am PT)
Megoesmoo playing Just Dance 2 (3pm PT)
SafirePlease plays Chicory: A Colorful Tale (11am PT)
JermainePlays playing Tunic (3pm PT)
Xbox UK + DIGIPRIDE
Xbox UK is partnering with Gayming Magazine for the third year running to celebrate all things LGBTQIA+ in the games industry right up to the end of July. Throughout the DIGIPRIDE collaboration, you can expect exciting podcasts, livestream takeovers, panels and the chance to win Xbox Pride items, as well as an Xbox Series S. There’s so much more to come, so keep your eyes peeled to Xbox UK’s social channels for more info!
Asphalt 9 – Race for Pride
The Race for the Pride event in Asphalt 9 will go live on June 23rd through July 2nd. New and existing players will be able to participate as this racing title is available for free on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. Find the Pride Event in the Daily Events section and participate to obtain the Pride car decal. Complete all objectives to unlock the McLaren P1.
Celebrate Pride in Overwatch 2
We want people playing Overwatch 2 to have a way to proudly celebrate who they are. Beginning on June 1, everybody who logs into Overwatch 2 will receive an extensive collection of profile Player Icons and Name Cards celebrating the many diverse identities that make up the tapestry of this fantastic community. Beyond what we are doing in-game, Pride is an opportunity for us to give back and support the LGBTQ+ community. We invite you to head to the Blizzard Gear Store to explore our new Pride-themed clothing and collectibles, curated by the Blizzard LGBT+ Employee Network, with all Blizzard proceeds being donated to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Show Off Your Pride in Disney Dreamlight Valley
Get ready to show off your Pride in Disney Dreamlight Valley with a free collection of colorful t-shirts! Fans will also be able to live magically by making their own clothing and furniture designs with the in-game Touch of Magic tool. In Update 5, Valley Villagers will be able to claim each tee with a unique claim code – stay tuned to Disney Dreamlight Valley socials for more info in June!
New Pride Gamerpic, Profile Theme, Wallpaper, and Avatar Items
In partnership with LGBTQIA+ communities at Xbox, we’re introducing a new gamerpic, profile theme, wallpaper, and avatar items! The gamerpic and profile theme will be available soon on console, Xbox PC app, and the Xbox mobile app. Players on console can also show their pride with the new Pride motion background. Content is subject to availability by country.
GET THE GEAR
The Xbox Gear Shop celebrates Pride with a new 2023 collection from Xbox and partnering Xbox Game Studios, along with old favorites. Show your support with limited-edition t-shirts, bags, and more — all created by and with LGBTQIA+ communities. This year’s collection is packed with even more Xbox Game Studios designs. Shop Pride gear now.
Microsoft Casual Games is Showing Our Pride
Celebrate Pride Month with a NEW, limited edition Microsoft Casual Games t-shirt and a chance to WIN* a $50 Xbox Gear Shop Gift Card!
*Must be 18+ and reside in an Xbox Gear Shop supported shipping region. Rules can be found here.
Mojang Studios Minecraft Pride Gear
Celebrate Pride at full volume in our gender-inclusive Minecraft Pride collection designed for everyone. Check out the entire collection on the official shop of Minecraft.
Xbox Pride Controller with Xbox Design Lab
Microsoft Inclusion is Innovation
This Pride Month and year-round, we recognize the many ways this diverse community continues to contribute and influence innovation at Microsoft and beyond. Join us in celebrating with powerful employee stories of strength, community, and leadership by visiting Inclusion is Innovation.