Ubisoft’s tactical shooter and most successful esports title Rainbow Six Siege kicks off its sixth year today with the launch of Operation Crimson Heist for Battle Pass owners (Operation Crimson Heist content will be available for all players on March 30). Most notable among the season’s new content is the introduction of the game’s first out LGBTQ character, known in Rainbow Six Siege as Operators, Flores.
The addition of Flores is a huge step in representation, as Rainbow Six Siege continues to build its lore after elevating the game’s narrative focus. It’s a move taken by other notable FPS titles in the esports sphere. Overwatch revealed the LGBTQ identities of Soldier 76 and Tracer post-launch while Apex Legends launched with Gibraltar and Bloodhound’s LGBTQ identities front-and-center.
Flores is gay, but the Argentinian master thief’s inclusion spoke volumes to fans across the LGBTQ spectrum upon his announcement in February. Out Rainbow Six Siege narrative writer Simon “Script” Ducharme helped bring Flores to life and celebrated the announcement alongside fans, saying Flores’ addition was “major” for them.
The move marks a focused approach on increasing virtual representation as a means of helping players and fans from underrepresented populations see themselves in an ecosystem that historically hasn’t provided them a place.
And if you actually pay attention to Gridlock's words, you'll see that my boy is gay. It has no effect on his gameplay, but this is MAJOR for me, and I have been DYING to share this with you all. pic.twitter.com/gCsqOT57J4— Script (Simon) #BLM (@ScriptSlasher) February 18, 2021
“We want everyone to be able to relate with this game. Games, like sports, should be for everyone,” Rainbow Six creative director Leroy Athanssoff tweeted. “The cast of [Operators] is going to be more and more diverse until everyone has someone they can relate to, so you’re in for a long ride. Better get used to it.”
That commitment, beginning today with Flores, is one that out Tier 1 Rainbow Six Siege caster and analyst Jessica “JessGOAT” Bolden sees as vital. “The absence of an LGBTQIA+ character in a game screams strange to me when statistically about one in five people will identify somewhere along the LGBTQIA+ spectrum,” JessGOAT told Outsports.
“Many of us already struggle to feel welcomed by some of the loud and abusive minority and to add a layer of acceptance and inclusion within the game can only help. I do not see any detriment to representation in any area of our game, especially an underrepresented one,” she added.
JessGOAT has been one of the most vocal LGBTQ voices within the Rainbow Six Siege scene for years. Prior to her time in the booth, she coached PENTA’s Rainbow Six Siege team and competed in Call of Duty esports. Unsurprisingly, she celebrated Flores’ addition as well, pointing to the significance it held to the community.
“I knew straight away what this would mean to so many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community who are big fans of Siege and the initial reaction from our side of the community mirrored that greatly,” JessGOAT said. “I was proud to be able to share in the connection everyone from our community felt with this character. He may be a game character, but it was the principle and the representation he gives us that shone as the most important part of all of this.”
JessGOAT also commended fellow major Rainbow Six Siege esports figures Parker “Interro” Mackay and Niclas “Pengu” Mouritzen for their public support of Flores’ announcement. “For the time I have known Parker, he has never avoided a controversial subject just because it might be easier to ignore it, especially when it might not directly affect him. I respect him greatly as being one of the key spokespersons for our game. When it comes to Pengu, however, I think I read his set of tweets about ten times before publicly thanking him for making the statements he did,” JessGOAT said.
“For him to make such a public stand ultimately showed me that Pengu has grown into yet another worthy spokesperson for our game. There’s a lot of our competitive community that will stay quiet on topics that do not directly concern them and it is with that privilege that they get to sit idly by as issues come and go in their scene,” she added.
“This disappoints me dearly as there is no doubt in my mind that if an issue affects them, they’re the first to try and rally support behind them, but the last to join voices when it benefits someone else. We need more people like Parker and Pengu to stand up and set an example for the expected behavior and discourse in our scene and gaming as a whole.”
The one concern brought up by Flores’ addition was why it took Rainbow Six Siege so long to add an LGBTQ character to the game. The game’s roster of Operators reaches 59 with Flores, and while that roster is culturally diverse and representative of 26 nations, it still took nearly six years to get its first rainbow flag.
JessGOAT raised the same question, but also offered a counter in the form of the fandom’s propensity for romantically shipping Operators, like fandoms often do. “I don’t ever think there wasn’t an inclusion. There’s been mention about a couple of the female operators possibly having engaged physically with each other but I have never personally read it myself. The community has always shipped certain operators together, and this has included same-sex,” JessGOAT said.
“I definitely think our highly committed and diverse cosplay/art community may have helped provide an already existing foundation for Flores to exist with more ease, definitely. I also think it may have been easier to suggest making Flores an openly gay operator since a very vocal part of the community already shipped multiple same-sex operators and was pretty well considered the norm.”
Ultimately, Flores’ presence within the game will likely encourage LGBTQ fans to convert to players, possibly even competitively, and engage more with the Rainbow Six Siege esports scene. “Seeing another LGBTQIA+ person, when sometimes it is rare, is something that we take sincere interest in,” JessGOAT said. “It would be like a child who loves baseball finally meeting someone else who loves baseball. That’s something to be excited about, right? If it is an LGBTQIA+ character being added to our game which sparks the interest of many more community members joining in, then I am happy. The more the merrier!”