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Fairly Filipina: Neon and Filipino representation

If you haven’t heard of Valorant’s newest agent Neon, you’re probably living under a rock…or maybe just experiencing a power outage.

Valorant’s sparky new agent hit Riot Games’ live servers last January 10, and players are more than excited to test out her high-voltage gameplay.

Neon is the first Filipina agent in the Valorant roster and is also the first agent to represent the region of Southeast Asia in the world of Riot Games’ hit first-person shooter. She is electrifying (literally), bubbly, and is “too-cool-to-really-care-but-actually-cares”, the opposite of how Filipinas have been represented, or misrep throughout time. This fresh approach to Filipino characterization in foreign media is something that sparked the hype of Filipinos, its gaming demographic specifically.

Filipinos in general have always been represented as humble and obsessed with the idea of serving others, a stereotype so old that it belongs in a museum. Neon completely blows the stereotype out of the way. Her attitude is someone who’s spunky, ecstatic, and will not back down from a fight. She also strays away from the classic Maria Clara trope that covers women in clothes to depict a Filipina’s conservative nature. Sure, you could say that it’s a battle-ready outfit, but then you see Sage wearing a robe, only showing her hands and face.

comparison between the outfits of Sage and Neon (Images via Riot Games)

In Neon’s release trailer, her whole personality is displayed, so we get a glimpse of how Riot devs imagine a Filipino character fitting into the Radianite-filled world of Valorant. We see her rushing to clean and beautify her room, probably a reference to how Filipinos can feel at home anywhere, despite the dire situation in front of them, such as the dangers of the Radianite explosions that the agents have to deal with. We also see her room filled with many remarkable Filipino items, such as a broom fashioned out of grass and is present in every Filipino household, the Walis Tambo. She also has a framed Gilas Pilipinas basketball jersey hanging on her wall, a reference to the Philippines’ love for the sport (honestly, you should see all the hole-in-a-wall type of basketball courts in every Filipino neighborhood).

screencapped from Riot Games

The rest of the trailer showcases a glimpse into her abilities, as well as showing that even tough girls like Neon have a soft and “girly” side, seen in the make-up and ring light she has on her desk, as well as a number of plushies on her bed. This makes Neon a person of her own, and not just some husk used as a representation of Filipinos in gaming.

We cannot talk about Neon without talking about her voice actress, Vanille Velasquez. She is the first Filipina to ever voice a Filipino character in a popular game such as Valorant. Josie Rizal from the Tekken franchise, who is a Filipina character, isn’t voiced by a Filipina.

Velasquez said in her interview that this is a “milestone in Filipino representation in video games,” and that statement could not be more agreeable. Breaking stereotypes, creating “real” characters rather than caricatures of the cultures they represent, and hiring voice actors who belong in the actual culture? It really is a step towards real and proper representation of different cultures and nationalities in video games. Let’s hope that the industry continues to take the step forward.

Dave Bernasibo
Dave Bernasibo
Despite being hardstuck in almost all of the games he plays, Dave enjoys gaming a lot. He is currently the coach for his university's Pokémon Unite team, and he enjoys making music and drawing when he's not gaming, writing or studying political science.
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