With the release of Season 15 tomorrow, Apex Legends will be getting its first playable transgender woman character. Revealed on October 17th via an animated short on Apex Legends’ official YouTube and Twitter channels, Catalyst (a.k.a. Tressa Crystal Smith) is a transgender woman whose terraforming powers are used to save the dying moon of her dystopic planet. Players will be able to unlock and explore her defensive ferrofluid abilities starting on November 1st, which marks the official launch of Season 15.
I am the grim trans LEGEND your parents warned you about.
I am Catalyst.
— Meli Grant, Wicked Witch of the Outlands (@Melizande) October 17, 2022
Catalyst is far from the first LGBTQ character to grace the roster of Apex Legends, though she is the first transgender woman in the game. When the game launched in 2019, it included Bloodhound, a nonbinary character, and Gibraltar, a gay man, in its initial roster of playable legends. Since then, Respawn Entertainment has added several more LGBTQ characters, with Catalyst becoming seventh on that list (or eighth, if the Legend who is canonically questioning his sexuality is also included).
The creation of Catalyst was a result of the bright minds at Respawn Entertainment, including lead writer Ashley Reed, the voice actress Meli Grant, and GLAAD’s very own Associate Director of Gaming, Blair Durkee. This talented team collaborated over the past year on Catalyst’s voice lines, narrative, and overall design, bringing to life the witchy Legend that players have gotten to know through a series of trailers and animated shorts. The gameplay-focused trailer that released last week shows off Catalyst’s abilities in the new Broken Moon map that players will get to conquer in Season 15, which is appropriately named Eclipse. Narration from Meli Grant herself sets the tone for what kind of setting players can expect in the next arc of this wildly popular battle royale.
You’ve seen the abilities and you’ve heard the voice. My voice. Gosh that is still so wild to say… Is she everything you hoped she would be?
Also? Those finishers are BRUTAL… https://t.co/8vsdF0in3t
— Meli Grant, Wicked Witch of the Outlands (@Melizande) October 24, 2022
When chatting about the uniqueness of this new Legend, Durkee calls Catalyst a “groundbreaking trans character” due to “the way her narrative unfolds and how prominently her trans identity is featured in the game itself.” Catalyst’s passion and gravitas is palpable, with her gender identity serving as a source of power and wisdom rather than anguish and suffering. Her familiarity with hardship is not solely centered on the difficulties that came with transitioning, which is a refreshing departure from the trauma that tends to consume many queer and trans stories. Players will delight in her multifaceted backstory, all of which have informed her sense of agency and current goals to save her homeworld’s moon from destruction.
In a GamesRadar interview, Grant praised the team’s collaboration and compassion in making a dignified trans woman whose personality and mannerisms are reflective of her own trans identity. Catalyst’s “sardonic, steely sense of humor”, as Grant calls it, is a familiar result of a “natural defense mechanism” that many trans people create to protect themselves from the world. And Grant is not the only one who feels seen by the creation of this Legend. Her voice work as Catalyst has resonated with the LGBTQ community, garnering an outpouring of support from transgender gamers concerning her authenticity and visibility.
Thank you for all of the supportive messages too, including those who have reached out privately. I’ve been reading through them, and I want you to know how grateful I am. If Catalyst resonates with you, brings any amount of joy to your life, I take that very seriously.
— Meli Grant, Wicked Witch of the Outlands (@Melizande) October 18, 2022
As a film grad, this makes me so happy. I have rarely if ever seen positive representation of a trans character in a major property, much less an interactive one. Narrative imagery like this gives us hope for the future, and anchors our humanity. We have existed and always will. https://t.co/bjzBE3o7Cb
— Faith of the Heart (@svipvl) October 17, 2022
Apex Legends currently commands a fanbase of approximately 63 million unique monthly players according to ActivePlayer, and an article by Out Magazine reported that a 2020 Nielsen Games 360 survey found that 10% of all gamers over the age of 18 identified as LGBTQ. With the vastness of the Apex Legends fanbase, Durkee looks forward to the impact that Catalyst will have on trans and non-trans players alike. “Players will come to have a better understanding of the trans community from seeing Catalyst,” she remarks. Allowing trans players to feel acknowledged by the games they play is rewarding, and fostering allyship in non-LGBTQ players is integral to finding acceptance in gaming communities.
Apex Legends continues to be one of the most-played multiplayer games in the world and Respawn Entertainment boasts a remarkable influence on the video game industry. The inclusion of a transgender woman who is playable, visible, and made by trans people shows how LGBTQ characters can flourish when given the right love, attention, and consideration. GLAAD is proud of the work done in collaboration with Respawn Entertainment and Meli Grant to create a Legend that furthers trans visibility and conversation around LGBTQ inclusion. Considering the praise that fans gave Apex Legends after the character’s reveal, Durkee hopes “that Catalyst will raise the bar for trans representation across the gaming industry, by showing that we can be more than just minor side characters–and that our stories deserve to be told in all types and genres of games.”
Log into Apex Legends November 1st to see Catalyst in action.