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You can’t please the mob - Overwatch's impossible pedestal

Passionate fans are a good thing for any video game or esports title. Sometimes, the fans are impossible to please and any attempts are futile. Blizzard seem to be learning the hard way that the mob always bays for blood and cannot always be satiated.

Overwatch fans manage to be both a group that boasts about welcoming acceptance and diversity and the mob where the wrong thing being said or done will see you cancelled with no return.

If your female characters are not body-diverse, the ratio of white-to-other is off or you dare release another male character into the selection, expect the rise of vocal ‘fans’ who are angry that the character isn’t specifically X, Y or Z.

(Credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch has LGBT characters.

Does this have any impact on the game? No.

While representation is important, having a ‘Dumbledore is gay’ moment for the sake of appealing to people seeking those figures seems disingenuous.

The decision to make Tracer ‘openly gay’ came after Blizzard’s documented efforts to tackle the vast catalogue of pornography that was being created with Tracer as its main star.

Tracer is no stranger to controversy, with an original Over the Shoulder victory pose for the hero replaced due to her prominent assets being widely criticised. In response to the backlash, Overwatch Director Jeff Kaplan explained that the pose had no place in the game.

"We'll replace the pose. We want everyone to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented. Apologies and we'll continue to try to do better." - Jeff Kaplan

There is a fine line between policing what women find empowering and what others find objectifying. Another hero, Widowmaker, has her own Over the Shoulder pose that was not edited or changed. Her character is far more overtly sexual and 'fits' better, but this still contradicts the message that Blizzard would not seek to oversexualise their characters.

The response to Soldier 76 ‘coming out’ was different. A lot of Overwatch fans were happy. Not because this was a new queer character in the lineup but because the men who enjoy playing as 76 were unhappy with the decision.

Now while those complaining about the sexuality of the character they are playing a video game are definitely sad, it is strange that instead of celebrating this additional representation, fans found delight in the tiny portion of negative reactions to the character’s added backstory.

Fans that hail Blizzard as a beacon of sexuality acceptance tend to forget the editing of OWL footage that 'toned down' audience Pride Day celebrations in different broadcast regions.

If characters have natural backstories that don't feel like virtue-signalling in an attempt to pander to a community who seek representation, that is the best way to represent a group often primarily used to fit a stereotype in any given medium.

(Credit: Blizzard)

 

When Blizzard attempts to create diverse characters with varied backstories, the Overwatch community will then, like an ouroboros, consume itself with a circle of conflicting logic.

While Lucio and Baptiste have avoided any widespread criticism, Doomfist has not been so lucky.

Doomfist is the alias used by Akande Ogundimu. A former martial artist in training, he is offered mercenary work and eventually kills his teacher to take the alias from him, becoming the third Doomfist.

Now, Doomfist was criticised for being a villain. Well, more specifically, it was because he was a criminal and had an aptitude for violence.

I would hazard a guess that his giant gauntlet that allows him to pummel those that oppose him might be what determined his nature rather than his race, but Overwatch fans believed this was actually a racist caricature somehow.

Pharah, the daughter of Ava, has been criticised for not having more focus on her Egyptian heritage while a Native American skin for her was seen as ‘insensitive’ for not representing ‘her culture.’ Symmetra, who is Indian, doesn’t speak Hindi in her voice lines and her outfit reveals her legs rather than reflect her culture fully through wardrobe choice.

In The Elder Scrolls, the dark-skinned Redguards are good in combat, with bonuses in Strength and Endurance. They also naturally have lower intelligence than most other races.

Is this racist or simply how games have to balance out different character stats to prevent a … master race?

In fact, intelligence is less about smarts and more about affinity for magic, something Redguards notoriously dislike as a race.

It boils down to something quite simple - thought-out, interesting game mechanics matter more than real-world politics or implications unless designed in a way that is overtly racist.

When Sigma was announced last year, many commenced with the war cry.

"WHERE ARE THE BLACK FEMALE HEROES?!"

 

Overwatch 2 will see a black female hero for the first time (coincidence, I’m sure) and even then, fans are not satisfied. Some claimed that the name of the hero, Sojourn (a reference to abolitionist Sojourner Truth), was not a tribute but instead ‘lazy’ on the side of Blizzard.

When it comes to women in Overwatch, the lineup is diverse, with characters from around the world including China, Egypt, India, South Korea and Mexico.

Orisa is an onmic so doesn’t count as a 'female' hero, but she is portrayed with a Numbani accent that resembles similar real-world West African counterparts.

Representing culture is far stronger than representing individuals and yet the fans often only seek individuals that fit into very rigid pre-determined boxes rather than naturally slotting into the universe.

While many bring up Apex Legends or the fact League of Legends had black female characters before Blizzard, very few jumped ship into the respective fandoms for these games.

There is a good reason for this and they know it, but it is something none of those fans will admit.

The Overwatch League itself is known to be sanitised.

A coach from one team issued an official apology after bumping into two rival players from the Houston Outlaws team.

The (literal) Disneyfication of the OWL has been a long-standing joke and yet, in this vacuum of drama, trash talk and strong words, some still found a problematic element during their viewing experience at the very start of the 2020 Season.

The act of teabagging has existed for years. It is not a new phenomenon.

It is no more non-consensual than the enemy shooting you in the head or winning the game.

The reality is that those who will take to social media to complain about a character being added to a game or a professional player pressing a crouch button have a lot in common.

Neither will be happy with the final product regardless of how it turns out.

It is easier to cater to actual fans over those who simply want to have something else to score internet points with when it isn't up to their own impossible or irrational standards.

Phoebe Dua

Phoebe Dua

Written by GINX redaction

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