First, a bit of backstory. By now, you’ve heard of Blizzard’s new MOBA/FPS Overwatch. Even in beta, Overwatch has been received extremely well both by critics and the gaming community. It has a vibrant and unique cast of characters, extremely well balanced gameplay, and what might be the most robust lore in this genre to date. However, this title was at the center of some controversy in the last few weeks.
Characters in Overwatch have various poses, or emotes they can perform. One such pose, labeled “Over the Shoulder” has the character with their back facing the screen, looking back towards the camera. A player going by Fipps posted to Blizzard’s forum in reference to the character Tracer, voicing concerns about the pose.
“What about this pose has anything to do with the character you’re building in tracer? It’s not fun, its not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces tracer to another bland female sex symbol.
We aren’t looking at a Widowmaker pose here, this isn’t a character who is in part defined by flaunting her sexuality. This pose says to the player base, oh we’ve got all these cool diverse characters, but at any moment we are willing to reduce them to sex symbols to help boost our investment game.
I have a young daughter that everyday when I wake up wants to watch the recall trailer again. She knows who tracer is, and as she grows up, she can grow up alongside these characters. What I’m asking is that as you continue to add to the overwatch cast and investment elements, you double down on your commitment to create strong female characters. You’ve been doing a good job so far, but shipping with a tracer pose like this undermines so much of the good you’ve already done. “
Fipps received some backlash for the post and Blizzard was inundated with pleas to not edit or remove the pose. Ultimately, the question “Should content that some find offensive be removed from a game?” was raised not by anyone in particular, but by the community surrounding this issue as a whole. In my experience, the middle ground lay bare and people were either completely for removing the pose under the premise of sexual objectification, or complete for keeping the pose using the idea of freedom of speech (or in this case art) to support their case.
It originally appeared that Blizzard had sided with the formed camp after Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan released the following statement.
“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.”
This only increased the backlash. Gamers all over took to social media criticizing Kaplan’s decision to remove the pose. #SaveTheBooty was spawned and more and more fanart highlighting Tracer’s assets ended up all over the web. Then, something brilliant, something no one expected happened. Blizzard brought the pose back, but this time with a few changes that for now, have satisfied both sides.
Many were quick to highlight the pose was both sexier than the original and payed homage to the spirit of Tracer’s spunky attitude. I was left wondering if Blizzard had set up an elaborate ruse, or if they really thought that this was the best decision to make. Either way, I’m personally pleased with the outcome. What I thought was a developer giving into the whims of someone looking to be offended turned out to be Blizzard throwing it back in their faces instead.