Hot on the heels of its controversy with Chinese censorship, Blizzard is once again warming its way back into the hearts of the woke by throwing them a bone in the form of new “diverse” (read: non-white) characters in Overwatch 2.
Last week at BlizzCon, the company’s annual convention, Blizzard announced two new games including the long-awaited fourth entry in the Diablo franchise, and a sequel to Overwatch – Overwatch 2.
Praised for its “wokeness,” the original Overwatch features no less than 31 playable characters from diverse backgrounds. However, despite boasting perhaps the most varied set of characters in a video game, social justice warriors – especially those on social media – have repeatedly voiced their outrage at the game for lacking a black female character.
Despite offering several black men, including Doomfist, Baptiste and Lucio – as well as a host of non-white female characters, the woke brigade have protested the lack of a black woman each time a new character was announced.
Complaints about the lack of a black female character go as far back as 2016, when the game was first released, prompting lead designer Jeff Kaplan to issue a response to the mounting criticism in 2017.
“The most important thing to me is that those in positions to influence and reflect society start portraying very normal things as being normal,” he wrote. “Right now, it makes ripple effects when we feature characters of different backgrounds. It’s a big deal when we reveal a hero is a lesbian. But I long for the day when it’s not a big deal. It needs to not be newsworthy. We need to help normal be normal.”
He added that the company had multiple black characters in development, two of whom would later be revealed as Doomfist and Baptiste. The letter was only revealed earlier this year after the fan sent it to Kotaku.
Ironically, the company’s reveals of new minority characters have always been treated in the progressive press as headline stories.
Kotaku columnist Gita Jackson argued in April that Blizzard ought to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the company’s constant bragging about its “diverse” cast by adding a playable black female character into Overwatch.
“It’s disappointing to know that a black female character has been in the works since before the game came out, but she still isn’t in the game,” she wrote. “I know that development is unpredictable, but black women are tired of being the absolute last on the list, yet again.”
Overwatch’s first “real” black female character is none other than Sojourn, whose existence was leaked earlier this year. She won’t be joining the franchise until the release of Overwatch 2, which will probably be out before the end of next year.
Kaplan says that the character has existed for years long before the original Overwatch was even released.
“I personally feel like the right thing to do by the character is still deliver on that story and not just rush her out because the community is upset with us,” Kaplan said. “I tend to find that there’s always a community upset with us over something. I’ve mentioned this before, but the real value of Overwatch inclusivity is the idea that we’re open-minded, that we want everybody to feel welcome into the universe, and the result of that is diversity. I would hate for the diversity to ever feel pandering, like we just had this spreadsheet with a bunch of checkboxes. Because it’s a ridiculous notion to think we’re ever going to be able to represent all the people on the planet.”
And yet, despite Kaplan’s claims, it is precisely how Blizzard has treated its cast of characters. Several of its heroes were Dumbledore’d into the LGBT community years after the game’s release. Tracer has a girlfriend – one that’s even proudly shown off in a photograph in the CGI trailer for Overwatch 2 – and Soldier 76, everyone’s favourite dad, was revealed to be gay. Neither revelation served any purpose, except to prompt the gaming press to praise Blizzard for its commitment to diverse representation.
The backstories of Overwatch’s characters are so disconnected from the game that it’s hard to see these efforts as anything more than virtue-signalling. They come at no cost to the players, nor have they any impact on the game.
Even so, the wokenista are not happy. Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson – among numerous others – saw fit to condemn Blizzard for sending Sojourn to the “back of the line” (it’s a Rosa Parks reference, get it?) of character releases and accused the company of pandering. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.