Drawing heavy derision from most fans and praise from feminist blogs, gamemaker Blizzard has bowed to one parent’s desires, and removed a victory animation for the female character Tracer in their Overwatch beta. The controversy traces back to a single post on Blizzard’s Battlenet forums, where a dad voiced his concern that Tracer was showing too much butt.
Blizzard is currently beta-testing their Team Fortress 2 clone, Overwatch. Like TF2, the game features hyper-stylized characters based around archetypes (“Torbjörn” the dwarf engineer, “McCree” the sharp-shooting cowboy.) The character “Tracer” might be considered the analog to The Scout in TF2; a fast-running, lower DPS character prone to snarky comments.
The pose in question is here:
The complaint thread didn’t seem to gain traction on Battlenet, with the overwhelming majority of replies disagreeing with the beta-testing dad. Which is what made the eventual reply from the game’s Creative Director, Jeff Kaplan, all the more surprising:
“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.”
Blizzard, the gameshop that brought Warcraft, Starcraft and WoW into the world, and defined the RTS and MMO genres, lately seems to be involved in a game of catch-up and copycatting with its latest offerings. The massive popularity of League of Legends and DotA, which all began in 2003 with a fan-made arena mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft III, prompted Blizzard try and recapture that runaway success with their own version of the game, Heroes of the Storm, over a decade later in 2015. And Valve’s timelessly entertaining Team Fortress 2, which debuted in 2007 and delighted gamers with its Pixar-level CGI short films to tell the backstory of each character class, is the clear inspiration for Overwatch and its marketing.
But censoring this fully-clothed rear-end from their game in response to a single complaint seems like the new hand-wringing, crowd-following culture of Blizzard taken to a new height. If pandering to the social justice warriors of the internet is to remain a priority for Blizzard in 2016, the gaming community is sure to drift elsewhere and remain there. Yet again.