Blizzard’s Overwatch, a game that marketed itself for its diversity celebrated its 5th Pride this year. However, they definitely will not be getting an A for effort.
Being a queer gamer is difficult. Especially during Pride month.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Blizzard for many reasons, but one of the ones that hurts the most is how ineffective they have proven when it comes to promoting their queer characters.
You’d think that Overwatch, a game that literally marketed itself as a game that supports diversity, would take full advantage of this. They would mark their 5th Pride, with a mascot canonically lesbian and another hero revealed as gay, with an incredible event that may even rival their Anniversary events. Right?
What did Blizzard Pride involve?
You must be new here.
In the game's five-year existence, there has not been a single event planned by Blizzard to celebrate Pride month. In fact, it was more up to the community itself to provide the enthusiasm and the “loud and proud” aesthetic that was expected after Tracer was revealed to be a lesbian in the 2016 webcomic “Reflections.” And in a frankly “oh, by the way fashion,” Soldier: 76 was shown to be gay, but was thankfully somewhat elaborated more in the short story “Bastet.”
After this, I had no intention of believing that Blizzard was going to put anything in the game. We’re talking about the same company who treated Blitzchung as persona non grata for his comments on Hong Kong as well as still failing to put a black woman as part of its “diverse” cast, so it isn’t exactly like I believe in the company’s definition of progressiveness.
But don’t worry. This year is different. 2021 will be the year of Pride, with all the upheaval of the world challenging us, it’s only right that Blizzard, with one of the most visible queer communities out there, would do right by us.
Hope you guys like rainbows:
The Rainbow icon. They couldn’t even call it The Pride icon.
For those who are not seeing the issues here, allow me to break it down. One, this was released silently. No announcements. Nothing. This screams to me, “all right, let’s give the queers something so they’ll shut up.” At the very least, this denotes a lack of intelligence or ignorance from the decision makers.
Two, to call this a “rainbow” icon denotes that there should be other flags that apply. Literally every other game that provides decorations has a variety of flags to choose from as queerness is fluid, beautiful, and diverse. But Blizzard has not offered any of the other options, an action that is also shown in their Pride mech, which only consists of their logo with the same rainbow pattern.
And three, calling it “rainbow” instead of Pride shows a lack of pride in itself. And this is deliberate to avoid controversy. To avoid the fight. And to avoid politics.
Which completely undermines the game’s lore itself, which is literally built upon themes of politics, oppression, and war. This is in a phrase, tone deaf.
A missed opportunity
As world weary as I am and as little faith I have in Blizzard to be sensitive to such issues, a small part of me wanted to believe that with their large queer following, that maybe I would be wrong this time.
I wanted to believe top queer content creators like EvilToaster and Violet, who still had faith. One of the best Sombra players in the world, Fitzyhere, is openly gay and often featured on the Blizzard launcher for their events. Two of the top main support players out there, Rammy and EeveeA, are transgender. I could go on.
After seeing that “rainbow” icon, I already knew that it was going to be it. I could not get over how utterly ridiculous it was.
Even after this, I was told by a friend to show patience, to provide Blizzard a bit of leeway given that the month wasn’t over yet. And while I am guilty of indulging in my more unforgiving nature more than I should, I was pretty confident that nothing else would happen, a belief that tragically came true as confirmed by Blizzard and afterwards by Violet themselves:
What could Blizzard have done?
The point of Pride is to be loud and proud. To show the world that we are here, we are queer, and they have to deal with it. We are a campy, complicated, and caring group that only wants to be seen as equal. So what can Blizzard do to show this?
Simply put, expand the pool of icons. Add more flags. Change the name of the Rainbow icon to Pride and add more such as Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Pansexual, and Non-Binary. Highlight their canonically queer characters with their own events. A Tracer or Soldier:76 event would be massive, well-received if written by the right people, and would bring the game to a wider and more inclusive audience.
This would have been a huge, HUGE event that could have changed everything. It could grow and branch out every year to reach smaller creators, to highlight community artists and writers, and provide endless content and input to allow the game to become more dynamic and thrive.
The possibilities are literally endless. And yet what does Blizzard do?
Right after announcing that there would be no more Pride content being released in the game this year, they decided it would be a better idea to announce another event. An event celebrating Elizabeth Caledonia “Calamity” Ashe, who is literally a rich cisgender heterosexual white woman who robs those beneath her just for the hell of it. Instead of a Pride parade, we got a straight parade.
What did other esports titles did for Pride Month?
Fortunately, most popular games allow queer gamers to feel more seen. Apex Legends has always been LGBTQIA+ friendly, with a cast of multiple queer characters. They also provided the easiest method to obtain their new badge depicting the most contemporary flag: opening the game.
Knockout City, immediately known for its progressive style and ideas, provided free pride and Juneteenth badges via codes they provided on June 1st. Riot’s massively popular games VALORANT and League of Legends provided unique ways for players to show their colors with banners and trails respectively.
Finally, Activision’s Call of Duty began showing their support last year by adding eight Pride-related calling cards, but upped the ante by adding six more, bringing the total number of flags to an impressive 14.
Blizzard Pride: And the band played on
I’m not here to tell you once again that certain corporations will only see queerfolk and minorities as anything other than commodities. This has already been proven. And normally, as a personal life choice, I tend to calmly and simply turn my back on things that aren’t good for me.
The most logical thing to do is to just play other games, like the ones mentioned above, even if there is a real chance they only do this as yet another marketing ploy. And I have.
Blizzard can and should do better, but have proven to actively refuse to. We have to hold them more accountable. And even though it gets harder every day, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.
Because the world could use more queer heroes.