As snarky as the headline of this article might be, I genuinely felt for Michael Chu, the lead writer of Overwatch’s story as I read over his blog post announcing his departure from Blizzard after 20 years.
Chu talks about the life-changing experience that working on Overwatch was, and as a big fan of the game and its characters (as shallow as their characterization might be as of this writing), I really wish the game and its universe ever got to be how he describes it while he was still with the company.
“I have always felt that games and the stories they tell have the unique ability to bring people closer together, and that the empathy you feel from stepping into someone else’s shoes, even virtually, can bridge the gap between miles, cultures, and nations,” Chu said in his post. “Overwatch and its consistently generous and inspiring community have only reinforced that belief. I’ve heard stories of people learning a new language after hearing a line of dialogue, people feeling inspired to take a trip to a new place after ‘visiting’ it in-game, and people meeting teammates across languages and borders to take up the cause of making our world a better place. But most of all: again and again, of people empathizing with a story about someone who is not the same as them.”
It’s a lovely sentiment that a game like Overwatch, which, despite its multitude of screw ups and mishandlings on the subject of diversity, has an incredibly diverse cast of characters of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures, could be an arbiter for real-world acceptance. But it’s ultimately hollow in a series that has largely wanted to make all of this diversity into background noise. Yes, Overwatch as it exists right now as a competitive shooter might not support much else, but it theoretically could have with Overwatch 2, which will finally bring a story to a game that scoffed at the notion.
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Overwatch 2, which was officially unveiled at last year’s Blizzcon, will feature a story mode that brings all its 31+ characters together in earnest, with a plot that has forward momentum and could have put all these ideals Chu describes into practice, rather than touting them out for four years without any actual follow through. Reading Chu’s blog post, where he speaks of an Overwatch that never actually existed, but could have in the near future, just kind of bums me out because now that a story is coming, the man who was behind it for so long won’t be there to see it through.
At any rate, fans of the Overwatch universe and characters are bracing for impact when Overwatch 2 launches, as it will fundamentally alter the way the fandom has interacted with the world for four years. Whether it will be for the better or worse will largely depend on whether Overwatch 2’s story is any good or not, but we won’t know until it’s out, and nobody knows when that’s going to be.