When it comes to queer representation, Overwatch has always been a game of “taking it where you can get it,” as the game itself doesn’t do much to acknowledge the identity of its queer characters, Tracer and Soldier: 76. It’s a tough situation, as there’s an argument to be made that the game itself, one that lacks story content beyond its annual Archives event, can’t support much in the way of character development or relationship building. So Tracer and Soldier have sprays that represent their romantic relationships, and that’s pretty much it. But that hasn’t stopped queer fans from hoping for more than we’ve gotten during Pride Month.
Personally, I’ve always loved the idea of Tracer or Soldier getting a skin that had a Pride flag integrated somehow. Or even for Blizzard to hold a charity event with in-game cosmetics like the Pink Mercy skin to support breast cancer research. It’s Pride Month, which would have been an opportune moment to add something significant and tangible to Overwatch to show support not just for its queer characters but its queer community. Competing games like Apex Legends and Valorant have added cosmetic items allowing players to identify as part of the queer community, down to cosmetics that designated specific identities and promoted them and their values alongside them.
Haven't seen anyone else mention it but they added a pride/rainbow player icon to Overwatch! pic.twitter.com/m4qWTV3fvM
— Niandra! (@Niandra_) June 9, 2021
Overwatch got a profile avatar of a “rainbow.” Which isn’t exactly forward-facing and isn’t technically designated as related to Pride. And according to a statement issued to Waypoint, that’s about all Blizzard is going to do for Pride Month right now.
“The Rainbow player icon was added as a way for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies to show their pride in-game,” a Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Waypoint. “We consulted with a representative group of employees and chose Rainbow to reflect the globally recognizable colors that stand as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community around the world. Throughout Overwatch’s history we’ve shown a commitment to diversity, inclusion and LGBTQIA+ support through our characters, lore and hopeful world. While we don’t have plans for additional Pride content for Overwatch at this time, we’ll continue to create new content and tell stories that reflect LGBTQIA+ experiences across Blizzard’s universes. We’re proud to celebrate the month alongside the LGBTQIA+ community in-game and out.”
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I’ve had mixed feelings on Overwatch’s queer representation because I feel like a game structurally can’t give me the meaningful development I want. But Overwatch 2 is bringing in a story campaign, so there are opportunities to more holistically represent these characters coming. Will Blizzard follow through? We’ll have to wait and see. But even within the scope of the game that exists, it’s disappointing to see Blizzard continue to take the most non-committal route. I don’t have to look to Overwatch for meaningful representation, but for a game that talks the talk about its diversity, I wish it would do more than slap a rainbow on a profile someone has to go looking for to see. Especially in a game that could use more weeding out of bigots from its community.