The Problem With Overwatch (hint: it’s black women)

Ever since Overwatch launched in 2016 I was rather interested in the FPS game, which was odd considering I can’t play a FPS to save my life. As I looked at the roster of characters from around the globe and their various abilities I couldn’t help but notice a rather glaring detail missing: nowhere to be seen was an unambiguously black woman from any of the 22 countries mentioned in game.

This made me pause for a second but I continued trying to figure out if I could ever get away with playing Widowmaker on King’s Row when there was already a Hanzo (newsflash: I couldn’t). But as hero reveal begat hero reveal I could feel my heart getting slowly crushed as I realized that nowhere to be found was a hero that looked like me. But where were the dark skinned women?

Ana arrived, then came Sombra, Orisa, and Doomfist. Still no black women. I was confused, Overwatch was an organization of freedom fighters from around the world…why weren’t any black women on the roster? What was Blizzard’s excuse? Well…they kept silent for a while with various teases:

Amazing things you see teased that didn’t make it into game.

And then this showed up:

You bastards…

What you see above is alternate character art for the infamous Nerf or Nothing hero Mercy. My first initial thought was why didn’t they use this? This would’ve been AMAZING! But little did I know that this was little more than epic foreshadowing of the worst varieties.

By the time Moira had been released in November of 2017 I had just had it with the game. When Brigette was released I had stopped playing entirely. I was in disbelief for a while and I stopped entirely. I was no longer surprised and just expected nothing. I was no longer playing the game, it didn’t really matter.

I had almost forgotten about it completely until Ashe showed up. This was by far the most rage-inducing character, not because she was a LoL knockoff.

 

Oh wait…

The real kicker was when I saw her alternative art:

I’d also like to mention alternative character art that got referenced earlier because this was wild. Ashe had alternative character art that depicts a quite clearly dark skinned character that did not get used. Why? Apparently Blizzard had an answer for this here. And upon inspection it appears that they’re answering a question…except they’re not.

They don’t explain why there weren’t any black women heroes in the beginning of the game. They don’t explain why they didn’t use dark skinned character designs and instead opted for a “palpable yet bland” (my words) lighter skinned variety. Why do I say palpable? Well…it seems that Blizzard thinks lighter skinned characters are more relatable/popular with their fanbase and they made three white female heroes in a row—Hamtaro on Steroids notwithstanding. Honestly? What am I supposed to think? Honestly, who cares about McCree’s ex-wife, Great Value Miranda Lambert?

She got the robot in the custody battle.

So here we are, 2019 and three years into a game that takes characters from across the globe…with no unambiguous and unapologetic black women in sight. I should clarify what I mean when I say”unambiguously and unapologetically black”, but all other black nerds out there know exactly what I mean so I won’t waste space here.

And just recently I was stopped by this video by Overwatch’s Twitter which appears to be teasing a black femme character named Sojourn. Turns out a while later that Sojourn is a cannon character. And now many black femme gamers are excited 


Too little, too late.

Turns out a while later that Sojourn is a cannon character. And now many black femme gamers are excited at the likelihood that she will be present in game. While I normally would be excited about this I realize that this is coming three years after the game’s release with a company that ultimately decided that black women were an afterthought. We’re talking about a company that somehow decided that League of Legends was their competition and can’t answer their fans questions. They also can’t seem to ban racist people off their platform fast enough:

Yes this is 2019 on Al Gore’s Borrowed Internet.

Everything about this gets me. Even if they were to come up with a somewhat believable excuse (there isn’t) as to why they can’t have black women in the game yet (i.e. they have a super secret society made up of entirely black women) it still comes off extremely sloppy and poorly handled at best. I brought up that black women should’ve been on the roster from the get-go and I stand by that. We have black women in the forefront leading the way on so many social justice issues already, did Blizzard really just ignore that fact? There’s no excuse for it. There are black women all over the world, Overwatch has characters from all over the globe…what happened?

Blizzard as a company willfully ignored and insulted their fanbase by not adding black women in a game that has so many intersecting identities…and seem like they’re trying to “save the best for last”. But they’re not “saving the best for last”. The best should have been first. The best should have been right there on the original roster of heroes from launch day. I can’t really forget about that nor can I abide by that.

If and when they unveil the black femme hero we’ve all been waiting for I’ll probably applaud from the sidelines; but I’m unlikely to pick up my controller again.

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