Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment's blockbuster class-based shooter, has run into some controversy lately. The game is fairly drama-free but has attracted some ire from the Overwatch community over a couple of overly sexualized poses female characters can perform in the game.First, in Overwatch, players can unlock different poses for their characters to strike – fist pumping, dances, and simple emotes like in Destiny or hundreds of other online games. But one pose in particular has attracted some ire from the Overwatch community: a pose which has a female character wearing skin-tight orange pants turn away from the camera and look suggestively over her shoulder, displaying her backside in a manner that has been characterized as suggestive and overly sexualized.
The controversy itself, however, has sparked even more controversy as these things usually go. Blizzard Entertainment released a statement in which they apologized and agreed that the pose was "out of character" for that particular Overwatch heroine. The pose was quickly pulled from Overwatch. Case closed, right? Nope, just like the whole "gamergate" fiasco, the controversy itself became a controversy on its own.
Blizzard reacted predictably – with bewilderment. The Overwatch community, which was previously behind Blizzard's decision to remove the pose, turned on Blizzard. The original issue was outlined by one user who expressed that his daughter looked up to the Overwatch heroine in question, and the pose made him uncomfortable. He described it as "out of character." Simply put, Tracer, an Overwatch heroine, wouldn't pose like that.
"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," said Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan in response to the reasonable tone of the complaint.
There weren't any pitchforks, calls for anyone to resign, or vicious and sexist remarks. The thread on the Blizzard forum for Overwatch was remarkably civil in tone. There were disagreements, but generally, the Overwatch community seemed to understand.
However, as soon as the pose was pulled from Overwatch, Blizzard started getting some attention of an altogether different variety. The developer received a lot of hate from users who claimed the pose wasn't sexual in nature and that removing it was just an example of "over-sensitive SJW censorship."As Forbes points out, the pose is still available for other female characters in Overwatch, and many of the game's female characters are sexualized by design or at least stylized in a way that could be considered sexualized. The opposition to the pose's removal, and to Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan's apology, seems to stem from an opposition to what they see as censorship.
Kaplan has responded to the controversy's controversy and has, in effect, apologized for his apology in a lengthy forum post on the Overwatch message board today.
"We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision, and that's okay. That's what these kinds of public tests are for. This wasn't pandering or caving though. This was the right call from our perspective, and we think the game will be just as fun the next time you play it," said Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan today in response to the response to his initial statement.
Kaplan reiterated in his post that the decision was made from a creative standpoint and not because the Overwatch over-the-shoulder pose made someone uncomfortable. It just didn't fit the character, it was out of place, and other female characters in the game still have the pose available – including several who are far more sexualized than Tracer, the hero in question.
"We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer," said Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan today.
[Image via Blizzard Entertainment]