Cheers, Love: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Blizzard’s Storytelling

Hey, everybody! Name’s Jack, though I also go by HatGuy. I’m an INFP with a love for video games, movies, animation, et cetera. So, of course, I’m making my debut here with a post that could not only involve politics, but religion as well. I’m a lot of fun at parties!

With the release of Overwatch’s “Winter Wonderland” event, Blizzard Entertainment also released a lore-based comic, named “Reflections”, in which the team revealed the franchise’s flagship character, Tracer, to be LGBT. In the comic, Tracer is on a mission to retrieve a last-minute gift for a dear friend on the streets of London. Due to unfortunate circumstances, from stores closing to having to stop a robbery, it seems that she won’t be able to buy the gift, but is rewarded for her previous heroism with a gift to take home. She is seen in a flat, recuperating and talking with her friend, Emily. Her friend mistakes Tracer’s present for one addressed to her, and opening it, is overjoyed with a lovely scarf. Emily and Tracer share a kiss, and with this image, the Internet exploded. The rest of the comic gives audiences insight to the whereabouts of the game’s various characters, so whatever you think of this, if you’re a fan, I’d highly recommend it.

The controversy surrounding this revelation was possibly the greatest exposure the game has ever gotten, right next to the “Tracer’s booty” incident (Tracer seems to have a track record online). Many are obviously (although reasonably) divided over Blizzard’s decision. Despite what my introduction may have implied, I’m going to try and avoid shoehorning in politics and/or religion into this discussion. I’d like to discuss this storytelling element or, rather, its announcement and reception, simply as that.

There’s no denying that LGBT culture is emerging in the current day, so it really came to no surprise to me a few months ago when Blizzard revealed a LGBT character already present in the cast of Overwatch. However, my first response could be described as, “Meh. I knew they’d do that.” This response, I feel, is the greatest mistake Blizzard has made regarding Tracer’s story. With this announcement alone, excluding the actual reveal, the team made LGBT representation nothing more than part of some quota. With a premature announcement such as this, it feels as if Blizzard was simply trying to keep a demographic pleased, rather than incorporate a unique storytelling element.

On the other hand, with the reveal, Blizzard did make quite the step by making Tracer, their flagship member, a representative of the LGBT community. Tracer’s sexuality in the comic doesn’t come off as pandering to the community, and it isn’t shoved into audience’s face in-game or even have any impact on gameplay. Her sexuality doesn’t define her; it’s another dimension to her character, whether we politically agree with it or spiritually accept it.

As a Christian gamer, I often consider how my faith and hobbies are supposed to be integrated. Overwatch brings an interesting and difficult question of what and how much of the world we allow to influence us, as does much modern media and secular thinking. Rather than solely looking for bullet-points of disagreement that we may more easily write off another’s thoughts or works, however, we must look for writings and creations that show integrity, those that do not rely on some demographic or gimmick to engage its audience. I feel that despite the marketing shortcoming, Overwatch’s integrity remains intact, but that is, of course, open to discussion.

Thanks for reading this spiel of mine, all. This has been a ginger-ale-fueled Jack the HatGuy, writing to you from 1 A.M. See you, Space Cowboys.