Blizzard are swapping out an “over-the-shoulder” victory pose for their Overwatch [official site] character, Tracer. Put like that it sounds like a standard art tweak as part of a game’s closed beta process but the move ended up causing a brouhaha because of how it ties into conversations about female representation and the use of sexiness in gaming.
The decision to remove the “over-the-shoulder” pose was announced by game director Jeff Kaplan as part of a forum feedback thread on whether the pose was appropriate to the chipper time-shifting hero and then further clarified after a backlash. In the original post the author, Fipps, praised Overwatch’s female characters but noted that the Tracer pose “just reduces Tracer to another bland female sex symbol.”
The point they were making was that they didn’t think the backwards-glance-and-butt combo was in keeping with the character, striking a sexy rather than playful tone. In a later post they add: “a butt shot for Tracer doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and undermines a lot of the great work the team is doing across the board.”
Picking through the thread there’s agreement and disagreement about whether the pose is out of character (some found it jarring, some never gave it a second thought) and whether players read it as sexy or not. I have played a lot of Overwatch but I realised I don’t play Tracer* so I’ve never really focused on her and don’t remember encountering that particular pose in the game – you can see for the header image I don’t even have it unlocked on my account.
Kaplan’s initial post in the thread was a short one:
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.
Apologies and we’ll continue to try to do better.
The subsequent backlash (although you won’t find that on the forum as the thread was temporarily locked after Kaplan’s post) led to a clarification being issued. Kaplan makes it clear that the Overwatch team at Blizzard already “weren’t entirely happy” with the pose and that, while the feedback offered on the forum helped them make the decision to swap it out, it wasn’t the sole factor. “We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer.”
We wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch, and we’re not going to remove something solely because someone may take issue with it. Our goal isn’t to water down or homogenize the world, or the diverse cast of heroes we’ve built within it. We have poured so much of our heart and souls into this game that it would be a travesty for us to do so.
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.
If it isn’t, feel free to continue sharing your concerns, thoughts, and feedback about this and other issues you may have with the game, please just keep the discussion respectful.
*I’m currently on a Mercy kick, if you’re interested. She’s a medic character so I fly about, healing allies and boosting their damage. Zarya is my second favourite. She’s a hench Russian soldier (her lore puts her as a former weightlifter and bodybuilder) who wields a massive particle cannon.