Of Blizzard, Tracer, and LGBT representation.

ChazChaz Posts: 385Administrator
I love Xmas*. Whatever the significance of the holiday is to you it's hard to disagree with the sentiment that it's a time to just be happy, thoughtful and positive. To just put aside cares and woes and look forward with family, friends, or just be at peace with yourself, this is the very spirit that the latest Overwatch comic captures, where the characters all take time out of being supersoldiers to just be people, and it's fantastic. We see Genji meditating with Zenyatta, Pharah sharing a meal, Torbjorn and Reinhardt doing charity for what looks like an orphanage, Ana, 76, and Reaper thinking of the families they left behind, Widowmaker setting flowers at her husband's grave.

But you already know who I'm going to talk about. Yes, in this very comic Tracer and her romantic partner share a kiss, confirming that Tracer is the very first confirmed gay (or at least non hetero) Overwatch character**.


Like, this is pretty big. Tracer is easily the most marketed character and the mascot of the game. She's on the friggin' box even! And lets not forget the buttgate nontroversy where, I'm sorry to say, but mostly straight males got upset that maybe Blizzard were unsexualising their favourite game crush. Well turns out Blizzard are sexualising her further, but not in the way I think anyone really expected.

The fact this has been a surprise, is great. Not every lesbian dyes their hair blue and pierces their face, just as not every gay man dances around like a queen. Who's gay or straight or not can genuinely surprise you as it could be anyone, and Blizzard reflect this by not going the easy route which would have been to make a stereotypical or side character as their first foray into the rainbow world of diversity.

In fact, here's a list of what I, a TOP 500 STRAIGHT MALE, believe would have been easier for Blizzard to insert a non-heteronormative narrative in to come under less fire from homophobes yet to cynically show they're doing their part for representation.

- Nobody or anybody...


This is what we previously had. Blizzard had stated a while back that they do have at least a gay character in Overwatch, and then refused to tell us who it was. And for most folk, this was enough, but for anyone who actually cares about representation and diversity, this was a massive cop-out. At this point, both Ana and Widowmaker have had their probably straight sexualities referenced in lore (Ana has a biological child, Widowmaker had a husband) but to say "we can't tell you" when it comes to the idea of a gay character is gutless and serves to further the idea that "the gays" should only keep their "gay stuff" in private.

That's if it had no follow-up, except Blizzard now have followed up and have shown that they do indeed possess a spine. That's the point of my post really.

- Zarya

Next in rank of general easiness, at least in appealing to both the LGBT community and the general public. I mean, it was obvious right? The least feminine girl in the game is clearly gay, because that's how it works. She even has tattoos and an undercut!

Well no, not really. Like she still could be gay, but she could also be straight. There are loads of straight female body builders, punk rock chicks, and general tomboys. Zarya's choice of fashion doesn't mean shit to her sexuality and thankfully Blizzard recognise that.

- Zenyatta/Bastion

"Haha! It's a gay robot! That's so funny, right? And it appeals to my homophobic nature because I know it's not real. Gays aren't people. That's so FUCKING funny! Please hold me..."

See, a gay Zenyatta or Bastion could open up discussion over whether or not an artificial intelligence could develop a sexual identity. It would be interesting. Except that wouldn't be the reaction, the above would. Even Adam Sandler thinks the idea of a gay robot is funny, that's how bad of an idea this would have been.

- PharMercy

Maybe some folk need some background on this one.

Very early on in the game's release it became apparent that Pharah (right) and Mercy (left) was  a strong combo. Pharah's mobility helps Mercy get around, and Mercy generally has an easier job supporting Pharah than anyone else. The internet, being the internet, immediately shipped these two under the brilliant name, PharMercy.

Now I'm not saying this would have been an easy sell to any staunch homophobe, but I think that Blizzard would have pick up way more community cred had they made this pairing canon. Any backlash could be met with "well they listen to the community" which is why, despite not being easy, I think this would've been an easier pick than the poster girl, Tracer.

- Roadhog

Like PharMercy this wouldn't have been an easy sell to homophobes, but to straight male homophobes it could be easily ignored. None of them are fantasing over this guy, and fat gay dudes are funny, at least that's what 4chan told me 8 years ago. Plus he's the most side character of the game, I'm sure not many would've given a shit. And yet Blizzard would rake in the praise from at least the gay male community. Plus Roadhog follows Junkrat around, and he's sorta handsome, so it makes some degree of sense.


I don't think it's controversial to say that all these characters would have been easier to portray as non-hetero if given a cynical mindset of making goodwill with the community but mitigating as much backlash as possible. I'm personally disappointed that Blizzard have sorta put the pin in the PharMercy bubble, but I recognise that's just because I'm a leery bastard.

However, there are two options that Blizzard could've taken that I think would've maybe better served LGBT diversity in the mainstream, but may have been met with a shit ton of backlash.

- Hanzo/McCree

Proof that I didn't just pull this out of my arse, the Hanzo/McCree pairing, while less talked about than PharMercy, is still a 'thing' in certain Overwatch fan communities. Why is this less talked about? Well while girls gettin' it on is totally hot, it's really hard to sell genuine male sexuality. This bothers me a lot, especially in mainstream media. It's like we just stopped at Brookeback Mountain (which is now more joked about than anything) and said, "That's it lads, we're done, time to go home."

Society seems to have a much harder problem thinking of gay men as sexually romantic and I think more representation in this department would be marginally more beneficial to normalising LGBT behaviour in media.

- A trans character

And finally, while it's still not that easy for homosexual or bisexual folk to get decent representation in media, nobody can deny it's a whole lot harder for trans-folk. On the odd occasion that they do, the backlash is far more substantial. If Blizzard were to make it canon that any one of their characters were in fact trans, it would've been a massive step towards representation, but a massive controversy too. Cynically speaking, this would probably be more trouble for the company than they may feel is worth it.


But let's not take the wind out of Blizzard's and LGBT Overwatch fan's sales. Having the very mascot of a game as big as Overwatch be canonically gay is a HUGE deal. It's completely unprecedented within the games industry. As I've pointed out, Blizzard could have taken a few easier routes, and they deserve a ton of credit for not doing so or copping-out.

And Merry Xmas.


* No, I'm not trying to make Xmas secular by renaming it. The X in Xmas stands for Christ, and the word Xmas should be pronounced Christmas.

** And no, we Brits don't just kiss each other, especially not full on the lips, to say thanks, just because we're in Europe. That sort of shit wouldn't even fly in Italy or France, here it's likely to get you knocked in the gabber, and try it in East Germany and you'll probably end up dying in a ditch somewhere.

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Comments

  • ChazChaz Posts: 385Administrator
    edited December 2016
    Oh shit, quick caveat, ranking "gays" is kinda gross but I hope you guys understand the purpose and sentiment, despite the method.
    Post edited by Chaz on
  • UntaxableUntaxable Posts: 244Member
    As a Tracer player my first reaction was "huh, cool."
    My second reactions was "I'm not looking forward to the extra helping of BS I'm going to get when picking Tracer, but what can ye do."
    Post will probably be edited by Untaxable soon
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    I shall thank Blizzard for providing the perfect seasoning for my Christmas dinner: the unending salt of homophobic little shits.
  • DraczarDraczar Posts: 261Moderator
    It'll be great when we reach a stage in media where the inclusion of diverse characters isn't immediately seen as 'trying to make a political statement', 'tokenism' or 'SJW bullshit' and is just accepted as another tool that writers use to make more interesting settings.
  • nujumkeynujumkey Posts: 296Member
    I was surprisingly... unsurprised?
    I will say so far the outrage i normally see along these sort of reveals isn't there, just one angry post so far. Hopefully Blizzard HQ isn't much worse.
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  • ChazChaz Posts: 385Administrator
    @nujumkey ;There's a lot more than one angry post, however Blizzard are keeping well on top of their forums so a lot has been deleted.
  • UntaxableUntaxable Posts: 244Member
    As a top 500 straight male, I approve of this thread.
    Post will probably be edited by Untaxable soon
  • galdon Posts: 259Member
    I feel like Tracer is probably the most confusing possible human choice for that reveal. (I would have just said choice but then I thought, yeah, Bastion would have been a really confusing one to pick)

    I mean, Tracer was kind of in the middle of that OTHER controversy where it was decided that sexuality is not a part of her character and did not belong because she's the sweet, child-like innocent one. Thus any hint of sexuality is totally out of character for her, and Blizzard seemed to have agreed since they changed her pose.

    And... Now it's just casually dropped that she actually isn't naive towards sex, and in fact has a specific preference and the confidence and maturity to have accepted that preference and already developed a romantic relationship off-camera.

    I don't know, it feels like if they made Portal 3 and you casually stumble across a plaque that reveals out of nowhere that Chell is an award winning motivational speaker. There are some very important bits of character development here that seem to be missing.
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    I do have to say, as a Dutchman, that I don't actually agree (as much) that Blizzard going 'Somewhere between one and more of the characters in our game are LGBT, but we're not going to say who' is all that spineless.

    But that's a cultural thing. With a group of people as large as the Overwatch character roster, my automatic assumption is that at least one of them is LGBT, so Blizzard saying that would leave me with exactly the same amount of information I had before. But then, Dutch people, despite our general open acceptance of LGBT people, are also very private about our sexuality (and also religious and political affiliations) so to me 'some or all of these people may be LGBT, but you can't tell' is normal to me. As long as no one from Blizzard (or another company for a different work) goes ahead and says 'No! All these characters arr 100% straight!' or absolutely every character is shown to be completely heterosexual, I don't feel there's anything onerous going on.

    But open representation is still a million times better.
  • DraczarDraczar Posts: 261Moderator
    @galdon There is a difference between having a private sexual relationship and overtly broadcasting that sexuality. Expressing sexuality in a character isn't a binary sort of thing, you don't just have expressionless asexuality vs in-your-face exhibitionism, even if gaming representation of female sexuality has fallen into making that divide a number of times.

    Plus there's also probably been some discussion within Blizzard about whether they're making sexualised skins / animations for characters because it makes sense for those characters or because it sells better. Either answer isn't wrong, but Blizzard has been trying to make a conscious effort to be the former with debatable success.
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    edited December 2016
    @galdon in addition to what Draczar said, buttgate was never about Tracer being too innocent and childlike (Also: Childlike? Really?) for anything related to sexuality... It was about her simply not being the kind of personality who would sex it up for the camera that way (unlike, say, Widowmaker, for whom seduction and sexuality are just weapons in her arsenal of misdirection and assassination).

    Personality-wise, Tracer's way of seducing the camera would be something like a cheeky wink, not sticking her butt out.
    Post edited by Robrecht on
  • nujumkeynujumkey Posts: 296Member
    @Draczar ;;
    you know, everywhere i go i see the sentiment "it's a shame this has to be a big deal," and all i can think it "fucking buzzkill, just celebrate a good thing will ya."

    Although i am with you, Tracer not being expressively sexual =/= innocent child. I'd consider her more anti-serious than innocent child.
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  • galdon Posts: 259Member
    edited December 2016
    Yeah, child-like. I did not make that up either, Katana said it on this forum. "I think the fact that Tracer is considered "child-like" mostly runs counter to her being sexual. She buys into the classic idea of comic book heroes quite a bit, and keeps a cheerful attitude..." is what I get from the search bar (so as to avoid paraphrasing from memory and messing something up)

    That kind of general sentiment does not seem like an argument based on her being prudish, but rather that she is innocent or immature. Going from "So pure and innocent, that just having a sexy/flirty pose is out of character" to "Already discovered her sexuality, came to understand and be comfortable with it, and developed a long-term relationship" entirely off-screen is a bit much. Seems, to me, like something that would warrant being developed on-screen, rather than put in essentially in medias res. (However you spell that..)
    Post edited by galdon on
  • DraczarDraczar Posts: 261Moderator
    Tracer isn't really presented as having sexuality be a major part of her personality. Is she sexual? Still remains to be seen whether her relationship is a sexual one but... probably?* But other than having tight pants most of her behaviour is more along the cute, quirky, playful spectrum rather than things that more overtly suggest sexuality.

    *Asexual people sometimes still get involved in close romantic relationships even if they don't feel a sex drive.
  • lightlight Posts: 290Member
    @Robrecht LGBT population rates are usually around 4% or less, depending on factors like country and decade, or about 1/25, so while yeah, it'd be reasonable to guess there should be about 1 such character out of 23 Overwatch heroes, it wouldn't be a statistical anomaly if there were none at all.
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  • galdon Posts: 259Member
    If it was most any other character, that just happened not to have their sexuality explored, I don't think it would be much narrative whiplash because there would be no prior conflicting information. The problem I see with it being Tracer, of all characters, is that Blizzard officially responded to the idea that so much as a sexy pose is out of character for her by changing her pose. 

    The idea that sexiness is "out of character" for her comes not from her displaying prudish behavior, but rather from her playful, optimistic personality. Since Blizzard agreed with that argument, that would mean Tracer must be either ignorant of, or naive towards sex. Maybe she's just immature, or could be too focused on hero-ing to have given it much thought.

    That makes it so her sexuality is not exactly a blank slate. We've been given a hint that she probably doesn't think about sex, and may be sexually naive. Then we are shown that she is in a romantic relationship, that is probably a stable one, and one which has kind of a prerequisite of needing to come to accept that she has a different sexual preference than most people and that that's okay.

    I get the idea of wanting to just show it as something casual and normal. And for most characters I feel like that would probably work well since the fanfare probably hurts the normalization of those kinds of relationships. But for Tracer, specifically, the previous baggage from the controversy given a hint of officiality by Blizzard's response makes it hard for an in medias res reveal to work right because it leaves questions about the contradiction. 

    For her, I feel like seeing the start of her relationship would have been better than seeing that she's been in that relationship for a while. 
  • nujumkeynujumkey Posts: 296Member
    Oh god are we going to have another 10 page thread about Tracer's butt
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  • ChazChaz Posts: 385Administrator
    @light @Robrecht You cannot just assume that fiction would mirror life, it doesn't. In most videogame rosters that have upwards of 20 characters, even into the hundreds, the number of non-hetero characters happens to be nil, zilch, none. Also, Light, if you really wanted to go this route, then if the entire Overwatch cast was gay it still wouldn't be an anomaly as the sample size is too small to be statistically relevant.

    No, instead fiction mirrors life from the author's perspective or hopes. In the game Rimworld, people found there were some kinda creepy biases to the relationship code. Among a lot of weird biases was a part that made women either gay or bisexual, and men gay or straight. Yep, there are no straight women, and no bisexual men in Rimworld. The developer commented on this saying it's how he believes sexuality is.

    And, Robrecht, I'm sure you can at least appreciate how just vaguely saying you have LGBT characters but not saying which can be interpreted as cowardly PR speech. Blizzard have never previously had an LGBT character or expressed any interest in diversifying their rosters in those regards previously, so they hadn't built up enough good will with me to give them the benefit of doubt.

    @nujumkey OH. GOD. NO.

    Look guys, Galdon has had the difference explained to him in plenty of different ways. If he can't, or more likely won't see the difference between kissing your significant other and showing off your booty then there's no way he's ever going to relent now.

    Let's have discussion that's a bit more worthwhile.
  • UntaxableUntaxable Posts: 244Member
    "Let's have discussion that's a bit more worthwhile." I agree.
    @Chaz since you and @nujumkey seem to have found God, what do you think if his playing with dice, or lack there of?
    Post will probably be edited by Untaxable soon
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    edited December 2016
    @Chaz Well, see, that's the thing.

    Maybe it's Dutch culture, maybe it's just me, but when you say 'Blizzard has never had an LGBT character' based on that they've never had an openly LGBT character when Blizzard has also not ever explicitly established that all their characters are definitely 100% heteronormative... To me people making the automatic assumption that all characters are Cishet unless it's explicitly stated they aren't (both in media and in real life) is a greater social ill than some works not explicitly stating characters to be LGBT.

    And I feel that way specifically because while, as I said, I feel that open representation is infinitely better it also kinda reinforces the notion that assuming people are Cishet unless it's explicitly confirmed they're not is valid.

    So yeah, thinking about it, I think that saying 'There are LGBT people in our character roster' and then not revealing who is potentially a lot more ballsy than saying 'Here, have a token gay, now you can go back to assuming that all the other characters are Cishet unless we explicitly tell you they're not.' Because then, when the fans let out their anguished cry of 'We can't tell who', you can nod sagely and say 'Just like in real life'.

    So to recap, just to make sure I'm not misunderstood: Revealing Tracer to be gay or bisexual was a great move on Blizzard's part and it was unquestionably better than just saying 'there's an LGBT character' and then not revealing who, because Blizzard was the one who volunteered the information that there was an LGBT character and then they picked a character who isn't outwardly obviously gay. But if you're a creator and a fan comes up to you to ask 'are there any LGBT characters in your works?' saying 'Yes' and leaving it at that is fine, not cowardly.

    Edit: Bit more context for why I'm making a point of this: in your OP, you say "Who's gay or straight or not can genuinely surprise you" and it is my view, which I think you probably actually agree with, that it shouldn't be a surprise at all.
    Post edited by Robrecht on
  • galdon Posts: 259Member
    Chaz, I'm not saying that kissing someone is the same as making a pose. I'm talking about the narrative implications of Blizzard responding to the original complaints and reasoning for why making a pose would be out of character for Tracer, and then how that implication sets her character at a point where some amount of character development would need to be on-screen before reaching the point of being able to be in the middle of a long term relationship. 

    Expanding on my silent protagonist analogy from earlier, in all seriousness we know that Link can talk. Yeah it's a joke that he can't but when you look at dialogue he is clearly talking to people because they react to him apparently saying things *all the time*. There is no way he can convey some of the things he informs people of simply by blankly staring at them.

    So, if a game dropped a random reference to Link telling somebody something, most people who have paid attention to the dialogue of the games would not argue that he couldn't have told them anything because he's always been straight up mute. With a character like Chell on the other hand, while I don't think we've been explicitly told that she's mute the fact that you have that tutorial in Portal 2 where Wheatley tries to get you to talk ("Okay, what you're doing there is jumping. You just... You just jumped. But never mind say apple. aaaapple.") strongly implies that she cannot talk, as opposed to simply choosing not to talk or having her dialogue unheard by the audience. So, dropping a casual reference to her being able to talk would contradict previous knowledge and require some explaining. 

    I feel like, implied information is still information. So, new information that appears to contradict it needs to be accompanied with at least enough new information to explain why there is no contradiction. Which is why showing the start of the relationship seems like it would work better than showing the middle of it. 
  • ChazChaz Posts: 385Administrator


    @galdon You make absolutely no sense whatsoever. This is just complete babble with no point. The only thing consistent in your nonsense is that you think there's a contradiction in the way Tracer is presented, and there isn't. I'm not going to explain why as you've already had it explained so clearly that the only reason you'd continue with this delusion is if you're being stubborn or stupid.
  • galdon Posts: 259Member
    I am not babbling without a point. I said the point several times "I think showing the beginning of the relationship would work better for her than the middle". Out of the two of us, it seems like you are the one who is apparently having trouble understanding what the other is saying. 
  • lightlight Posts: 290Member
    @Chaz Oh, I agree. It's fiction and it doesn't matter, representation is representation, etc. I considered editing my earlier post to say as much, forgot to.

    Mostly my point was about realistic expectations in real life; no LGBT individuals in a set of 23 isn't a statistical anomaly in the sense that there's a 39% chance of this happening (assuming 4% of population LGBT), while if all were LGBT then it's almost certain that the group isn't a normally chosen cross section of (real life) society.
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  • LainiLaini Posts: 78Member
    I find it weird personally but only because I can't imagine any of the Overwatch characters in any kind of real world situation. 
    I dunno, maybe it's explained somewhere but there never seems to be any point to an Overwatch map and what with all the dying and such it all just seems so abstract.

    Then Tracer goes home (she has a home!?) and exchanges gifts with her girlfriend? 
    It just leads to so many questions about the world. 
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  • Andy_GAndy_G Posts: 287Member
    @galdon It was a basic pose, Blizzard were already planning on changing it as they said in their statement. We still got a pose that showed us the butt but in a more flamboyant, "Tracery" way, and that's why this went from a massive argument on the net to a non-issue once it was revealed the new pose was not Tracer in a burka.

    @Laini The story for the games universe and characters is bare bones at best. They make little quips during the game, the maps are based off various character's backstories but the way the game is designed it doesn't work around the narrative or story at all. It's there so you recognise different characters and know their kit, add a little theme to the arenas they fight in, and then put in a little bit extra to make you curious or fall for them so you go out and create tonnes and tonnes of fan fiction and art.

    To me the big reveal that was this kiss doesn't tell us anything new apart from it's now canon that Tracer likes the ladies. Whether this will work its way into the game, or if little explorations into hero backstories will stay rooted in comics TF2 style, we have yet to see.

    The real question is: Would they ever go out and state which characters are straight?
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  • DraczarDraczar Posts: 261Moderator
    @Andy_G I think you mean 'Tracer in a niqab'

    Also they kind of already have declared which characters are straight, we know that Torbjorn has like 8 kids with his wife from the same comic that showed us Tracer's girlfriend.

    @galdon There isn't a contradiction. The fact that Blizzard decided that depicting Tracer in a sexual way in the game was inappropriate for her, doesn't rule out her being depicted in a sexual way in a private situation. It's an entirely different scenario. I don't behave with random people on the street the same way that I do with close friends for example.

    Being extroverted in one sense doesn't make you extroverted in all senses neccesarily. Besides people with healthy relationships generally don't go around flirting overtly with other people, not unless they want to be breaking social expectations. Most boy/girlfriends disapprove of seeing their partner getting up to that sort of thing unless they're a very specific subset of people. So in that sense, having a partner already would mean it makes even more sense for Tracer to not be 'showing herself off' in that way.

    I mean really... what's overtly sexual about Tracer? She wears tight pants and happens to have a butt?
  • PeregrinPeregrin Posts: 225Member
    I feel like the only way that the Tracer situation would be confusing is if you've never actively spoken with or befriended a person who is similar to Tracer. What's especially great to me is, as someone who knows people who would have been in very similar situations, there's 10000% nothing weird to me about this comic and if anything it seems to be very much in character.
  • galdon Posts: 259Member
    edited December 2016
    I actually had not considered the possibility of it being out of character because she was in a relationship, Draczar. I guess because that was something players would not have known when they were objecting to it being out of character for her. But thinking about it from that angle it could have been a case of Blizzard being like "It is out of character (but not for the reason you think.)" So, yeah I can see it working like that.
    Post edited by galdon on
  • DraczarDraczar Posts: 261Moderator
    Chances are they didn't just do this comic as a throw away thing, I mean I dislike a whole lot of their writing recently in their games but I know for a fact that things are discussed internally for a long time before they're committed to.
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