Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Overwatch Character Change On the Radar

Overwatch, the upcoming Blizzard MMO-FPS, stumbled into controversy once more after a recent announcement by the game's director, Jeff Kaplan. The victory pose for the character Tracer, a female in a tight body suit, is going to be changed after a vast amount of input by beta testers felt that the action pandered to the male gaze while stripping down the power behind Tracer's persona - in a figurative sense. Tracer is spunky, quirky, and energetic. She isn't portrayed as sexy in an overtly conventional sense like another character in the game, Windowmaker (with a plunging neckline that would make Sharon Stone blush). To have an over the shoulder, hip popping pose, with her butt as the focal point is absurd. And the development team seemed to agree, thus issuing the statement that Tracer's pose was going to change. Some people were okay with it, and others are not.

The thread on the Blizzard forums are fairly polite, all things considered. But the claim among the internet is that the developers are caving into feminists and naysayers to try and attract that audience. Yadda, yadda, yadda. You all know how this argument goes.

I do agree that the pose should be changed. It doesn't showcase Tracer's attitude or personality. It's falling back on a tried and true trope of a pretty girl in a skin-tight suit. Therefore they must show off her butt (think what you will of Anita Sarkeesian, there's so much truth in the butt video that it hurts). The hip pop and her face being partially obscured only helps enhance where our focus should be - on her butt. I don't have a problem with a sexy pose, but it doesn't enhance the character's traits. It's merely a tool to sell Tracer's body and not her abilities as a fighter. It's like Cammy from Street Fighter. Cammy is one of my favorites in the franchise, but I despise her pose. Even with recent iterations that showcase more of her flexibility with the sway of her back bends, it's still a butt-centric victory pose that demeans the character.

Thumbs up to Blizzard for listening to their audience and realizing that this wasn't the route to go for Tracer.

As mentioned in the beginning, this isn't the first time Blizzard has been in trouble with the representation of women in Overwatch. When the game was initially announced at BlizzCon 2014, they showed off the designs for 3 female characters. All tall, thin, in tight bodysuits, and showing almost no diversity in body and face types. The only noticeable differences were skin and hair colors, and one happened to have more armor on her shoulders. Whoopie doo. A number of people were really unhappy about this, and rightfully so. It's 2014. You have a cast of very diverse male characters, short, tall, red, brown, green, purple, yellow, skinny, overweight, muscular, robotic, and everything in between! But we can only have 3 women who all look the same? That's poor character design.

About 6-8 months later, Blizzard announced Zarya to the cast: a female tank character that is muscle-bound and provides another class option that wasn't available to the other female toons. While there are some Blizzard "fans" and bugs on the internet who will claim that the studio is pandering to women and feminists, these changes are showing true, and necessary, progression in the industry.

Edit 3/29/16 - 11:30 am: Yeash. My social media feed blew up with this story. Everything from "this is Blizzard trying to drum up more press" to "SJW (social justice warriors) shut up!"

Here's my opinion: Blizzard has said NOTHING about removing all instances of sexuality and sexyness from the game. Windowmaker in all of her V neck glory and her fanservice poses are still there. The people who made the case against Tracer's pose mention nothing about the other characters of the game. They presented a thoughtful argument that the pose worked against Tracer's persona, and Blizzard agreed. The game is still in beta. With beta testing, people will make suggestions on how the company can improve on the product and, gasp, the developers will listen and determine if the suggestions are worth the investment. Who would have thought that in this day and age that beta tests worked like that?

Sarcasm aside, people. Chill out over this one change. Blizzard was always iffy about the pose, and their thoughts were confirmed by people in the beta test. They are making the change to better fit the character's personality. It's a good change. Deal with it. You can still get your fanservice and sexy from Widowmaker. Or play Street Fighter V. Lots of inappropriate butt shots in that game.

I have no issue with sexy characters - it all depends on how they are presented. And in the case of Tracer it didn't work. She's sexy in her own, funky, unique way. She doesn't need to pander and act like Widowmaker to be sexy. She needs to be herself, and that's what Blizzard is trying to do.


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