Diversity in Overwatch

If you’re not a gamer, you at least may have heard in recent years about video game stereotypes. You know the ones: Big buff white dude punches or shoots bad guys while a hot woman waits to be rescued. If the hot woman works alongside the dude, you can bet that her armor lacks in the coverage department.

 

Lookin' at you, Metal Gear Solid V.

 

However, gamers have seen a rise in diversity in the latest games. Grand Theft Auto V stars three men, including a rational black man named Franklin who must deal with two older and crazier white allies. Last summer, The Sims 4 released an update for gender customization last year. Players can now determine whether their female/male sims wear feminine, masculine, or both styles of clothing and hairstyles, whether their sim can become pregnant, how they use a restroom, etc. The update is a huge step forward for the transgender community!

 

Which brings me to Overwatch. Now, I bought this game originally due to peer pressure from a World of Warcraft player last year and only recently got very into this game. I’ve read the comics. I’ve watched the animated shorts on Youtube. I’ve laughed at the memes. I’m into it. But it’s not just the story or the gameplay (which can be very frustrating sometimes) that I’m in love with. It’s the characters.

 

You see that big diverse group of people/omnics/one gorilla? They are wonderful and have well-written backstories. I once quizzed my partner about where each character lived because they aren’t all U.S. natives, some of them have accents, and they don’t all primarily speak English. The game features voice lines in which characters say a quick phrase or comment, sometimes in their native language.

 

Diversity doesn’t end with background, though. Below is the Overwatch box art.

That’s Tracer. She’s a London native. You immediately noticed that she’s a woman featured on this popular video game’s cover instead of a run-and-gun male character (although Tracer does run a lot…and has two guns...) as we typically see. However, the Overwatch team confirmed that Tracer also has a girlfriend back home. How often do we see LGBT characters right on the cover??

 

Then there’s Zarya: a female Russian bodybuilder who, because of her hatred for omnics (the robotic characters), joined the war to protect her family. Mei, a Chinese climatologist who wants to help the environment, is a bit more sensitive with lines such as “Sorry Sorry Sorry Sorry” and “That could have gone better...”. She’s also a chubbier hero who is either adored for her cuteness or hated by the fandom for her abilities. Sombra is so skilled with computers that she can hack “everything and everyone,” she claims. Efi, although not a playable character, is an eleven-year-old African girl who, because of her experience putting drones together, rebuilt and programmed an omnic by herself and named her Orisa, the newest Overwatch character.

 

We clearly see a group of strong, smart women from various nationalities. The men aren’t left out, of course. Soldier: 76 was once an inspiring leader as strike commander, and Torbjörn is a short Swedish engineer who makes sure his creations do not fall into the wrong hands. We also have Lúcio, a Brazilian DJ who wants to bring the world together through music.

 

Finally, I just want to point out that the story behind Overwatch is wonderfully done and I love when new lore comes out. The characters are so interesting and diverse and I think everyone can pick out a few favorites. I also have to mention the community. The memes, fanart, and cosplay are all funny and/or beautiful. I am glad that a video game like this has such a huge following all over the world and a welcoming community of players. Hopefully other video game companies can take notes from this game's success and be more inclusive to all backgrounds with their characters in the near future. We deserve it!