Our Thoughts On Overwatch’s Tracer Being Gay

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With the release of Overwatch’s holiday comic, gamers saw the game’s first openly gay character: Tracer. Many of us here at Kotaku, an Overwatch fansite, took time to sit down and reflect on how Blizzard has treated the topic of diversity in our favourite team based shooter.

Before we get into it, here’s a statement Blizzard provided to Kotaku about Tracer and her sexuality:

As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are. From the very beginning of our work on Tracer’s story, it just felt right to make this an aspect of her character.

Heather Alexandra: I feel like the question of diversity in Overwatch is something we’ve wanted to talk about for some time. We’ve slowly gotten more and more details about these characters. It’s really neat! But I know we all have different thoughts about how Blizzard has handled this. For good and ill.

For me, I love how anyone can be a hero in the world of Overwatch. But even with all these heroes, we sometimes stumble in portraying them. In your mind, what works and what falls short?

Cecilia D’Anastasio: Why don’t we start with the news item?

Heather: We could! There’s big news today. The latest comic gave us a look at Tracer’s home life with her live in partner Emily. Which gives us Overwatch’s first explicitly queer character.

Cecilia: How long did Blizzard tease a queer character? For several months at least…

Heather: I think they have been telling us about gay characters since 2015.

Nathan Grayson: They have hinted at this specific reveal for months.

Cecilia: That article reads, “They wanted to find a way for it to be revealed naturally and make it part of the unfolding story.”

I feel that the comic did that. Tracer buys her partner a scarf. Her partner likes it. They kiss. The comic moves on. I think it was handled quite well, although the idea of Blizzard announcing a queer character feels sort of…. gimmicky.

Gita Jackson: I was definitely concerned that revealing a queer character would come off as a gimmick, and I’m very pleased at how they pulled this off. This doesn’t feel tokenized, and buying a gift for your partner has a natural place in a comic about the holidays.

Nathan: Right. I think the gimmicky part is teasing it for so long. And then being like “It’s coming soon!”

Gita: Agreed.

Cecilia: Yeah.

Riley MacLeod: I think they do it pretty well. I mean, I could be super crass and poke at the panel layout: we cut to Tracer talking to someone out of frame and then a whole frame of ‘look, it’s another woman’ as a definite narrative beat, and then we build to a kiss and cut away again, closing out the brief arc as a story about Tracer being gay.

There’s a definitely a ‘surprise, gay!’ to that presentation, but I don’t know if it’s any different than we’d see in any other relationship arc that isn’t established yet. And I like that the next panels are a bunch of different sorts of families.

Heather: I think having something explicit was necessary. Up until now, Blizzard seemed content to leave the queerness of character up to the fans and capitalising on the ambiguity they’d created. Having something definite gives queer players a proper point of contact. It also means they didn’t pass on their promise.

Gita: Comparing it to other comics where a character is revealed to have a significant other where one was not already present, I think it could be a lot worse. But I do agree that there’s an element of, “surprise, gay!” here.

On the other hand, the two of them aren’t having a conversation about Tori Amos while polishing their strap-ons, which was another legitimate fear of mine. I was super afraid that the “surprise, gay!” element would be stronger and also feel more cliched.

Heather: A concern of mine with this is that it feels removed from the game itself. Symmetra’s comic states that she is autistic. This shows us Tracer’s love life. But in spite of that, it feels largely secondary to the world of the game.

Riley: Though that’s one of Overwatch’s core elements, right, the characterization happening largely outside the gameplay? Which I think is what’s let a lot of the fandom thrive.

Gita: Yeah, Riley. There’s a portion of the fandom that really only interacts with Overwatch through the fandom and not the games themselves. Which is pretty cool! I mean, because Overwatch does all its characterization in this very bare bones it makes it kind of perfect for a fandom to spring up around it.

Nathan: Even in the secondary world of Overwatch comics, they have yet to really explore these characteristics they’re ascribing to heroes. They just sort of apply them and set away.

Cecilia: I like that. I think it’s good that you can let lore matter as much or as little as you want.

For some people, it will mean a lot that Tracer dates a woman. For some, it’s like, ok, I really like fucking up backlines, so I’ll pick Tracer. Boom. Whatever.

Heather: For myself, I go the other way. Queerness or other traits are integral parts of people’s character and being. The idea that we could separate them so easily troubles me, to be honest.

Gita: The characterization of most of the heroes is done in this broad strokes way, so people who write fanfiction or draw fan art have as much room as possible to work with.

Nathan: Absolutely. I do think, though, that canon gives fandom a path to follow and Blizzard speaks through their actions with it. While I mostly like the barebones approach they have taken, I don’t think there’s anything stopping them from doing a less surface level take on a character.

Gita: This can be cool.

Cecilia: But then how do you toe the line between sensationalizing it and not saying anything about it at all?

Riley: I mean, that’s one of the really hard things about writing nuanced queer characters, or ‘diverse’ characters of any type. How to not be reductive or dismissive.

Gita: I think, Cecilia, the problem arises when you take a step back and see what, if at all, Blizzard has done in terms of queer characterization. And it’s just this: Tracer kissed a woman. The rest of it is on the backs of the fans, which doesn’t make me feel awesome.

Riley: One of the many lives I lived prior to coming to Kotaku was teaching writing workshops for trans writers, many of whom hadn’t written before, and we’d talk that through a lot: how do you write trans people without having them walk around being trans the whole story.

Cecilia: Right, but what’s the solution?

It’s easy to talk about what we don’t like. But I’m just so happy that the token Overwatch character is a queer woman. I think that’s great. Blizzard thought about diversity a lot for Overwatch and it shows in the game. Sure, it’s a marketing technique, but it doesn’t feel forced or gimmicky aside from how Tracer’s queerness was teased.

Gita: Well, Heather wrote this awesome piece for Giant Bomb about a possible solution: hire more LGBT to tell their own stories.

Heather: I think an important thing to stress is that presenting something isn’t necessarily as involved as integrating it. How that integration occurs can take many forms.

Riley: The solution I always offered, which is going to read as weird, is this: Trans people — and ‘diverse’ characters in general — are people. Your characters want the things people want, which is pretty much anything under the sun. How that lives out in the world of a game is tricky, maybe, since characters in Overwatch are, by nature, reduced to being able to do very little besides shoot, but that’s where I always go to.

Cecilia: At some point, we have to say “Good job.”

Gita: Well, I don’t think this is that point.

Heather: I don’t know if I want to give someone props for merely acknowledging me, y’know?

Nathan: We can still say good job while also critiquing what they’re doing. This is definitely a start.

Heather: It is!

Cecilia: Of course! But I don’t hear people saying “Good job.” I want to celebrate that Dva is a gamer girl who is also an arsehole brat. That’s great. Her femininity doesn’t interfere with her being competitive and a jerk. For me, I’m happy to give props to developers who think about how I’ll feel as a female consumer.

Gita: I almost made a GIF today of scrolling down the Tumblr tag for Tracer — 100% of it is “Tracer is gay and she saved my crops and cleared my skin.” And I’m so, so happy for those people that they get representation. I’m happy for me, as a queer woman, to have representation. But I also recognise that one gay character is more or less the bare minimum.

Heather: I think one additional step is to see if they can expand their model of diversity for queer characters. This is awesome. Tracer is my favourite character and I’m very happy. But the test comes if they can provide a less traditional queer relationship. This was a safe choice. Two pretty women. The test becomes what might follow.

Nathan: Roadhog x Junkrat, please. Their love is so pure.

Riley: I want Solider 76 to be queer. Clearly, he is my archetype.

Gita: Is this a “good job?” Well, I think it’s executed well. And it’s giving fans who were heretofore underrepresented something they sorely wanted. But do I want to say, “good job?” No! Not really! It’s the very least they could do!

Riley: For me, as a cranky old queer trans man, I’m super over representation. But I’m very lucky that I live a life surrounded by other queer and trans people. I see people like me every day, I don’t need to look to media made by cis or straight folks for that. But again, I’m lucky in that regard.

Nathan: That’s part of Overwatch’s problem. It often feel like a “diverse” game made primarily by straight white guys for straight white guys. I think the holiday stuff being so Christmas centric is evidence of that, too

Heather: Right. I think it is worth mentioning that Overwatch struggles with other issues of diversity. Consider the Raindancer and Thunderbird skins for Pharah or other ways in with culture becomes costume. On one hand, I do like having more cultures shown in game. But that’s a poor way to do it.

Cecilia: True. That one’s bad.

Nathan: It’s not that blizzard is doing a poor job, per se. they just clearly have some blind spots.

Cecilia: I don’t know if we’re familiar enough with the specifics Blizzard’s staff to make specific claims.

Heather: I think a broader question at play is whether or not these forms of presentation can feel exploitative. Tracer is gay and that is wonderful. But does that announcement merely use queerness as a marketing point? For me, it feels a bit like that is the case.

Cecilia: It’s interesting though because, in expanding a game’s audience to include minorities and women, you have to market the game to them!

Heather: It’s a bit of a double edged sword, for sure.

Cecilia: Definitely!

Heather: But it is possible to pander. It’s a very tricky line that’s hard to define.

Nathan: I think doing the bare minimum isn’t pandering, though. It’s almost the opposite.

Cecilia: I just want to add though — I’m way more likely to buy a game if there’s a female protagonist. And I’ll probably enjoy the game more. And that purchase will make me happy. At some point, marketing isn’t sterile. Sometimes, though, it’s exploitative. Where do you guys think the Tracer comic falls along that line?

Heather: It recontexualizes earlier marketing, at least. We have a queer woman on the box cover of one of the biggest games of the year. Which is remarkable in this industry. Although, I suppose the further argument is that it shouldn’t have to be remarkable.

Gita: A single lesbian is probably going to make me less likely to buy something, honestly. If you’re purporting to have LGBT representation and it comes down to a single lesbian kiss in an online comic, I start to roll my eyes. If I didn’t already like Overwatch and its characters I’d be thinking probably really uncharitable thoughts about this. I lived through Willow and Tara. I know how this goes.

If I’m going to be looking for stories about being queer, I’m more likely to look for them from queer people.

Riley: Yeah. I’ve said this to you all before, but I’d rather have no queer or trans characters than just one or just a romantic couple.

Especially in game worlds, which are so imaginative and often full of every kind of thing under the sun, the fact that that comes to be the sticking point really bums me out. Not that I think Overwatch is failing in that regard, or…well, jury’s still out on my end.

Gita: And it’s not even like I dislike this comic or its execution, just want to make that clear.

Heather: I just wonder if they can get more detailed. Gita, you just played Watch Dogs 2 and that has a meaningful relationship with Marcus and Ratio. It’s a differently structured game, yes. But that game can have two black characters who deal with blackness. Overwatch can’t (or hasn’t yet) found a way to do queerness.

Which is partially because of how loose and free a game Overwatch is but it’s also an expression of the apparent limitations of Blizzard’s ambitions regarding diversity.

Riley: Overwatch is a class-based team shooter, though. It’s not a narrative game that can or even needs to explore those themes to be a good game. So I don’t want to hold it up for not meeting ambitions it isn’t striving toward in that regard.

Heather: That’s fair.

Gita: This conversation for me really can end at “it’s cool that Tracer is a lesbian,” because I do feel positive about it and I do think it’s good for fans of Overwatch that really wanted that. I’m not ever gonna say that Overwatch shouldn’t have done this, or that I don’t like the comic in which it was revealed. I do like it! I think it’s cute.

But if you want to really know how I feel about this as an aspect of diversity, well, clearly I have some more nuanced feelings. A class based shooter doesn’t really have to have the level of diversity that Overwatch does, but Tracer being a lesbian I guess… using the example Heather did, it feels less revelatory to me than the way Marcus Holloway is characterised in Watch Dogs 2.

Riley: The thing I struggle with a lot is it’s super easy for me to say what I don’t want out of stuff when it comes to games and diversity, but I have a hard time figuring out what I do want and how to achieve it. It’s easy for me to say everything isn’t good enough, but I don’t have a good road map for how to get to something better. Which is an exciting challenge in some ways!

I agree with Gita in that way; it is cool Tracer is a lesbian!

Heather: I think the key here is that this is very cool but it’s safe. It’s hard to see that safeness. If only because it implies a queer relationship in games media needs to be consumable or palatable to a broader audience. It’s tricky but you’re all right. This is cool and I hope things get even more cool!

Riley: What I want is to be presumed to be the audience for things. Something I’ve found about, say, trans stuff in media is you get something super explanatory or you get a trans joke because it’s never presumed I’m in the audience; creators don’t think I’m there, they don’t think I’m listening.

Blizzard obviously knows queer folks play their game, but is this really for queer folks? I think better diversity has to come from the idea that people like me are hanging around thinking about more things than just walking around being our checkboxes, you know?

Gita: I hope that the way that Tracer’s sexuality can be handled in the future in the way that like, Max Blum’s sexuality is handled in the television show Happy Endings. Here’s a dude that’s definitely gay, and embedded in gay culture, but his problems don’t revolve around being gay and dating.

Given that the world of Overwatch is steeped in international conflict, that seems pretty likely — but there is also the fear of Tracer’s gayness being totally incidental, too!

All in all, I guess I’m just happy for every young person that really needed to see a lesbian in their favourite video game. You got that, and I know I wish I had that when I was younger. I mean, I know this isn’t Dykes to Watch Out For, but you know!

Riley: I want everything to be Dykes to Watch Out For!

Heather: It’s definitely nice to have something like this and I’m eager to see where it go. For guys, gals, and non binary pals everywhere.

Comments

    • Uh, it’s kind of a big deal? I believe it’s the first game to have a mascot, or a close to a main character as you can get be explicitly gay. It’s a huge step forward and it matters to a lot of people who might be feeling left out otherwise?
      Just because you don’t care, doesn’t mean others don’t as well.

      • it’s a shooter with zero storyline depth. Just a bunch of admittedly cool characters thrown together in an FPS. You could make them all LGBTFHWUYHRGTGFGSJFGRFUDSND’s for all I care.

        • Let me iterate again, just because you don’t care, it doesn’t mean that others don’t. You are not the world, sorry to let you down. Your opinion is not the only one that matters. You’re allowed to have your opinion, but let others have theirs as well.

        • You say you dont care, Yet you have made several posts taking issues about it. Which is it? You dont like homosexuals in video games or you dont care?

        • You’re right, except none of the characters are cool. Just animated characters designed for the kiddies. Now, one of them is queer. Good luck explaining that to your kids….

          • Considering that Overwatch is rated M, for reference Films and computer games classified M (Mature) contain content of a moderate impact and are recommended for teenagers aged 15 years and over. the ‘kiddies’ are probably at an age that they can understand varied sexuality and might be dealing with it themselves. In fact they may be looking for someone to identify with so yes maybe talking with your kids about it would be a good idea.

            That being said I suspect that you may be in the minority in thinking that the Overwatch characters are not cool and are just designed for ‘kiddies’ judging by the newsworthy amounts of Overwatch porn that has been produced.

          • No, the cartoony art design and generically named 2 syllable characters featuring stereotypical designs you would find in a picture book kinda point to it being a kiddies game. Not to mention the cheesy, over-acted one liners.

            Believe it or not, but kids actually play games that are rated higher than their age. It’s a kids game, make no mistake.

          • “Some people like girls, and some people like boys. Sometimes, girls even like other girls and boys like other boys.”

            There, just explained it for you.

        • It’s a bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. If they had brought too much attention to it, it’s a gimmick. Too little, it’s an afterthought

      • Everyone cares except for the gamers. This is the type of BS PR rubbish that prevents me from buying games. It’s just an online shooter for Chrissakes….

        • I believe you’re wrong, considering that 2/3rd’s of the article are people reacting positively. Do you think that no one from the LGBT community plays games? Because that’s what your sentence implys. I’m sure they care, a lot. Have you tried asking one how they feel about being under represented?
          Yes. It is just an online shooter, but it’s also an online shooter that is trying it’s best to have a character for everyone. I met someone who was so happy that Symmetra was a character as it represent her culture and she was very excited to cosplay her.
          If you don’t like these sorts of articles, you could just, I don’t know, Not click the link?

    • Come on dude, if you’re going to be an immature dick about it, at least quote the superior Community reference.

      “HA, GAAAAAYYYYYYEEEE!”

      • Nah, I never really liked Community so I never watched too much of it. The best part about it was Donald Glover and I can watch him in Atlanta instead which is vastly superior!

        • I was wondering about Atlanta, I’ve been hearing good things, but haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch it yet.

  • It’s good that Blizzard is making steps to normalise homosexuality. And when I say ‘normalise’ I don’t mean every one must turn gay.

    I’m saying exposure to homosexuality, even as a concept, will help remove the stigma and reassure people struggling with their own sexuality. And hopefully, it dissuades haters from bullying or bashing others for their sexual preference.

    • Exactly. Having a gay character is great! At the end of the day she’s still a GOD DAMN FUCKER GET OUT OF MY BACKLINE WITH YOUR ZIPPING AROUND REVERSE TIME BULLSHIT (can you tell I play support?)

      Let’s not define the character by her sexuality. Let’s define her by the fact she’s a bitch and everyone that plays her is a giant turd.

        • I actually don’t mind going against Mei as much as a backline support – her lack of mobility means she has to barrel through your frontlines or flank to get to your healers, which you can fairly easily avoid if you pay attention to your positioning. Most of the healers have pretty good ways of dealing with her too – Mercy can just zip out of ice range, Ana can sleep dart her and run away, and Lucio can boop her and run. Zen is a little bit screwed if she gets up close and personal, but Mei just melts if you get orb of discord on her so with a bit of team coordination you’re ok.

          That being said, getting popped in the face with an ice shard from across the map is a little bit annoying.

          • Ice shards to cap you from wherever she is, ice walls to block anything you send her way, and freezing before that last little bit of damage can take her out. And always a blizzard up her sleeve if you ever get close enough.

            Absolute monster 😛

      • Except it’s not front and centre. You had to look for it. Seriously, if it upsets you that much, just don’t come into the article. Don’t play the game. There are other shooters, go play those if it offends you so much.

        • Except it’s front page on every gaming site….
          I play games to escape these social justice realities and just enjoy myself. Now we’re forced to accept real life ‘problems’ in games because it’s all of a sudden a cool thing to do.
          Next thing you know, Mario turns out to a be a transgender female trapped in a straight males body.

          There are ways to encourage equal rights. Force feeding them into unrelated mediums to people who want nothing to do with these issues is not the answer.

          • Then play angry birds, or something else. It’s big news because it hasn’t been done before. Same as how tomb raider was in every gaming magazine in the 90’s. It was a first, and it hadn’t been done before on such a large scale game. You seem to be stuck on this social justice stuff, but would your opinion be different if we were celebrating a triple A game completely focused on a black person?
            Blizzard said that they were planning for Tracer to be gay from the very beginning and It’s just one aspect of her character. It has nothing to do with an agenda, or social justice, it’s just who the character is.

      • Are you kidding?

        ‘Oh shit, a character in a game I play turned out to be gay, and it was revealed in a way that has absolutely no impact on the game! TIME TO GET OUT THE PITCHFORKS, BOYS!’

    • The good thing about overwatch is that you don’t. The entire game is non-canon. All the extra stuff requires going outside the game. It’s an interesting way to do it.

    • They weren’t pressured though. Blizzard literally said “From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world.”

      But seriously, what’s the issue if one character out of a roster of 23 is LGBT?

      Also, people care about the sexuality of the character because it’s part of her backstory. Just like the other characters have backstories, it’s just in this case Blizzard have decided to make Tracer’s sexuality a part of hers. It’s still unusual in AAA games, so they’ve chosen to focus on it.

      If Tracer’s backstory literally just consisted of “HURR HURR I’M SO GAY, LOOK AT ME I LOVE GIRLS” and had no other nuances or identifying personality traits, then sure. I’d call it ticking off a quota. But her sexuality is just one part of who she is as a character.

    • I work with 12 people and two of them are gay. So by your metric I think the Overwatch organisation should have 4 gay characters.

    • I mean statistically you’d except 2-3 of them to be LGBT based on the best studies we have on this currently (these studies are not great but that’s a different issue.) Sure, it’s possible to have 23 people in a team who have nothing to do with it, but if you’re going to argue from statistics then it’s not what you’d most likely expect.

      My personal opinion though is that I don’t care. I’m not hugely interested in Overwatch’s lore, I don’t play it for the story. I also don’t personally consider sexuality to be a particularly revealing or interesting character trait in general, i.e, I don’t care if my fictional characters are gay or straight or other or unspecified because my experience IRL has been that somebody’s sexuality doesn’t tell you much that’s interesting about what they’re actually like as a person.

      Of course I also understand that that indifference is at least partially borne of the fact that I’m a straight male and have no idea what it feels like to be underrepresented in media or marginalised in real life because of my gender/sexuality. Those things are one of the main reasons people do care about this.

      In short representation not mattering to you is not sufficient reason to argue against it, and it’s hard to accuse writers of shoehorning when it’s not played as a gimmick and statistically compared to best estimates of reality the demographic is still underrepresented.

      • Because you said they feel pressured. It can come off as horrible if a tone is applied to it internally. You started off on a negative note and that may have coloured the whole sentence/paragraph.

      • Because the SJW’s are taking over. If Bioware pull this shit with the new Mass Effect like they did with Dragon Age: I, then I’m done.

        • Super gay Communist Atheist Anarchist Socialist left leaning SJW Libtard here, if you really were born in 89, I’m older than you and we were taking over before you were born, untuck your shirt and man up, get over yourself the world doesn’t revolve around you, treat your fellow humans with some compassion like that bible book tells people not to judge others, tells your kids gay people exist, there’s nothing wrong with them and that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and compassion, even you. Have a fabulously gay day!

    • Most of my friends are not cis or het. Do you know, LGBTIQA+ people squad together? Everyone in Overwatch is queer. That’s the true metric.

  • A team-based shooter like Overwatch is the wrong sort of video game if you want nuanced and well-developed characters of any gender or sexuality. The story is completely irrelevant for the game itself and the characters exist for the sole purpose of being fun to play. Heck, this is a game that thrives on stereotypes and looking awesome. Personalities are irrelevant.

    Blizzard doesn’t have to go the extra mile with the animations and the comics but I’m happy that they did and I’m not going to be upset or disheartened simply because a character’s narrative presentation doesn’t align with my own perspective or values. Fiction is allowed to be any story that the creators want to tell and I don’t think Blizzard deliberately wrote Tracer’s relationship to appeal to a gay audience. As they said, “it just felt right to make this an aspect of her character”. Blizzard’s idea of who the characters are will be vastly different from the audience and that’s perfectly okay.

  • That’s part of Overwatch’s problem. It often feel like a “diverse” game made primarily by straight white guys for straight white guys. I think the holiday stuff being so Christmas centric is evidence of that, too

    Christmas confirmed only for Straight White Guys.

    anyway, I think it’s awesome that a poster character for an immensely popular game is LGBT, and that they didn’t go for the stereotypical route with Zarya.

  • wow, knowing she’s gay makes the game so much better now.
    This is of no consequence. How bout just stick to making a great game and don’t add social political agendas?

    • Out of curiosity, how does the sexuality of Tracer affect the quality of the game? Her being LBGT isn’t necessarily indicative of a wider social political agenda, it’s just part of a fictional character’s backstory (that someone at Blizzard would have been making regardless).

      It’s not like they took someone off development to write a story just for Tracer or anything; it’s been in the works from the beginning, as Blizz mentioned.

      • I think you just hit the nail on the head. How does it affect the quality of the game? It doesn’t so why throw it in there if not to satisfy some agenda they have. Such as the agenda to be more inclusive of different walks of life.

        I’m not saying adding it was right or wrong but you have to agree that regardless of whether you support LGBT or not, this was a PR stunt to satisfy an agenda.

        • I think you missed the point, it doesn’t negatively impact any of the gameplay so why should it be attacked unless you don’t really like gay people?

          That said personally it has a huge impact on the game, Overwatch’s strength is this amazing character design that is so consistently engaging, even when you just get a few hints from voice lines and outfits.

          Things like this inform that design, even if you don’t engage with it having that subtext of a character is present constantly and informs what you’re digesting.

          • I don’t care one way or the other about Tracer being gay. She’s still going to be that annoying character I want dead immediately upon seeing her on the other team, and she’s not going to stop being an absolute blast for me to play.

            But I take issue with the “If you’re attacking it, you must dislike gay people” logic. That sort of bullshit is used to silence people out of fear of being labelled something they may not be.

            People are allowed to question WHY something is done without automatically being cast as a bigot.

            I personally don’t think Blizzard did it to check some sort of box. However, if they suddenly come along later on and go “Oh, and this character is gay too…” claiming it was all planned from the start, then I think people will have good reason to question their motives.

          • Did you question every other character decision made my Blizzard?

            If you’re questioning this one then it doesn’t make you a bigot, but it is a sign you aren’t comfortable with representations of gay people to some degree. It’s worth looking into, weirdly the best way is to be surrounded by more representations (Or better yet examples) or different people.

          • Did you question every other character decision made my Blizzard?
            I didn’t even question this one, so don’t imply that I did.

            My entire comment was taking issue with the “If you’re questioning it, you must dislike gay people” type of logic you and a few others are apparently intent on spreading as if it is undeniable fact. You even tried to walk it back a little in your last comment, only to still imply anyone questioning it simply MUST have issue with gay representation of some degree even being a thing. The problem is no matter how much you think it might be, does not just make it fact.

            The day people stop questioning things due to fear of being called a bigot, racist, etc, or having it be implied by people like yourself, is the day rational society has checked out.

          • It’s a rhetorical ‘you’ stop being defensive and realise the comment still stands.

            I’m agreeing that questioning it doesn’t necessarily make you a bigot, but many bigots openly attack it too. I probably should have said it didn’t “necessarily” mean you were a bigot in that sentence.

            You’re allowed to question it, but people are then allowed to question why you’re questioning it. The conspiratorial attacking of an “agenda” has no basis in anything, it’s just a fallback for people who feel uncomfortable and don’t want to be confronted by people different than themselves.

  • It’s interesting how a few of the writers start out positively with “it’s great!”, but start to turn it into “it’s not good enough” as the conversation progresses. It almost feels like there’s a little peer pressure to find something wrong with the story through the conversation.

    In any case, I think Cecilia’s view most closely describes mine. Overwatch is one of the most diverse games I can recall ever playing, and it does it in a very natural-feeling way. I think they do deserve a “good job” for it, much more than an “it’s not good enough”.

    • That can be a natural part of conversation though, exposure to other perspectives/points of view affects your own, makes you rethink your beliefs and so on.

      I’d agree with you and Cecilia, incidentally. But I also think Overwatch has it a little easier in the sense that the story isn’t actually integrated into the game itself, unlike a Bioware/Mass Effect/any other major RPG. I suppose you could say that’s a smart call on Blizzard’s part, but then you’d be getting back into the history of Project Titan and what the team needed to do to pull something out of the ashes. (And making an extended singleplayer campaign after all of that was … well, probably not financially practical.)

      • Oh, I agree that outside perspectives are essential for learning and growing as a person, and that may well be what happened during that conversation. I just had a faint sense that some of them might have been being a little more critical than they meant to be.

        I think Tracer being gay is great. It fits her character, it doesn’t feel tacked on, and while I could argue that sexuality shouldn’t matter for this game and its characters, I appreciate how it can be really important for some people to see others like themselves in the games they play, and I also appreciate the long game, where some day it wouldn’t even be considered newsworthy that a video game character is gay, much like how it’s (usually) no longer newsworthy if a video game character is black.

        • That’s the super long game, for sure, to get to a point where the relationship status isn’t mentioned or it’s just immediately obvious and then things focus on whatever the issues are in the particular story.

          Part of me can’t help but feeling that all of this is going to feed back into an animated series though, with the original idea of Titan (ordinary people working ordinary jobs, becoming superheroes at night or in a second life) being reborn.

    • I think a part of the “it’s not good enough” kind of comes when you have things that seem to laud you for doing what you see as kind of basic. It’s a bit reactionary and probably shows in general more needs to be done.

      But you’re right, Blizzard have done a great job on it in Overwatch and they should be congratulated.

    • I picked up on that too but I don’t think it’s purely pressure to find something wrong/keep talking. There’s something about it that makes me think of those old school nerd cliques who would tie their entire identity to whatever made them outsiders then get really upset when ‘normal people’ got to close to it. That whole ‘even though we don’t actually watch Star Trek, it’s ours, and you’re not allowed to watch it because you’re not one of us’ thing. I get that same weird defensive ownership vibe from some of the statements in this article.

      Granted if that’s the case I understand where that sort of frustration comes from. There’s a lot of straight white men championing this stuff and inadvertently taking control. Speaking for them instead of stepping aside and giving them a chance to speak.

    • They could have some real fun with this. Zarya picks up a DVD box set of The L Word on the way home from social softball, jumps in her Subaru and then makes dinner for her boyfriend.

    • Russia does not like gay people, and Zarya is not considered gay in the slightest, as then the russian audience wouldn’t like her. There’s a whole other article on that.

  • At the end of the day it only changes the fanfic cause a) Shes into girls b) and its not anyone in Overwatch. She has a normal life outside of Overwatch and thats what is cool.

    Also her sitting still for 30 seconds must be lag.

  • So if she bought a Christmas present for an opposite gender partner and they kissed, would that be a big deal? Nope. Just another Christmas moment. And a “Christmas Tale” trope done many, many times before.

    Is anyone seriously, or even slightly offended? If so – why? It was handled fin in my opinion. I don’t know if this warranted such a huge discussion. But if people can’t understand why this isn’t a big deal , then I guess maybe it did.

  • Obviously there’s nothing wrong with it. I did enjoy the ambiguity of before, where everyone could be gay or straight or whatever you wanted. Seeing the fun the community had in making their own head-canon made this game look ever the more diverse and entertaining.

    My only criticisms are that they should’ve dropped it like a bomb without all the tease or ‘one of em is gay! It’ll be a big surprise!’ *wink wink* It make the fact that they were going to write a gay character more important than the character simply being as normal as all the others.
    Also with that in mind, choosing Tracer just feels so calculated: they went with a lesbian instead of a gay man since that seems to be less controversial in games so far, but they didn’t want to choose Zarya as a too stereotypical looking choice. She’s a cute tomboy so it fit some of the stereotype to sprinkle on believability for those who would care. Also she’s practically the mascot for the game so that would be the most impactful choice for saying the game has progressive diversity as Blizzard say they care a lot about.

  • With the release of Overwatch’s holiday comic, gamers saw the game’s first openly gay character: Tracer.
    …. Bruh! Do you even research? LGBT characters in video games date back to the 1980s! This is just the first time in “modern history” that a LGBT character has been made out to be a huge deal “because it’s 2016”.

    Honestly, who cares about things like this anymore? Besides clickbait sites & Youtube channels trolling for angry comments and views.

    • gamers saw the game’s first openly gay character
      THE game’s as in Overwatch’s first openly gay character

    • The funny paradox of it all is that we are trying to get to a point where no one cares because it will be so common that celebrating it is like celebrating when you see a lady in the street wearing pants. To get to that point though we need to care so people pick up that it’s important to keep doing it. If we need to care until we don’t need to care, how do we know when that is?

  • They did it right.
    I don’t think homosexuality is one of those things that come up too naturally in games. Well, most games. RPGs, sure, anything really story driven, or built around relationships.
    Shooters though, romance of either kind just doesn’t belong there.

    I suppose Overwatch could get around it a little, by having Tracer be nicer to the girls in banter, or maybe there could’ve been a picture of her and her partner in a framed photo somewhere.

    I was worried Blizzard would hamfist it really bad, but they didn’t. They did do a good job. Nice work.

    “But I also recognise that one gay character is more or less the bare minimum.”
    For what it’s worth, that is a higher percentage of gay people in overwatch than there are gay people in the US (as of 2011) (4.34% vs 3.5%).

    “That’s part of Overwatch’s problem. It often feel like a “diverse” game made primarily by straight white guys for straight white guys.”
    There’s something terrible about this and I’m not quite sure what.
    Overwatch feels naturally diverse. Nothing feels “forced”. It’s really quite wonderful, having all these different colours and cultures meet at one point. There is one more male than there are females (and two robots, which I’ve excluded, but if you want to count Zenyatta as a male then that’s two more males) and that’s pretty damn good for video games. Sexuality, as I said before, doesn’t need to come up. Just like in real life, you can’t actually tell if someone is straight or gay until they tell you. And on the battlefield, that isn’t going to come up.

    As for race: there are 10 white people (1 german, 1 norwegian, 1 french, 1 english, 2 australian, 1 swiss, 1 russian, 2 americans), 10 not white people [I wasn’t sure how to divide these up] (2 japanese, 1 korean, 1 chinese, 1 brazillian, 2 egyptian, 2 hispanic, 1 indian), 2 robots and a gorilla.

    As a representative of Earth, it’s not great, I suppose. There’s a lot of whities compared to real-life. To its credit, there’s a diverse range of white people, and also to its credit there is a lot more diversity than most games.

    I guess that’s what bothers me about it. Probably the best game to point to for “diversity in AAA video games” and Nathan dismisses it as for and by the straight white males (who would be one of the biggest slices of the pie, but that’s besides the point). Is there room for improvement? Yes, absolutely. But it’s currently the best we have.

    In conclusion, if 1/25 people are blue, I wouldn’t expect to see more than one blue person in a group of 23.

    • It’s better then most other games. Yes, there is a lot of white people, but it’s still a diverse range of white people. I’d like to see more of other cultures too. I imagine they will keep expanding their roster.

      • Why would someone upload a games credits to youtube?!

        They even felt it worth mentioning that these credits are in HD!

        • YouTube uses a different audio quality setting internally at HD resolutions, it’s not uncommon for soundtrack uploads to mention that they’re 1080p or HD because it tells people the audio is better quality. Maybe they mentioned it here for the sake of the audio as well? Who knows.

    • I was hoping it wouldn’t be the case. Too obvious!
      Plus it might set the “dangerous precedent” that all gays gotta have bizarre hair.

  • I’m glad the LGBT have found a role model they can relate to.

    And by role model, I mean characters who spends every active moment seeking out prey to shoot in the face with guns.

    Cause that’s what it’s about, right? Individuals who exercise their right to enter sexual relationships with whatever gender they like, along side the ability terminate the living essence of whoever stands in their way. I look forward to telling my children that whoever they find attractive is absolutely ok, as is the desire to shoot them in the face with high speed metal projectiles.

  • Doesn’t bother me in the slightest tracer is gay. It was an unexpected reveal to be sure but I liked the way it happened. Wasn’t some stupid thing with a guy hitting on her and she turns him down saying she likes girls but rather just shows her at home with her girlfriend/wife acting normal. It also wasn’t a huge focus such as making the whole comic about her rescuing her partner from something, just a cute little moment that passes by. To me that’s enough to have impact but not feel shoehorned in or anything like that. Tracer is still my favourite character in the game despite me being total shit with her.

    Also wtf Torb? No one trust this man to even pull a pizza out of the oven because god damn 9 kids?!

  • So from reading the comments all i see is 2 group of people arguing semantics: Group 1 who feel that it shouldnt matter if a character is X because its “insert current year” and Group 2 who believe that it still matters.

    Thing is both sides are right, but the big thing is this, i see no one in the comments saying that they now hate tracer/blizzard/overwatch etc because tracer is gay which is a good thing

  • So important for younger queer players to have queer representation, and just as important for us slightly-older queers to see so many queer voices celebrated here on Kotaku. Been reading for 8 years and am the biggest fangirl currently – thank you Kotaku!!

  • “Riley: Yeah. I’ve said this to you all before, but I’d rather have no queer or trans characters than just one or just a romantic couple.”

    FFS. If you’re not going to have more than one character, don’t do it at all? Right, so now we need TWO of:
    Gay Male
    Gay Female
    Trans Male
    Trans Female
    Pansexual
    Bisexual
    Aesexual
    Shall I continue?

    Oh, but if they’re a couple, then there needs to be a third character who isn’t involved.

    At some point people need to just grow up and go “yep, there is one person that falls into category X” in this group of individuals that have been designed for a game. It’s not a token effort, it’s not a PR stunt, THAT’S JUST HOW IT IS. Now I hate to disappoint you, but the vast majority of characters are going to be straight. That’s just pure statistics if you actually want to be representative of real life, and if you’re not representative of real life, then it comes off as tokenism and shoe-horned and just seems dumb. It means you end up with things like the silly “player-sexual” characters of Dragon Age 2.

    By calling it a token effort and saying it’s not good enough unless there’s more than one person of , you’re effectively cheapening the very thing you’re demanding to be included in video games.

    Tracer is cool. She’s a great character. She also happens to be gay. No biggie, that’s just who she is. Whinging about it makes you come across as exceeding entitled.

  • Nice write up, but one fatal assumption – the scarf wasn’t for Emily, Tracer bought it for Winston, hence why she protests when Emily goes to open it. Tracer’s gf is a gold digger.

      • Hey, it’s the thought that counts. He would have loved it. He could have used it as a handkerchief. 🙁

  • I have a bit of constructive criticism, but first let me say that I’m totally in favour of inclusiveness and representation, which is easy to prove from many other posts I’ve made in Kotaku. I start saying that because usually when you have valid criticism for queer related topics, you are quickly dismissed as an homophobe and your criticism disregarded without consideration. Having a pro-queer argument doesn’t make anybody automatically infallible and having a counterargument doesn’t make anybody a homophobe.

    Anyhow, my criticism is that while I think that this in-depth conversations are valid and necessary is not a great idea for them to be publicly exposed on a mainstream forum like Kotaku who have a great percentage of “cis” people who already chaff a bit at all the queer discussion. For sure reading about a group of people dissecting what is, indisputably a positive development and coming to the conclusion that “eh, it’s not sufficient, may be gimmicky PR, but yay, I guess?” is going to ruffle many feathers.

    Know you audience and gain their hearts and minds with positive reinforcement. Once you have most of them on board with representation, maybe we can move to “hey maybe we can have more/better representation?”

    • Allow me to save you a lot of internet ink and needless backside covering:

      ‘Don’t talk about the gays because it makes some of the more unpleasant straight people uncomfortable.’

      OK, thanks, message received. Don’t upset white males because REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

      Or they could just stop being so unpleasant.

      That’s the other option.

      PS – How about you count the total number of articles on Kotaku, and then count the number of ‘queer discussion’ ones. I bet you will be surprised by what you find. Then you can have a think about why it surprised you.

      • Way to jump to conclusions by completely ignoring most of what I said? I’m not saying to “avoid” talking about gays nor do so not to “upset white males” (btw why did you feel the need to also make this a racial argument? I know a lot of male PoC (me being one) that are sexist as hell). I myself don’t mind the amount of articles in Kotaku or wherever else dealing with queer issues… why make this about me when I made clear that I have no problem with any of this?

        Maybe because you completely skipped my first paragraph? Maybe because whenever you feel the slightest bit of criticism, of not complete, abject, submissive surrender to the ineffable righteousness of queer topics, that person /has to be/ an ignorant, sexist, hateful, bigoted, and somehow white jerk? News flash: queerness, like any other aspect of the human experience is not infallible, sacred and unequivocally right. There’s room for criticism and there’s room for improvement in the way things are communicated.

        But no, these odious, archetypal “white” straw-male do not need to be engaged or convinced, right? They need to be bashed on the head, stereotyped and yelled at until they somehow understand.

        When you are so quick to be defensive that you cannot even notice when someone is on your side of the argument, just looking out for better ways to transition the non-educated, you are doing something wrong.

        • I’m sorry, but you’re the one being defensive matey, not me. Four raging paragraphs of it in fact.

          And I nailed what you said exactly, you just don’t like the subtext of what you said. That’s good, because it’s pretty grotty.

          Or of course you could just be extremely stupid, and you genuinely believe the best way to educate these people is by not exposing them to anything outside their comfort zone. Because that’s what your first post says, very clearly.

          Then you get defensive and backtrack in your second.

          Either your capacity to communicate is very poor or your internal reasoning is confused. Either way, despite you devoting a lot of time to aggressively claiming to be progressive, you certainly don’t communicate a progressive message.

          And the fact you use language like the ‘ineffable righteousness of queer topics’ indicates you’re actually not in the least progressive but pretend to be so in order to sustain your internal justification processes.

          You’re not on ‘my side’ of the argument at all.

          And unsurprisingly, you entirely missed the end of my post.

          Your basic assertion is entirely bollocks. ‘Queer discussion’ makes up a tiny fraction of posts on Kotaku. As I said, spend the time to count all the stories published in a month, see how many are ‘queer discussion’ and do the basic maths to work out what percentage that is.

          Hint – IT IS A VERY SMALL ONE

          So your poor CIS males are already getting the ‘representation’ you’re calling for. The vast majority of content is either neutral or happily CIS-friendly.

          The fact you can’t see this and react angrily is just another indicator of your cognitive dissonance issues.

          • Yes I am being defensive because in your previous and latest post you have profiled me as dunno? some sort of hyper-homophobic and condescending pig by intently ignoring what I am saying, distilling and decontextualising my words until you find a tiny thing you can hang onto, then adding a ton of your own bias and prejudiced contempt, then presenting it as some sort of evidence that I am what you think. Of course I am going to be defensive when you are misrepresenting me like this. You clearly haven’t seen other posts of mine in the website or you’d know I’m on the “progressive side”, engaging those who are actually sexist, racist or whatever. Not that I need to validate myself to the likes of you, perpetually-angry, offence-seeking and smug people that believe that because they’re defending a righteous cause, they get to cast aspersions and judgement on whomever doesn’t 100% agree with them.

            The fact that you attack my person and my argument with words such as “extremely stupid” while trying to maintain a self-righteous high ground speaks loudly of your hypocrisy.

            You do not deserve it but I’ll boil down my argument to an analogy that hopefully you won’t be able to twist or misinterpret. You keep accusing me of wanting to reduce the “volume” and amount of queer discussion, though I clearly stated in my opening post (and then clarified in my response to you) that I’m not talking about quantity but depth. It’s like if a group of kids are having trouble with basic maths and a teacher comes and tries to teach them about logarithms. My advice was not “Hey can we stop with all the maths talk already? These poor kids have had enough already and clearly don’t want it or need it”, but “Can we go back to basic addition and multiplication, please, until the students are comfortable with that? These kids already hate maths so if you lay down on them something of higher level they are just going to get more discouraged ad perhaps hate maths a bit more. Once they accept and understand basic maths, they’ll be capable to considerate more difficult math problems in a dedicated classroom.”

          • Again, a pointless rant with no substance.

            You’re trying to make an argument that there are a large number of people who are conceptually unable to deal with ‘queer issue’ stories.

            Bullshit. Utter bullshit.

            There’s a small group of the same alt-right fascists who post angrily on every story mentioning queer things and that is it, apart from random drive by conservative whingers. Big whoop.

            These people aren’t in need of hand holding explanations, they are mentally ill individuals who, due to their messed up childhoods, are ALWAYS going to have a problem with anything outside their bubble of white privilege.

            If you actually read the comments (and this is not even dealing with the fact that comments are more likely to display negative representation), you’d see that almost all of the ‘CIS’ audience you are squawking about DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.

            So to put it simply, you’re trying to make a problem where there isn’t one.

            And the fact you keep doing this is because either

            a) You have cognitive issues and can’t count

            or, more likely,

            b) You’re projecting your own bias very strongly.

            Since you seem to have forgotten your own post in your defensive rage, here’s the relevant part (edited for clarity) with the bit where you go off the rails italicised.

            ‘Anyhow, my criticism is that while I think that this in-depth conversations are valid and necessary it is not a great idea for them to be publicly exposed on a mainstream forum like Kotaku that has a great percentage of “cis” people who already chafe a bit at all the queer discussion.’

            No, it does not. If you think it does, that means you’re just identifying with that small group of bigots who posted the same predictable conservative dribble.

            So you need to work out why you’re doing that, and why you think talking less about queer things and/or talking around queer things to appease them will somehow stop them being horrid little bigots.

            Hint – of course it won’t.

          • You’re trying to make an argument that there are a large number of people who are conceptually unable to deal with ‘queer issue’ stories.

            False. Once and again I have explained that my argument is that a number of people who still are coming to terms with the most basic ideas of acceptance and representation of queer do not need to hear in-depth discussions like this one where what are superficially positive developments for queer representation are dissected and criticised. Such discussions have a place but I argue that is not publicly in a forum of people that time and again have demonstrated lack of understanding of even the simplest queer topics.

            In other words, I’m advocating that this article should have been simply “it’s awesome that the unarguably biggest game of the year is making such a public and beautiful display of queer acceptance, we need more stuff like this!” and leave the pondering of more complex matters to spaces that are already queer friendly. In the future, the great majority of people may be better educated in these matters and more sophisticated discussions may be started with the public in general, under the understanding that we all are already on a common ground, but you seriously cannot believe that time is already here.

            So you need to work out why you’re doing that, and why you think talking less about queer things and/or talking around queer things to appease them will somehow stop them being horrid little bigots.

            False again. At this point have to conclude that you either are trolling me or are so caught in your own narrative that I have to be an enemy of your cause that you are incapable of reading the actual words I’m writing and instead auto-replace them in your mind with whatever you think the person you imagine me to be would say. For the LAST time, I’m not talking about the amount of articles. I’m over this. It’s impossible to hold a discussion with a person so intent in misrepresenting you that they are playing both sides of the argument in their head rather than actually considering what the other part is saying.

            These people aren’t in need of hand holding explanations, they are mentally ill individuals who, due to their messed up childhoods, are ALWAYS going to have a problem with anything outside their bubble of white privilege.

            However, this part I have to address before I leave. If you truly are reducing and dismissing anybody who holds an opinion opposite to yours as mentally ill, unworthy far-goners, then you are exactly as despicable as the people who you hate. In fact, you happen to be exactly the same /type/ of person they are, only “privileged” of having been educated on the right side of the argument, but just as entitled, hateful, contemptuous and prejudiced as the worst of them. Yep, that’s right, being on the correct side of an argument doesn’t prevent some people from being absolute assholes nor makes their behaviour justifiable or forgivable. In fact, people like you, righteous and ruthless hunters of evil-doers that you fancy yourselves to be, are often more harmful than beneficial to the cause they represent by making those on the other side become emotionally more entrenched in their bad beliefs after dealing with one-sided, self-righteous and ultimately fallacious discussions such as this one.

          • So your problem is that you can’t read good then?

            Since your comprehension is lacking, I’ll say the same thing AGAIN.

            Your entire argument is as follows:

            ‘but I argue that is not publicly in a forum of people that time and again have demonstrated lack of understanding of even the simplest queer topics.’

            Your entire argument is BULLSHIT.

            This ‘forum of people’ has not ‘time and again have demonstrated lack of understanding of even the simplest queer topics’.

            Firstly, the vast majority of Kotaku readers (the forum you are talking about) have indicated no issue with queer topics. There has been no mass boycott, no online petitions, and the majority of comments on every article are positive or neutral. Again, you’re focusing on a tiny minority and trying to convince yourself (and everyone else) they represent a majority.

            Bullshit.

            Secondly, even this tiny minority understand PERFECTLY WELL what the ‘queer issues’ are. They aren’t cognitively damaged (well not all of them). They aren’t uneducated, they’re goddamn BIGOTS. They don’t need ‘Timmy’s First Homosexual Primer For Straights’, they know damn well what the issues are. In fact, that’s what prompts their hatred.

            Again, bullshit.

            You’re trying to make an issue where there isn’t one.

            That’s either because your head is broken, and you delusionally believe there is a majority problem here, or you know perfectly well that this is a minority problem but for some reason you think that needs appeasing.

            Either way, you’re full of it champ.

            And your persecution complex is pretty pathetic.

  • The fact that this is huge news is quite sad. Some people like boys, some people like girls. How anyone is offended or angry over this is just bewildering. How does someone else’s sexuality impact your life in any way?

    • Yeah, it’s quite funny. The “REEEEEE” squad on here love to take the piss out of SJWs for needing safe spaces.

      If anything, they’re the ones that can’t handle progressive ideas encroaching on their precious little bubbles of lolbertarian, MRA tinged space.

  • Just my two cents. As a parent of a gay son, I struggle to understand what it will be like for him to grow up as a minority that is often persecuted (while being simultaneously happy he didn’t grow up 50 years ago). I find it encouraging seeing more prominent gay fictional characters, purely in the interest of normalising it. So, I feel a little less anxious knowing my gamer son will be exposed to heroic gay characters. But I can’t wait for th day a character snogging someone of their own gender turns zero heads and generated zero headlines.

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