D.va From Overwatch Has Become A Symbol Of Hope In Real Life

Illustration: Sam Woolley

According to Overwatch lore, D.va is a pro gamer who serves and inspires her country. In real life, D.va's role is starting to mirror her in-game persona, as she becomes a symbol of hope for women in South Korea.

While millions protested and gathered worldwide for the Women's March on January 20th, sharp-eyed fans such as Tumblr user Nisat noticed Korean events had a familiar sight:

It was the work of "For D.va," (also known as National D.va Association), a group of 140 members across South Korea who use D.va as a mascot. In an email, For D.va staff member "Nine" said that the group initially started last November to protest president Park Geun Hye.

The group was opposed to how Park Geun Hye often used the excuse of being a woman to dodge criticism, as well as being deeply embroiled in corruption scandals. In response, South Korea held many protests, and For D.va participated in solidarity with other feminists.

After the president resigned due to corruption charges, For D.va stayed together to discuss and promote gender equality within the gaming scene. "We just want people to treat women as equal human beings, so that we don't have to listen to swear words or sexually harassing statements nearly every time we play games" said For D.Va's anonymous president. The group's activities aren't limited to just political marches, either. They have been holding a bi-weekly feminist book club, and are in the process organising an Overwatch tournament for women and genderqueer folks.

While South Korea is world-renowned for producing top players in games like League of Legends and Starcraft II, those accomplishments mask what For D.va characterise as a deep and pervasive misogyny within their gaming circles. "Korea has such a big name in gaming due to the esports scene but it's always about men, the fact there's so many women and they are invisible in this is sad," mused Dewie, one of the female Korean Overwatch players I spoke to.

For D.va's mascot is aspirational because she manages to thrive in that culture despite being a woman. "We decided to act for feminism under [D.va's] emblem, so that in 2060 (when the Overwatch takes place), someone like D.Va could actually appear."  For them, Overwatch's decision to make D.va a top Starcraft 2 player is of grave importance. "In a sexist country like ours, it would be impossible for a person like [D.va] to appear, especially after the case of Gegury."

The "Geguri incident" refers to an extremely talented 17-year old female Overwatch player who was reported to Blizzard for "cheating": male gamers believed she was too good with tank character Zarya.

Blizzard cleared her of the charges, but even so, Geguri felt compelled to defend herself by doing an hour-long stream where she could show off her skills to sceptical onlookers. By the end, she was visibly stressed and crying from the toll of the accusations.

According to For D.va, this kind of treatment isn't limited to high-profile pros: in South Korea, women frequently get harassed over chat. "It is almost a routine for women gamers to listen to insults, especially sexual ones such as 'bitch' or 'whore'. It is a common idea in Korea that women can't play games well and women in high ranks would have reached that level by using hacks or by flirting to other men," Nine explained, saying that it was "like a kind of hell."

Other Korean women who play games shared similar stories of hostile atmospheres that made it hard to enjoy online games. "Almost every time [male players] know my sex, [they] become meaner and insulting," a player named Sab said. "They keep calling me 'Nuna' which is what little brothers call their older sis in Korean, and say, 'Nuna, do you even know how to play?'"

Obviously, problems like this exist in the West too, but according to players like Dewie -- who grew up in America and now lives in South Korea -- it's worse in the east. "Being a gamer for a pretty long time, I have encountered lots of sexual harassment in-game so I usually pretended to be a guy. I even grew used to the sexual harassment and easily ignored them [in America], but here in Korea the harassment is way too extreme for me to simply ignore it."

She described instances where men would constantly make comments about her being slut or how her "vagina was a rag," all of which contributed to her feeling like she was losing her faith in the gaming community. "If [even] Geguri, who is Grandmaster [rank] gets sexually harassed I can't imagine how it is for the lower tiers." Dewie added.

Even D.va herself can receive terrible treatment. While the character is beloved by many, players I spoke to expressed discomfort in the way men treated D.va in-game. "The way Korean guys treat [D.va] shows how they think about women ... even the way they love her, most females hate it," Sab said. As an example, D.va's Year of the Rooster costume -- a modern hanbok design -- has got some Korean men constantly trying to look up her skirt as a humiliation tactic against opponents.

In a video put out by a Korean "BJ" (broadcast jockey, akin to what we call "streamers"), he shows himself attacking another person playing D.va and trying to look up her skirt:

"Underpants?"

Sab mentioned experiencing this skirt harassment first-hand. "Korean men are still try to blow (up) her Hanbok skirt…(they) say 'I fucked her!' after they kill D.va in game." In a way, For D.va is a reclamation effort for Korean feminists.

The importance of feminism within South Korea's gaming scene takes on gravitas when set against the backdrop of the country's general culture. Gamers, much like in the United States, aren't uniquely sexist so much as they are an outgrowth of structural issues with how Korean women are treated.

For D.va isn't an isolated feminist group with a catchy icon, but part of a larger wave of feminist activism in South Korea, one of the most notable groups being Megalia4, a radical feminist group that has made headlines multiple times. For D.va's work operates within that climate.

Unfortunately, much like feminists in our own gaming communities, the group has started experiencing backlash. In the west, we're familiar with right-wing message boards frequented by rabid anti-feminist gamers, like 4Chan or certain sectors of Reddit. Instead of 4Chan, Koreans have to deal with places like Ilbe, as well other popular message boards such as Daum Cafe and Todayhumor.

Responses have ranged from calls for violently shooting D.va fans down, insults, and ample use of the word "megal", a term similar to "feminazi" (referring to the aforementioned Megalia4.) Still, for all of the friction that the group faces, they have received an overwhelming amount of positive support from female gamers worldwide who are happy to embrace this mixture of gaming and politics.

"Raising awareness about this issue could finally shine light on...how serious this is," Dewie explained. "That's why I think this organisation is really good for the female gaming community all around the world."

While some of the South Korean gaming community seems entrenched in sexism, For D.va has an advocacy plan with a vision for the future of women. Maybe For D.va will pave the way for a safer and more welcoming place in games a lot sooner than 2060.


Comments

    "He looked up my virtual skirt"... k

      You've ignored the men saying "I fucked her" and the entire body of the article.

      Every time I see your avatar I roll my eyes and say "here we go". I don't know what your problem is with women, but maybe go sort it out and talk to someone.

      E: also look into the proper use of quotations.

      Last edited 10/02/17 12:39 pm

        I have no problem with women, project more issues with the opposite gender. I just find it funny that SJWs act like men (and women) dont say the exact same thing to men playing games. Stop acting like women need to be a protected class, I thought female empowerment was about taking control of your life, not needing other people to do it for you.

        I routinely find women in games that spew just as vile garbage as their male counterparts (I sort of love it), if the internet is too much for you turn off chat or play a singleplayer game.

        My 15 year old sister still lives by the childish saying "sticks and stones".

          SJWs lol

            When you have no good argument so you just try to move your own goal posts. Good job mate.

              You need to look up what that saying means. I accused you of posting the same tired bullshit over and over and you said SJWs which I find funny and truly heartwarming. I'll reply since you've essentially asked me to.

              You come in to actively knock every article that has something to do with equal treatment, then shit out a bunch of irrelevant anecdotes to counter the experiences of other people. In this article you boiled it down to a quote that you invented, ostesibly to reference one of the interviewees in the article. You then claimed to be engaging in this behaviour for the good of these women because they need to harden the fuck up or some similar garbage. They have said that a particular cultural change would be good for their experience of games, while you have countermanded that with some pseudo-feminist take on what women's empowerment means to each individual. Why do you do this? Is this your role as a bona fide representative of whatever your subreddit home base is?

              If people have a problem with the way they get treated, they can express it. Your perception on the other hand, is that there is some internet based power struggle that is directly affecting you in some way. You must be sitting very close to the precipice of utter powerlessness if you give a shit about people asking to not get rape threats and gross insults about being a woman while trying to play a video game they payed money for. I honestly struggle to understand why you and a few others that practice the same behaviour find these things so upsetting.

              You say that women also spew vile shit on the internet. This is probably true though I've not heard much of it. I'll go with you on it anyway. My response to this is that it could be possible that not all people in this world are at poles and that some humans have the capability of being nuanced and issues based. You storm into things about politics with broad cuts at the "left" (whatever you think that is) and lump people into massed swathes of ideology. Comedically enough, as you and a small clique of 4-5 other posters accuse the left of being an amorphous blob, you say not all right wingers are nazis, but somehow all left wingers are acting at antifa levels of aggression. How does your brain disconnect these things? Are you capable of self reflection and criticism?

              Finally, go ask a psychologist about your sister's favourite saying. Sticks and stone will break your bones, but words will eventually make someone blow their own brains out. Even if it isn't that extreme, you are saying that it is fine for a majority group (males) to push a minority group (females) out of a multiplayer game with abuse and that's ok because they just can't handle the internet.

              I'm going to ask directly this time, what the fuck is wrong with you?

                I am going to try not to reply quite as in detail as its a little hard at work, so I will do it in short points;

                -I am not offended, I literally said "k" at the start and in my second post said that "if you have a problem with how people talk online you should turn off chat or play a singleplayer game", a further extension would be to mute people talking shit, heck I do it in league sometimes.
                -I don't have an issue with equal treatment, there were a few articles in the past where I conceded that there are social issues that women definitely face, but the same argument could be made about men from a legal perspective (severe punnishment for same crimes, unfairly treated during custody struggles, etc). My problem is that feminist groups never talk about the othetside of the coin.
                -I am not a part of any clique here, the closest person I have associated to on political opinion on this site is someone that I have still argued with. I am pretty sure there are very few non far left authoritarian accounts on Kotaku.
                -Not right wing, I am not going to elaborate on my outlook, but all you need to know is that I work with a lot of central Australian support groups.
                -Nothing is wrong with me, I just don't subscribe to the chain of thought that men are systematically trying to oppress women.

                Erg mobile screen format made it hard to judge the comment length.

                Last edited 10/02/17 3:58 pm

                  If you don't believe that society isn't highly male-centric and actively oppressed women, then there is definitely something wrong with you.

      Way to cherry pick one comment dude. What about the rest of the article? How would you feel if every time you logged onto a game and people found out you were a guy, they barraged you with comments designed to make you log off and never play again?

      Or if people did that to your mother? Your sister? Your girlfriend? Your daughter?

      do you now see why this is a problem???

        Ummm I play league, cs and siege. Abuse is really common in those games, it is not gender specific, you just notice it more because you are looking for confirmation bias. The closest thing to gendet specific interactions are guys creepin thinking they have some perceived chance with a rando online.

          How do you know? You're not korean and you're not a chick. You don't know what gets said

          Do you mean to say the entire article is fake and this is not occuring?

          Or are you saying it's not a problem?

          I have 2 daughters and a wife (and a mother and a sister) and I'm telling you, it's not okay to be treated like that just because of your gender.

            I am saying that the abuse that occurs online isn't gender specific. If you have a penis you are just as likely to be told to kill yourself or called a fag. If you are going to champion the bullied online regardless of gender, race or age fair enough. However if you are going to sit there and say women experience it more often then I am going to laugh. Watch twitch streamers in country, its all the same.

            Stop trying to make women into a protected class.

              Yes, women do experience it more often. You just don't notice it because most women who play those games either won't use voice chat or quit the games completely. The very fact that such an abusive culture exists in online gaming is a testament to the toxic masculinity that permeates through online gaming culture and the fact that you don't find this disturbing is tantamount to endorsement.

              ????

              Man I don't think you're even replying to me. You're not answering any of my questions, you're just repeating yourself. Just because you've been called a fag DOESN'T mean you have it just as bad.

              I guess what it comes down to is I'd like a better world for everyone. And this is clearly wrong. You seem to be saying 'this is what it's like, so don't help anyone'.

              Noone is trying to make women into a protected class. It's very interesting that you would say that. Those are your words. I'm just saying that people shouldn't be abused because of things they cannot change like the colour of their skin or their gender. It's called discrimination, it's wrong and it's also against the law in this country.

                You are wilfully silly, I have never at any point said "'this is what it's like, so don't help anyone'."; as a matter of fact it was quite the opposite "If you are going to champion the bullied online regardless of gender, race or age fair enough".

                "Noone is trying to make women into a protected class. It's very interesting that you would say that. Those are your words. I'm just saying that people shouldn't be abused because of things they cannot change like the colour of their skin or their gender. It's called discrimination, it's wrong and it's also against the law in this country."

                LOOOOOOL You have at multiple points said that women have it hard, I said that if you were saying the bullying of everyone that it was bad fair enough to be against it. You literally made it about women (in this case your wife and daughters), you made them the protected class. I have told my siblings (I am the oldest of six by nine years) that if they ever feel threatened in games to just mute people or turn off chat, nothing stops you from removing the bullies input; as a brother I can't stop someone from being mean to them, but I can give them the tools and hopefully mental fortitude to help them make the right decisions for themselves.

                I am not going to reply anymore because you clearly have decided that you are going to put words in my mouth and claim you have said things you haven't.

                  Okay. Good chat man. You really got your points across in an intelligent and insightful way. You were so close to changing my views. Too bad you're not going to reply anymore. Guess you have trouble discussing how you feel calmly with people who are ready to call you on your bullshit.

                  Say hi to the alt-right for me!

                  BTW the reason I said at multiple points that women have it hard?

                  Is because that's what the article is about. That's what we were talking about. That is the subject being discussed. So it makes sense that's what I'm talking about. Do you follow now?

                  Oh yeah. You're not replying anymore. Very mature. Way to stand up for your beliefs. Strong.

      I'm honestly surprised by the hate you got for this comment. I understand why people are against you given the subject, but everyone is entitled to their opinions.

      A certain measure of "dealing with it" (I put quotations for emphasis, not to quote you) is indeed needed, but I feel the way you're communicating it is interpreted as very heartless, and that's at the fault of everyone here. This subject can be seen as funny just because everyone is stupid. Some feminists are genuinely uneducated people spewing their opinion because they feel entitled, but some people, like some of the people in For D.Va, seem to be genuinely trying to make the situation better, and as long as you know that there is A problem there, whether big or small in your eyes then this article and group has served a purpose.

      We all will experience hate, and how we deal with it really shows who we are as a person. None of us can completely relate to what these women are going through, so we can only chose from the outside if they're "right" to make a big deal and fight about this. So let's just respect each other's views because you're all right in a way.

      Yes, they need to suck it up to a certain degree, and I hope they're talking amongst themselves about how to take that kind of "verbal abuse", but there is a problem out there, and if people believe doing what they're doing is the way to lighten the problem then that's cool too. Trash talk will always be there, and if they expect everything to go away then they need to realize that just because it's "worse" for them doesn't mean it won't stop and if they believe they can make it disappear then they're dead wrong. We need people to tell them to deal with it, we need people to show support, and we need people who will act, only then can we begin to come to a solution that can help all sides.

      TL:DR: They won't completely fix the problem and they need to deal with it, but they also need people that can believe in and support them as they try to make their treatment problems tolerable. All sides of this argument are valid and deserve respect!

    Wow. That's bloody terrible. Sounds like they have a real fight on their hands when it's so engendered into the gaming culture over there.

    It's pretty bad here too but damn. Fucking sucks.

      I play OW with two girls regularly and the number of imbecile pubbies that drop in and immediately act like arseholes does my fucking head in.

    My Battle.net gamer tag is simply "feminist", and by coincidence I main with D.Va (not as any form of statement, she just suits my gameplay style). Whilst I have received supporting comments and many players aren't phased by my gamer tag, there are a LOT of people that get up in arms about it and I've seen all sorts of ridiculous reactions - from people simply typing insults, to going on rants over the mic at me. Recently I had someone deliberately select D.Va and spent the whole game suiciding off the edge of the map, effectively throwing the whole game for our team just because they didn't like my gamer tag (and the fact that despite them being twice my level, I outplayed the crap out of them in the previous match).

    so that in 2060 (when the Overwatch takes place), someone like D.Va could actually appear.

    2060? Jesus they're not very optimistic are they! Guess they've got no reason to be.

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