South Korean Overwatch League Broadcast Apparently Omits Pride Day Festivities

Overwatch League’s Soe Gschwind Penski (Image: Blizzard)

If you tuned into the Overwatch League’s Friday games, you probably saw dozens of esports fans decked out in rainbow garb or flashing LGBTQ-themed signs as soon as the camera turned their way. It was Pride Day for the Overwatch League—a day that Overwatch publisher Blizzard put on for fans to “come together for diversity and inclusion,” they said in their announcement.

But Korean fans who tuned in saw something a little different: a business-as-usual Overwatch League broadcast with no pomp or circumstance.

According to two Overwatch League insiders with knowledge of the broadcast, leading up to last year’s Pride event, American and Korean Overwatch League broadcast professionals discussed how the celebration would come off to audiences in Asia. For “cultural reasons,” said a source, Blizzard’s Korean team and regional broadcast partners made the decision to minimally broadcast expressions of Pride Day at Blizzard Arena last year.

It’s possible these reasons are related to South Korea’s conservatism on LGBTQ rights. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, nearly 60 per cent of the country is against same-sex marriage, which is not legal there. (In the U.S., only about 33 per cent of people disapprove.)

This year’s Korean and American broadcasts were different as well, with the American one celebrating Pride and the Korean one strangely, well, not. Fans’ signs weren’t prominent, and according to two people who know Korean, there was little or no mention of Pride Day on the Korean broadcast.

Korea’s Pride Day broadcast did not appear significantly different from normal, but the hype and expressive Pride Day celebrations in Blizzard Arena do seem to be played down, something two sources say was, at least last year, intentional. Blizzard did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.

The Paris Eternal going on stage last Friday. (Gif: Overwatch League)

“We didn’t shoot the arena any differently than we would on any other day...We didn’t go out of our way to avoid signs, fans, atmosphere,” the second insider explained of the American broadcast. “Our Korean partners were aware of the event that [was hosted] in the arena and were allowed to make whatever decision they felt was appropriate for their broadcast based on that info.”

The insider added that “We gave the regional leads and their broadcast partners the autonomy to present their portion of the program as they felt best.” The broadcast out of California is the master broadcast, and most of what is added to or deviates from it is done in local markets. For example, each team has different casters, graphics, and desk segments.

Last year was the League’s first Pride event. “We’re excited to get into the spirit of diversity and inclusion throughout the day,” read Blizzard’s event description. In the Blizzard Arena, fans expressing support for queer individuals carried signs reading “Gays into the iris,” “Bi Pride,” “Play of the Gay” and “Hi gay, I’m Dad.”

In the foreground, casters like Chris Puckett wore rainbow wristbands. This year, the Pride Day broadcast was even more direct in its celebration. On the livestream, Puckett says, “Today is Pride Day and we are celebrating the mutual support between the Overwatch League and the LGBTQ community here at the Blizzard Arena...The Overwatch League prides itself on welcoming fans from all walks of life regardless of background or lifestyle. Today, we want take a moment to acknowledge some of the biggest fans in the LGBTQ community.”

On Blizzard’s merchandise site, the company sold Pride pins to benefit the Trevor Fund, a suicide prevention organisation for young, queer people.

Overwatch League also celebrated one dedicated queer fan in a video. Of Blizzard, he says, “It’s great they’re upfront. Ther’s a lot of queer space in this game. I think it’s great that the Overwatch League, as a new organisation, is being part of the vanguard celebrating Pride so openly. Traditional sports are not as forward with their Pride events as the Overwatch League. I think that makes Overwatch League stand out.”

Although it makes sense for Blizzard to cater to what they believe their audience’s tastes are, one insider says that if Blizzard wants to be a force for change, they might have to make bolder decisions. Overwatch’s most prominent character, Tracer, canonically dates a woman. Yet in 2019, as game companies finally begin to better represent the people who play their games, it can be hard to tell whether these moves are fuelled by market analyses or genuine enthusiasm for fans’ multivaried backgrounds.

Said the insider, “I think the message of Pride is, ‘Hey, you are not alone. Nothing is wrong with you. You are welcome here.’ It is for all those people who are told otherwise. People who doubt their own feelings and thoughts. To say it to only America or EU doesn’t help that kid in Korea or China. A leader stands up. Either Blizzard is leader on this subject or it is cheap marketing.”


Comments

    It's fueled by market analysis. People shouldn't kid themselves.

    The fact they don't show it in Korea reflects that they don't want to alienate the Korean market.

      Which kind of makes a mockery of the whole thing.

      "We support the LGBTQ community, but only in ways that can be minimised where that position isn't socially acceptable."

        It's complex.

        Showing it in Korea isn't necessarily going to change the views of Koreans towards homosexuality. On the other hand, maybe it will.... but when 60% of the country is against, and they are deeply conservative... probably not.

        I think people need to remember that other parts of the world have different beliefs, and forcing ours onto them isn't going to make them change their minds all of a sudden. Societal views change slowly.

        I remember some of the stuff that people said back in the 2000's to 2010's in Australia when it came to LGBTQ people. Australia's views were much like Korea's only 10 years ago.

          I'm sure it would affect Blizzard negatively to broadcast the whole Pride Day thing in Korea, and that's why they omitted it. But there will be a similar proportion of LGBT people in Korea as the rest of the world, so don't those folk deserve the same support as those elsewhere?

          If the support is conditional, then it could potentially be withdrawn if it becomes politically sensitive. That kind of support isn't particularly meaningful at all.

            To an extent, although it's not like that will change for western countries in this instance.

            To me it seems bizarre that people here would rather they do nothing at all everywhere, than something for westerners.

    And?

    Pride should be something people embrace.
    Not something you push onto others

    Stop acting like the tiniest things are a full-blown war on the LGBTIQ+

    Korea is not California.

      On that note... I'll never understand the insane zealotry from some Americans who, no matter what, feel the need to push all of their beliefs and ideals onto everyone else.

      It's to the point where if you aren't waving a flag representing X this or X that day in and day out, then you're clearly conspiring against them and must be purged from the realms.

        My worry is that pride is now being wielded as a fist to beat down anyone who doesn't kowtow to groupthink. Instead of it being an open hug welcoming anyone without any prejudice.

        When I used to attend pride rallies is was great fun, Even for a straight dude like me.

          It is at times, but it's no different to any other group or movement, there are always going to be those bad few no matter what the topic. I guess it just stands out more because the bad players are the exact opposite of what the movement is about, so it's a stark contrast.

      That kind of apathetic approach leads nowhere.

        Bruteforcing such an issue on a society which is largely conservative will not suddenly make them change their opinions.

        If anything it will make them push back harder. You need to gradually approach these things. Not shove it in their faces and insult them.

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