Overwatch Director Says There Are Story Reasons For Saving The First Black Woman Hero For The Sequel

Overwatch currently has 31 playable heroes. One of them is a gorilla from the moon. Another is a hamster in a mecha ball. None of them are black women. This has led to a series of increasingly exasperated pleas from fans over the years, to little avail. Now, finally, Blizzard has confirmed the existence of an upcoming black woman hero: Sojourn. But she’s not joining the roster until Overwatch 2, a game with no release date.

Big-budget video games do not feature many playable black women. But Overwatch, at the very least, purports to care about inclusion, so for many players, it’s been baffling to see multiple genetically-engineered animals and old white guys make the cut before a black woman. Sojourn, a former member of the heroic Overwatch organisation who’s poised to make a return, will finally change that. At BlizzCon, she appeared in a trailer and was officially confirmed as an upcoming hero. Why now, though? Or really, why whenever Overwatch 2 finally comes out? Why a whole new game? Why not sooner? Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said it’s because Sojourn has become a major part of the series’ story.

“We concepted Sojourn before the original Overwatch game even launched,” Kaplan told Kotaku at BlizzCon over the weekend. “She immediately became a very important character to us, and as we were developing the idea for Overwatch 2, she sort of started to move to the centre of the story. She’s coming to the surface now. You saw her in [the recent PVE event] Storm Rising. She was the commander sending the troops into Havana on that mission. We’ve always had the storyline for her, and we’ve been working on Overwatch 2 for many years now.”

As Kaplan pointed out, Sojourn has been skulking around in Overwatch’s scaffolding for years. Many fans first noticed her in the 2016 “Recall” animated short, in which Winston used an AI-powered computer to put out a desperate call to lapsed Overwatch members. Sojourn was one of those heroes.

Since then, fans have waited in mounting frustration for her arrival. Some have even sent letters to Kaplan, who, in one case in 2017, wrote back with a heartfelt response in which he said that “the most important thing to me is that those in positions to influence and reflect society start portraying very normal things as being normal” and promised that more black heroes were in development. During our BlizzCon interview, though, Kaplan explained that Sojourn’s slow rollout is all part of a larger plan. He intends on sticking to that plan, despite how many players have voiced their dissatisfaction.

“I personally feel like the right thing to do by the character is still deliver on that story and not just rush her out because the community is upset with us,” Kaplan said. “I tend to find that there’s always a community upset with us over something. I’ve mentioned this before, but the real value of Overwatch inclusivity is the idea that we’re open-minded, that we want everybody to feel welcome into the universe, and the result of that is diversity. I would hate for the diversity to ever feel pandering, like we just had this spreadsheet with a bunch of checkboxes. Because it’s a ridiculous notion to think we’re ever going to be able to represent all the people on the planet.”

But while it’s one thing to overtly pander to a marginalised audience in hopes of coaxing dollars out of their wallets, it’s something else to run a game for three and a half years, add numerous heroes to it, and fail to represent a sizable segment of the populace who have asked to be included countless times, only to be sent to the back of the line. One character among a roster of 31 (and counting) is not pandering. That’s the absolute bare minimum of representation.

On top of that, the Overwatch team has been effusive in the past about moments when they got excited about a new hero idea or design, and that hero jumped the line and quickly made it into the game. But Kaplan said that kind of approach just wouldn’t work with Sojourn. He used the game’s most recent hero, Sigma, as a contrast. Sigma, he said, is “not at the centre of our story” and was more an answer to the question “What is great gameplay that matches a cool character right now?” This, said Kaplan, made Sigma’s story “more malleable.”

“We would literally have to redo the entire plotline of Overwatch 2 if we were to just remove Sojourn and kind of fast-track her,” he said.

For now, Kaplan just wants fans to know that he thinks Sojourn will be worth the wait.

“While I know it’s a really important issue to a lot of people, they need to know that Sojourn is amazing, and we would rather do right by the character—treat her like an actual human being—than just rush her out,” he said. “And I think that the fact that she’s going to be at the centre of Overwatch 2 is going to be really meaningful to a lot of our fans.”


Comments

    I think it is rather sad that in a game that really went out of its way to be as diverse as possible in its game characters and backgrounds, they still got hate because they didnt tick one precise box.

      These types will never be satisfied. It's never enough.

        Black women?

          Nathan Grayson is a black woman?

          First I've heard of it.

            No, I mean, black women are mostly the ones requesting to be represented in the game, which Grayson, a reporter, reports. What exactly should they be satisfied with?

            Oh, I get it. Black women are yet another of those things fabricated by posturing "journos" for clicks. Nobody actually in the real world wants a black woman in the game.

    This Political Correctness stuff is pathetic, its so cringeworthy, it's also what is ruining modern day comics.

      OK Boomer

        Awkward moment when us *cringe* millennials are the ones saying exactly that

        Not even a boomer - Just let me play a dam game

          Unpopular Opinion: You can play a game without complaining about the 'Political Correctness' of said game. The real cringe is when you do the opposite of this.

          Edit: OK Zoomer

            "Oh noes! A black woman, so political!! They are ruining my game by putting some minorities in it, even though I could always choose from a variety of straight white dudes! Only by making everybody a straight white guy we will achieve perfect apoliticalness which is the only way a game can possibly be enjoyed!"

          It's funny because of your current name =P

      Ruining? They are already ruined.

      Sales have been plummetting year on year.
      While Manga sales have been increasing year on yet. I wonder why? Could it be Manga lacks something western comic publishers are shoving in?

      I'm always amused when I stumble across one of these self-appointed comics fans complaining about political correctness, diversity and the such in comics.

      Actual comics fans know that back when Marvel comics were first created they included a column literally called "Stan's Soapbox" where he would straight out, unashamedly would preach to the readers about these things. Not to mention all the super thinly-veiled metaphors that some storylines or characters were meant to stand for, supporting the kind of stuff that angry boys nowadays scoff at as "SJW stuff".

      Superheroes have always stood for using the privilege of one's power for the good of the marginalised, the weak and the disinfranchised. You don't get to claim them to validate your power fantasies, edginess or whatever else it is that sets you against their intended messaging of messages.

        You keep on believing that bud.

        Meanwhile, Comic sales keep on falling every year and Manga sales keep increasing. I'm sure things will work out one day lol.

          "Believing"? Are you implying that I'm objectively wrong? Did I dream Stan's columns?

    Character exists and she's coming. One of the most diverse games in the industry and people are upset because she's not in it now or in the past few years. Honestly there are bigger things to clamour about than this. I mean no one is complaining that death stranding appears to be an all white cast, or that the characters in the mario games are all white. Honestly theirs a vocal minority who will bash those who are making a difference no matter what happens. You might say its a little too late, but honestly come off your high horse, this is their story to tell and they can tell it their way. The character is coming, end of story here

      but honestly come off your high horse
      This author is firmly secured on that saddle, sir.

      He sits atop that high horse looking down and passing judgement on us mere peasants, for he clearly believes he is the be all end all of moral authority and righteousness in the world.

        He's one of those woke people that should get over themselves. You know, the ones Obama was referring to.

          Its been funny watching the pronoun crowd mentally breakdown over their hero essentially calling them out on their bullshit. Its been even funnier watching some call him "Alt-right" because he used the term "Woke"

      You are missing the fact that people are expecting it precisely because Blizzard has priced themselves on it, and it's part of the PR they use to market this game. That's why nobody is asking it from DS or Mario. Under that light, it is a fair request.

      I mean it's not like they are requesting an asexual trans-hermaphrodite disabled Bolivian Confucianist or some other sort of super-specific and uncommon representation. A black woman is like the second or third most common demographic in Western countries besides white males.

        asexual trans-hermaphrodite disabled Bolivian Confucianist

        Now that i would love to see just for the hilarity of what the character would look like.

    Se previously they were desperately asking for a black character, but once they add one instead of praising Blizzard they attack them for not adding it earlier?

    This is why society at large laughs at you.

      Articles like this are why people laugh at Nathan Grayson. At least Jeff seems to have some common sense. Unlike nathan

      Because it’s a ridiculous notion to think we’re ever going to be able to represent all the people on the planet

      Overwatch is one of the most pandering games currently in existence. The game has gay, bisexual, white, Asian, autistic, Indian, black, Latino, and Egyptian characters, Among many others.

      Yet because there isn't a black female it's not diverse enough.

      it’s been baffling to see multiple genetically-engineered animals and old white guys make the cut before a black woman.

      Love the casual racism. Oh right. That's perfectly acceptable on Kotaku. Swap "White" for "Black" and types like Nathan would be frothing at the mouth at such a sentence.

        Pandering is an unnecessarily negative word but it's quite possibly the most diverse game on the market without a doubt. Even all the whities come from different parts of the globe, mostly.

          That's what boggles my mind. Overwatch is by far the most diverse game currently on the market.

          Yet it's not enough for these types. They are never happy.

            Like lets, for example, imagine that the game at this point had no white playable characters at all and only had non-white characters.

            Would Nathan Grayson write an article complaining about the lack of diversity? No. He would definitely though write and article shitting on people calling for white characters in this instance.

              Whites are the only racial group of people you can actively disclose (even on purpose) and the medium can still be praised for it's "inclusivity"

            This annoys me every time I see it.

            This everyone of a particular political position holds all of the same beliefs, where I of course am above this. 'These types' are never rational and logical like I am.

            Elsewhere you complain about people getting on their high horse over issues like this, that 'these types' are pathetic for getting so angry about this, yet you are the one flooding this article with your angry opinions. Maybe being represented in media has never been an issue for you, but plenty of people want to see someone that looks like them included in games that all too often don't include such representations. Overwatch's obvious strength, and purely from an aesthetic standpoint, is how visually different each character is, it markets itself on trying to be as inclusive as possible, so of course people want to be included where they previously haven't been.
            Love the casual racism. Oh right. That's perfectly acceptable on Kotaku. Swap "White" for "Black" and types like Nathan would be frothing at the mouth at such a sentence.
            I mean really, who's the one with the frothing mouth when you've just vomited your garbage all over this article. But of course everyone's fallible except you right?

        Think that you bought a box of coloured pencils. It's a really fancy box, so it includes some really out of the ordinary colours such as lilac, mauve, metallic silver and burgundy. If somebody took a look and complained that it is missing "sparkly bubblegum magenta", I'd agree with you if you called that person entitled or unrealistic. But if I ask you why it doesn't have blue, would that make entitled?

        It's precisely because Overwatch has gone so out of their way to make its characters diverse (and totally reaped the brownie points from people who care about it) that the hole of one of the biggest minority demographics is so visible and warranting of questioning.

        That said, once they revealed that such character is coming, I agree people should calm down. However, I'm not quick to chalk that entitlement to them being "these types" as you call them, but rather, to their being gamers. Gamers are the most entitled demographic in the world.

          This is why people shouldn't try to use analogies to explain things. In all my years I'm yet to find an analogy appropriately used in internet discussions.

          Blue is a primary colour and used to make other colours. A person's race in a video game is very different.

            Hahah that the silliest thing I've heard in a while. If you reduce things to that level of literalism and technicality absolutely NO simile, metaphor or any other kind of literary figure stands scrutiny.

            All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players

            "Um, incorrect. To begin with, the world is a spheroid, not a flat surface made of wood. Also, there are no curtains nor backstage and only a negligible percentage of the world's population are trained actors."

    @alexwalker :

    I'm publicly calling out @simocrates and @m2d2 (whom I'm also tagging to keep everything in the open.) Thread after thread in which progressive topics are discussed, both of them engage in brigade downvoting almost every post in favor of the topic at hand regardless of content or tone. Conversations have been attempted with them in which I have explained that doing so places people in auto-moderation and both have expressed to be aware and ok with the fact.

    Given how they very seldom deign to participate in the discussion beyond downvoting and their acknowledgment of the consequences, I think it's fair to accuse them of purposefully attempting to silence certain views which are precisely the same that Kotaku espouses in its articles. I'm perfectly ok with dissenting opinions and although there's a number of other users in here with whose views I disagree, I respect them because they engage in discussion and do not nakedly downvote every opposing argument. However, I am getting tired of being placed in automoderation so often in spite of not breaking any rules because of the actions of these two (and a few others who, thankfully, are not so regular).

    Speaking of rules if there's no rule in Kotaku about gaming the system to silence people at will, there should be. We have already lost a few regular commenters to stuff like this, which is probably the plan. I'm asking you, Alex, to present to your superiors the concern that a few bad users have the capability to disengage and discourage the kind of users that Kotaku purportedly desires to have around.

    To address the obvious and disingenuous criticism this may give raise from the parties in question, I am not advocating for censorship: if any, I'd rather see them participating in the discussion instead of sitting on the lines and shooting downvotes to anything they disagree with. I am advocating for the removal of their account privileges which they abuse in order to essentially censor other users.

      My dissenting opinions often send me to the dog house. It is one of the reasons I don't engage as much because a fresh comment gives the usual suspects an opportunity to censor my voice. Myself and others have often spoken about the flaws in the auto moderation feature when it comes to downvotes.

        How is your voice "censored"? Because you get criticism? Because people disagree? That's not censorship. On the other hand, if you are talking about downvotes getting you modded, that's more of a reason for you to understand that you shouldn't engage in mass downvoting either. We often disagree and sometimes I downvote you and I don't particularly mind if you sometimes downvote me if I'm being snarky or sarcastic. But when you go over almost every comment under an article downvoting me or others, compounded by the fact that m2d2 (and sometimes others) do the same, it becomes a problem.

          Not sure if you are being ironic on purpose or just a hypocrite. Either way Alex has better things to do than deal with this high school level of drama you are causing by calling people out.

            Good of you to keep an eye out for Alex. Did you know that he himself has to manually fix it when users get placed in automoderation because of careless downvotes?

            Seriously, I am not asking for much, am I? In fact, you have to go out of your way to do what I am asking you not to do, going through comment threads downvoting everything you don't like.

            I wouldn't be "causing drama" if people like you stopped misusing downvotes as you have been requested to. Next you'll complain about those dramatic victims causing extra work for cops by denouncing rapists and robbers.

              People like me? Wow you just had to go there didn’t you. Also I wouldn’t complain about those dramatic victims because that is a straw man argument and has nothing to do with this topic of discussion.

              Be the change you want to see pylgrim. Don’t downvote comments and maybe people will follow your example.

                I'd challenge you to count the number of downvotes I give against the number of the ones you give, but I won't because a) I know that you won't bother, and b) I know that you know very well what's the difference and this is just rhetoric deflection which I'm not sure whom do you think is fooling.

                It's ok, though. I didn't expect this to change your mind or anything. Just wanted you two to know that your tactics are not hidden from sight, and I'm personally satisfied with Alex's comment regarding his keeping an eye on people with a known anti-community behaviour pattern.

                  I assume you think that Alex's comment was directed at me. If that helps you sleep at night then fair enough but like I said before; he has better things to do than deal with this high school level of drama you are trying to create.

      Typical pylgrim. Gets downvoted and blames brigading rather than his own personal opinions.

        Surely the two aren't mutually exclusive?

        The question is why losing a thumb up/down popularity contest, brigading or not, should result in those opinions, no matter how politely argued and no matter how much thought has gone into them, being locked into moderation for no crime other expressing an unpopular opinion.

        There is absolutely no justification for down-vote moderation. It does little if anything to discourage shitposting and trolling, those posts largely just get ignored.

        The articles that end up attracting thumb wars are almost exclusively issues that people feel passionate about, the end result of which is that one side typically gets a free pass while the other side ends up silenced.

          Just as a side note to this: I really dislike the whole idea of downvotes. It's a system that relies on more goodwill than you usually have, and it tends to be a better model where people are just encouraged to spread flak rather than promoting positive behaviour.

          But there are some management benefits to it - it helps community moderation on a mass scale when you don't have people dedicated to the comments section, it can help combat spammers, and it was absolutely necessary 5-6 years ago when the volume of comments was astronomical. Things are a bit different in 2019.

          That said, changing comment systems is one of those things that is always going to be on the backburner a bit - there's other wholesale changes that affect the reader experience more that I'd want to be rolled out first, so it's the best system we have unfortunately.

          (But for those who are abusing the system - I can see who you are, and you're on thin ice. Knock it off before your main accounts and alts get nuked into oblivion.)

            People actually have alts?
            Logging in/out just to upvote/downvote certain posts is far too much effort, well it should be anyway.

          Well one is a organised and planned effort to silence someone, the other is person having opinions people dont like and when they express them, get themselves a downvote.
          Pylgrim would rather advocate people having upvotes/downvotes taken away from them, claim brigading, than maybe looking a little inward. But its par for the course and im not surprised in the slightest.

          Personally i dont like the downvoting = auto mod system as it currently works.
          There is no way a comment that say only has -2 for example leads to auto mod, even if there are several posts in a thread that all end in -2.
          2 people as he so claims should not be able to send a person into auto mod.
          But i dont work for kotaku and cant see the way it works and dont know if its as simple as changing the criteria to hit auto mod or it needs a full rebuild.

            It's balancing that against all the other dev priorities.

              Im sure there is ALOT, but if balancing comes into play, its more that its not a simple as just changing an integer on the amount of downvotes needed to cross a threshold.

            You need to understand that although the system is clearly imperfect, its biggest flaw is that it relies on your collaboration and you are unwilling. I and others have explained to you that downvotes are NOT meant to be used for disagreement but as a soft reprimand for truly anti-community behaviour such as threats, harassment, trolling, discrimination, etc. You do not care, you keep using downvotes the way you want, and believe that blaming the system for punishing other people for your misuse of it makes it all ok.

            I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that you seem not to understand how that's a bad thing, though I guess it is not surprising when most of the stuff that you downvote is related to the rights and/or plights of minorities.

              I would say I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that you seem not to understand that you still fail to look inward.
              But i can and its not a surprise at all. Because you think you get downvoted because of rights, when if you would look inward, you know that its not about rights at all. Its what everyone tells you when they downvote you, but you ignore it.
              You then claim that upvotes downvotes are NOT meant to be used for disagreement but every other website that uses that feature disagrees.
              But hey, You claim
              using your downvotes to lazily express dissent affects my capacity to use the website.
              But then you also
              I am advocating for the removal of their account privileges which they abuse in order to essentially censor other users.
              So i guess it all comes back to that, you.
              You dont want YOUR experience to be altered, yet you and alot of your similar minded folks downvote others because you claim they are for truly anti-community behaviour such as threats, harassment, trolling, discrimination and hide behind the fact YOU speak for the rights of minorities and acting like you are the only one who finds himself in auto mod.

              Keep doing those mental gymnastics you do oh so well and fail to look inward.

                I would say I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that you seem not to understand that you still fail to look inward.

                Ah right, you mentioned this already. It is MY fault for having these opinions. Ii I just fell in line with your views (which apparently are the only ones objectively correct), or at the very least, didn't comment at all, I wouldn't get downvoted, simple as that, right?

                You then claim that upvotes downvotes are NOT meant to be used for disagreement but every other website that uses that feature disagrees.

                Who cares what other websites do? This website uses downvotes the way I have explained which is evidenced by the fact that automoderation relies on downvotes. Why else that would be the case? Alex has admitted that this is the case, what more do you need? You insist on making it about YOUR experience, the way you wish things were and if they are not that way, well, you are going to plow through anyway, since the only ones who experience consequences from your behaviour are other people, not you.

                You dont want YOUR experience to be altered, yet you and alot of your similar minded folks downvote others because you claim they are for truly anti-community behaviour such as threats, harassment, trolling, discrimination and hide behind the fact YOU speak for the rights of minorities and acting like you are the only one who finds himself in auto mod.

                Really? I challenge you to go through this thread or similar threads and compare the way I (and others who spouse views similar to mine) use downvotes against the way you and Simocrates do. Do you notice any difference?

                Seeing the way you downvote, I don't even think you read the comments, just look at the username and click the button. As I said, you have not given me anything to believe that you don't mean harm when you press that button since it's literally more work to do it than not to do it, and boy, do you hit that button dozens of times per comment thread.

                  Go have a look a pokemon thread, go have a look at the games while high thread. Go have a look at every other thread that isnt the rhetoric you throw around about 'rights'.
                  People upvoting and downvoting not because of the bullshit you spun, but because of differing opinions.
                  Everyone on this site uses it the same way, but you want it used the way you want cause you get downvotes because of your own moral stance. Tough. Because you end in Auto mod. Just like every time i end up in there because other people dont like what I said. Just like everyone else.
                  Welcome to the Kotaku comments.
                  I could not care any less that you think im doing you harm when i press a button as its laughable you think a person pressing a button is out to get you. No wonder you have the opinions you do.
                  Take pleasure in that im going away for holidays for a touch over a week and no matter what BS you spew forth on here that i wont downvote it.
                  Peace.

                Mate you said what I was thinking and articulated it in a better way than my patience would have allowed. Really hit the nail on the end about the hypocrisy in the comment about complaining about censorship then calling for censorship of people he doesn’t agree with.

                  Hahaha incredible. "Taking away my power to censor other people is censorship!" This is "Calling me racist is the worst form of racism" levels of disingenuous rhetoric and I 100% predicted that you'd use it, so much that you couldn't help yourself even though I pre-called you out on it.

                  I literally said that I don't want you to lose your power to comment but that's not enough, it seems. You want both to have a voice and the ability to take away the voices of others.

                  @pylgrim I think you should probably read over your initial comment calling out for the censorship of myself and Mr m2d2. You seem to have confused what you clearly wrote with what you think I apparently said. Just move on mate, we've all spat the dummy one time or another, I did it once on this website as well, you've just had your moment now. No biggy.

                  I think you should probably read over your initial comment calling out for the censorship of myself and Mr m2d2. You seem to have confused what you clearly wrote with what you think I apparently said. Just move on mate, we've all spat the dummy one time or another, I did it once on this website as well, you've just had your moment now. No biggy.

                  My initial comment? The one where I clearly, literally explained how that was not a call for censorship, yet I predicted that you'd cry censorship anyway? That one?

                  Anyway, as I said, I'm satisfied with having brought this out to the open. You can call it "create drama" (with only two other users in a defunct thread? Man, I must be really bad at this), I call it "making sure that people who believe it's ok to try to silence other people know that a mod is aware". Will it change your behaviour in the future? One hopes. As I have mentioned several times, all I want is for you not to abuse the power of downvoting. Any other way in which you want to engage with the site, including commenting and expressing yourself, I welcome, even if/when I disagree with what you have to say.

        Unless you are implying that my opinions are /objectively wrong/, what is to "blame" on them? Feel free to disagree with them, feel free to call me out on them if you think they are outrageous or debate me if you think they are mistaken. Feel free to ignore them if you just dislike them and cannot be bothered to say it with words. But as I've told you several times now, using your downvotes to lazily express dissent affects my capacity to use the website.

        You have chosen to blame the website for allowing it, with which I agree, but if the website is not going to change, it's just common humanity to stop a behaviour which damages others when they ask you, especially when it cost you nothing. Not pressing that button will not affect you in the least, but you know it will affect me and everybody else whom you do it to as well. So how am I not to infer that you are intentionally meaning harm?

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