A Racist Overwatch Team Got Banned, But I Still Feel Like Shit

A Racist Overwatch Team Got Banned, But I Still Feel Like Shit
This Doomfist punches racists. (Screenshot: Blizzard)
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Despite having not played in a while, I love Overwatch. I love its bright and vibrant characters from every part of the world (with one glaring omission). I love its message of hope for better, and how we all have the capacity to affect positive change. As the heroine Tracer says, “the world could always use more heroes.” I love Overwatch esports, the friends I’ve made within that community, and the opportunities I’ve had to interview players and fans and write about the game. But this weekend reminded me that sometimes this game does not love me back.

On Saturday I came across a tweet concerning a team participating in Overwatch’s Open Division tournament. Open Division is an amateur tournament in which players compete for the opportunity to ascend the ranks of what Blizzard calls the Path To Pro, at the end of which lies the Overwatch League. In the tweet, the team Nice One Good Round was being called out for being blatantly racist. The team name “Nice One Good Round,” spelled out, is a banal phrase one could hear or see during end-of-match chat. However when you make the name an acronym and substitute the number “1” for “one” you get a nasty racial slur.

As a Black woman it’s disheartening to see that on its own. It became worse when I looked more closely at the team’s Twitter page. Their banner made it clear the acronym wasn’t a sick coincidence, featuring both the slur acronym and a racist caricature that looks like it’s supposed to be a sambo. Worse yet, in tweets welcoming new members, they call their players “N1GGAZ.” And, if all this wasn’t sickening enough, the team’s tweeted that they were actively recruiting racists.

It gets much, MUCH worse than this. (Screenshot: Twitter) It gets much, MUCH worse than this. (Screenshot: Twitter)

All that blatant racism, just out in the open for anyone to see. I can’t tell you how demoralising it is to see that. Racists recruiting more racists to be racist together in a game that I love and have devoted the last three years of my life to covering.

It’s difficult when things you love hurt you. I understand that those people are arseholes and have no affiliation with Blizzard and Overwatch. I get that. And I don’t blame Blizzard or the Open Division team for what’s happened here. According to an Open Division tournament admin I spoke to, the team has been banned from participating and the Twitter account no longer exists. I also reached out to Blizzard for comment, but have not heard back.

That should be the end of it, and as far as Overwatch and the Open Division tournament is concerned, it is. But in other ways it’s not. I still have to live with being a Black female gamer in a space that can be actively hostile to me. It’s difficult to reconcile loving and participating in something that treats you poorly. Common sense would suggest leaving behind something that hurts you.

But the next day as I was watching the premiere of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, the main character said something that perfectly summed up my experience as a Black female nerd subjected to the double whammy of misogyny and anti-Blackness in the communities I occupy. Main character Atticus Freeman, played by the foiiine Jonathan Majors, is a fan of Lovecraft, a celebrated horror/sci-fi author and notorious racist. Atticus makes no excuse that the person whose work he loves would hate that he, a Black man, is reading them.

“Stories are like people,” he says to his Black companion as they walk to their destination, both having been denied a ride on the truck that came to pick up stranded bus passengers. “Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws.”

“But the flaws are still there,” answers his companion.

Upon hearing that I had to raise my hands and shout. What a word! What a perfect word to encapsulate everything I went through yesterday dealing with those racists and everything I’ve been through just for daring to exist in my skin, in places once dominated by folks who did not look like me. That Lovecraft Country scene comforted me. Assured me that the cognitive dissonance that is sometimes required to be who I am is not singular to me. I’m not crazy. Nor am I ignorant. But seen and understood — empathized with. An emotion I wished those Overwatch players had exercised before doing what they did.

I reported the racist tweets and the members of the team being racists in the replies to tweets calling out the team. I sent an email to Blizzard and reached out to contacts to figure out how this happened so brazenly. According to Blizzard’s Open Division rules, team names must be submitted to Blizzard for approval. Anything offensive would be rejected. This team’s name, when spelled out at length, appears inoffensive to Blizzard’s cursory checking. Logos also have to be submitted. The tournament admin told me the team didn’t submit one.

Twitter pages are not subject to those rules. For the team’s part, some members said it was a joke. “[It was] an experiment to see how far we can get to see how corrupt blizzard [sic] as a whole truly is,” the team manager tweeted. Others remain committed, even gleeful in owning up to the racism they put on display. I have no words for that.

“But the flaws are still there.”

Comments

  • I think one of the saddest realisations I’ve had in my adult life is that progress isn’t a straight line. Worse still, you can never take your eye off it.

    We will be fighting these fights, until the end of time. We will never see a day without racism, or hate, or bigtory. It’s baked into the human condition. For every kindness, cruelty.

    The best we can attempt to do is push back and rip it out root and stem when we find it.

  • I still can’t comprehend how people can be so horrible to each other. Among my disabilities, I struggle with depression, and I would never want anyone to feel as down as I do.
    Also, for so long I didn’t know Lovecraft was a racist. I still like his stories, but it definitely puts a different perspective on some of them now.

    • Empathy as with common sense is dead these days..

      Its all about looking after no.1 and unfortunately some people will never grow out of being a child chucking tantys for attention

  • So as someone who’s effectively jumped from OW to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as my go-to multiplayer FPS, the one thing I wasn’t expecting was how the CoD community is less toxic than the OW community.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect, but my experiences with CoD have been a lot more positive (and also CoD has some really good ways to protect yourself from abuse, like disabling in-game text chat).

    Also… I’m actually better at CoD than I ever was at OW.

    • That surprises me greatly… I’ve always had shitty experiences with the CoD community, and it is almost entirely what made me avoid even installing it to try Warzone.

      Not that my experience with Overwatch has been much better, but there nearly all the toxicity I’ve come across has been expertly distilled down to potent, shrieking hatred in ranked and not so much in other modes.

  • “ I love its bright and vibrant characters from every part of the world (with one glaring omission).”
    What is she referencing here? Qatar? Scotland? Paraguay? Madagascar? Namibia? The Mariana Trench? Italy? Romania? Antarctica?

    • Without being snarky, I’m also genuinely confused as to which omission is so ‘glaring’. I mean… there’s 32 characters and 195 countries, there’s a bit more than ONE omission, so it’s hard to tell which one in particular is so glaring.

      • While being both snarky (not towards you personally) and also not snarky.

        You know very well, that it doesn’t matter how inclusive XYZ may be, it’s never enough and it never will be.

        • overwatch is racist, sexist, transphobic, ageist and classist because it doesnt contain a indigenous canadian gender ambiguous after transitioning from female 70yr old working class character. its 2020 people. get with the times.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!