In a recently released story, Blizzard revealed that everyone’s favorite gruff Overwatch dad Soldier: 76 had a boyfriend in his younger days. The short stands as a well-written revelation, subtle and elegant. For many people, that’s enough to celebrate. However, Blizzard can and should be doing so much more to bring the LGBTQ community into their games. It’s also somewhat suspect that this reveal comes close on the heels of the Ellie controversy in which pro-players conspired, supposedly as a “social experiment”, to elevate a young woman to a professional Overwatch team.
This isn’t the first hero Blizzard has revealed to be part of the queer community. In 2016, Blizzard published the comic Tracer: Reflections which starred Tracer on a quest to find her girlfriend Emily a Christmas present. In a sweet, genuine moment the comic shows Tracer and Emily exchanging presents before sharing a romantic kiss on their couch. Tracer: Reflections established Tracer as a lesbian and Blizzard received quite a bit of praise for their decision to reveal Tracer’s sexuality.
The actual announcement itself came in the form of a short story called “Bastet” published online by Blizzard. "Bastet" follows the exploits of the healer/sniper Ana Amari as she encounters Jack Morrison aka Soldier: 76 while attempting to assassinate a brutal dictator in Cairo, Egypt. The story, penned by Overwatch’s lead writer Michael Chu, manages to convey quite a bit about the two Overwatch heroes, and even a little bit of insight into the tortured Reaper, in just fourteen short pages. However, there’s a wider context to everything in life. If we take that context into account, the release of this story and the way Blizzard handles the LGBTQ reveals in such an ancillary manner could be handled in a better, more proactive manner than they have been up until now.
- This Page: How Soldier: 76's Reveal Falls Short
- Next Page: Overwatch Isolates Itself & Blizzard's PR Smokescreen
How The Reveal Of Soldier: 76's Sexuality Falls Short
The way Blizzard presented Soldier: 76’s sexuality could easily be misinterpreted or missed entirely. Michael Chu’s "Bastet" is a great read, but it’s only going to reach a small group of dedicated super fans. It was given prime placement on the Overwatch launcher itself, but even that doesn’t mean all that much to most players who simply glaze over those announcements while moving their mouse to the play button. The segment of gamers who will read the story shrinks even further when considering that console players don’t see the same launcher and, consequently, aren’t exposed to the story in the first place.
The reveal that Jack Morrison had a boyfriend back in the day leaves a lot of unanswered questions, especially since the story itself isn’t actually about Soldier: 76’s relationship. The moment comes and goes, receiving about a page and a half of "Bastet’s" already limited run. Ana and Jack take a moment to reminisce over some old photographs and Ana stumbles onto a weathered picture of a young Jack with his arm around a dark haired man named Vincent. Even with that visual and lines like, “Relationships don’t work out so well for us, do they?” readers have wiggle room for interpretation of the scene. Fans had so many questions that the writer of the piece, Michael Chu, took to Twitter to confirm that, yes, Jack Morrison is a gay man.
To be clear: it’s a big deal that Soldier: 76 is romantically attracted to men. It represents a lot to the LGBTQ community who play the game, while also standing as a really awesome piece of character development. It’s great, full stop. The problem comes into focus when we take a step back and realize that a huge portion of the fan base, the console players, never see the one piece of story content that depicts Soldier: 76 as being gay. On top of that, its subtle implementation might leave many players in the classic "Harold, they’re lesbians" meme scenario, totally oblivious to its implications; especially if they miss the confirmation tweet from Michael Chu.