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8 Jan, 2019 13:21

Blizzard announces Overwatch’s Soldier: 76 is gay, fan base squeals

Blizzard announces Overwatch’s Soldier: 76 is gay, fan base squeals

Video game company Blizzard has revealed a second canonically gay character in Overwatch, one of the most popular games in the world. Reactions were mixed.

Soldier: 76 (aka Jack Morrison), the over-the-top grizzled macho man with a gravelly voice and quite a few battle scars, is gay and has been all along, a new in-universe short story has revealed. Story designer Michael Chu has confirmed it in a tweet.

Obviously, a big chunk of the Overwatch fan base responded with a collective deafening squeal of delight.

But there were numerous skeptical voices, as well. Few objected to 76’s queerness per se, however most were unhappy with its clumsy introduction.

A lot of comparison was drawn to JK Rowling and her announcement of Hogwarts headmaster, Dumbledore’s gayness: while having zero impact on the already-established story, it was seen as a cheap publicity boost.

Others thought the timing was conspicuous, and accused Blizzard of trying to create a diversion from the scandals plaguing it, like the backlash against a Diablo mobile game and allowing a male player enter an esports league under a fabricated female identity (the “Ellie” reference in the tweet below).

The way Blizzard handles Overwatch lore – releasing very little of it initially and gradually filling in the gaps with comics and short stories – allows it to tailor characters’ biographies as they go, and it’s ultimately hard to tell whether 76 or the other LGBT character, Tracer (who came out in 2016), were intended this way from the start. But pre-coming out 76 was seen by many as one of the most boring heroes around, the default male white action hero.

What Blizzard has succeeded in doing is getting an injection of positive coverage, considering that writing anything negative next to the word “gay” could be ruinous for a Western mainstream media outlet’s reputation.

At the end of the day, the new bit of lore, while upending some assumptions, will have absolutely zero impact on those who actually play Overwatch – except perhaps for the occasional hardcore homophobe. Unless…

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