Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Tracer's butt

Yeah I'm going there. I haven't been following Overwatch's development closely. It seems to me like a modern TF2, which I never felt compelled to play even after it went free to play. The player characters, however, were strong, one of the key factors to its success, and as a result have found their way into all sorts of other games and media.

One thing they weren't, as has been highlighted on numerous occasions since its release, was significantly diverse; despite a range of backgrounds and accents, they were all male, and mostly white. This is not a problem for me, it is not what I look for in a game, in the same way it wouldn't concern me if they were all female, and/or all non-white. Equally, a diverse cast is fine by me. Irrelevant, even. The only issue I see for developers is falling into the 'characters you can identify with' trap, where in trying to deliver identifiable characters for a broader range of people, you simply highlight the minorities that you don't cater for. Taking this approach, you cannot please everyone.

But I digress; for Blizzard, in [current year], I don't think there was any option but commitment to diversity for Overwatch.

And so we come to Tracer, the unofficial poster girl of Overwatch's diversity, and specifically, her tooshie. A number of people have found they identify with Tracer, and one such person came across a pose accentuating her rear end, that conflicts with their found identity. Rather than accept it as an insignificant point of difference, choosing to use a different victory pose, or dis-identifying with that character, they call for it to change. Blizzard, having been burnt by these type of people and their demands in the past, appear to capitulate by ignoring all the negative comments, approving the OP's request, and closing the discussion.

The community erupts, naturally, and we go from a situation where almost nobody was thinking about Tracer's butt, or considering her in a hyper-sexualised context, and now everybody is, examining it to the nth degree. She is now a sexual character - you have put her in the box that you didn't want her in. People are now actively debating whether, as a 26 year old, this fictional female would ever flaunt her sexuality. Congratulations.

I admit it is almost entirely down to how Blizzard handled it, and not the OP. If they had decided internally that the pose didn't suit her and replaced it with something else, rather than bringing attention to the request, there would have been no issue. Or at least nothing for the community to grasp onto.

Instead, the response, an unreserved apology and change of position, left the impression that they were at fault, that issues hold more weight if they are PC, and as a result, that the community holds sway over Blizzard on such matters. Unlike far more substantial controversies such as RealID, Diablo's RMAH, and removal of flying in WoW, where they stood fast. Kaplan's follow up explanation, and reopening of the discussion, helped - but it was forced by the community reaction. They had to own the decision to prevent future repercussions, but it was largely seen as PR and the damage was far from undone. Oops.

And so, the debate rages on. Is it a sexual pose? I don't know, is it when another character does it?

Probably not. Is it because of what she's wearing? Should figure hugging clothing be replaced? For all characters, or just females? Can large tattoed biceps and pectorals not be sexualised?

Compare the following: on the left the normal stance from behind, in the centre, the 'problematic' pose, and on the right, the same pose but from a slightly different angle.

Splitting hairs here. Why is only the centre inappropriate? This argument could, and inevitably will, go on for days. That's as far as I'm going to participate, as someone with no emotional investment in the character, or even the game. It certainly isn't going to influence my decision to purchase, and I think anyone who states they won't purchase on the back of this alone, are either overreacting or pulling their own leg. Either way, it's an idle threat, one that would not concern Blizzard one bit.

It's unfortunate that increasingly, in all walks of life, threats from the PC crowd are not treated in the same manner.

I'll leave with the following relevant video from Maddox, recalled when I read a comment or two that stated Tracer was 'presenting' /lol

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