Removal of Overwatch ‘Sexualized’ Tracer Pose Stirs Controversy

By | 7 months ago 

Blizzard’s decision to remove a pose from the upcoming shooter Overwatch has stirred a controversy, with some claiming the creative choice is a form of censorship.

Controversy erupted within certain subsets of the online community yesterday after Blizzard mentioned plans to remove a “Pose” from the upcoming multiplayer shooter Overwatch. Poses in Overwatch are unlockable content which can also be bought with premium currency, acting as freeze-frame captures of a character which are presented to all players after a victory. The Pose in question, the “Over the Shoulder” Pose for the Tracer character, was said to be on the chopping block in response to a community member’s complaint.

The controversy arises specifically from the initial topic and Blizzard’s reasons for removing the Pose, though there’s also an amount of confusion over the issue that’s led to the controversy’s escalation. Initially in their complaint, Overwatch player Fipps goes into detail regarding what the character of Tracer represents: fun, kindness, teamwork, silliness, and speed. After showing the Pose, Fipps then says the following:

“WHAT? What about this pose has anything to do with the character you’re building in tracer? It’s not fun, its not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces tracer to another bland female sex symbol.”

Fipps goes on to extrapolate on their request, followed by asking that Blizzard reconsider the Pose. Part of Fipps’ post mentions that they are not against sexualized poses, for instance with the Widowmaker character, but opposes this one specifically because they do not think it fits the character. Fipps also mentions their daughter, who seems to have taken an interest in Tracer, implying Tracer is a role model and that a sexualized pose doesn’t fit that archetype.

Blizzard’s initial response to Fipps and 10 forum pages of community argument over the topic was short and to the point:

“We’ll replace the pose. We want *everyone* to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented.

Apologies and we’ll continue to try to do better.”

At this point the discussion expanded well beyond the Overwatch forums and into the greater online community. “Censorship” is a not uncommon claim in video games, since it’s something everyone can agree is wrong but rarely agree on actually occurring. In this specific instance, the vocal minority took up the point of view that Blizzard was “censoring” sexuality in response to a complaint stemming from one individual being offended. The basis of the argument is that sexuality is of course nothing to be offended by and that Blizzard is giving into unreasonable demands.

Blizzard, however, felt like their response was being taken the wrong way. Game Director Jeff Kaplan’s second response went into much more detail regarding the decision to change the Pose to something different:

“With this particular decision, it was an easy one to make—not just for me, but for the art team as well. We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer. We weren’t entirely happy with the original pose, it was always one that we wrestled with creatively. That the pose had been called into question from an appropriateness standpoint by players in our community did help influence our decision—getting that kind of feedback is part of the reason we’re holding a closed beta test—but it wasn’t the only factor. We made the decision to go with a different pose in part because we shared some of the same concerns, but also because we wanted to create something better.”

In other words, Blizzard was already in the process of replacing the Pose and the community feedback simply helped reaffirm their decision.

“We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision, and that’s okay. That’s what these kinds of public tests are for. This wasn’t pandering or caving, though. This was the right call from our perspective, and we think the game will be just as fun the next time you play it.”

Blizzard wholly sees the decision as a creative, meaning they aren’t capitulating on their goals or ideals in any way. In fact, their decision is being made as a result of those goals and ideals, the exact opposite of the concept of censorship.

Still, once the cry of censorship has spread online it’s rarely a matter of maturely discussing the issue and coming to a reasonable conclusion. Once deemed censorship, there’s no restitution beyond restoring the content in full. The viewpoint that sexualized content is being unfairly targeted by a vocal minority that is focused on finding ways to be offended is not an uncommon one. The idea the issue might be more complicated than that is not often considered.

Going forward, Overwatch‘s Tracer Pose will be replaced and Blizzard has given no indication that they are reconsidering. It’s unlikely Overwatch will be affected in any significant way. Blizzard has dealt with similar issues in the past and likely will face similar issues in the future.

Overwatch will be available starting May 24 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, though an Open beta will be starting mid-April (or earlier for pre-orderers).

Source: Battle Net

Image Source: Forbes