Subsets of the games community are crying ‘censorship' once again after Blizzard has said it will pull sexually exploitative Overwatch artwork.
The pose in question depicts Tracer looking over her shoulder at the viewer, displaying her lycra-clad behind. It's a position that nearly every female game or superhero movie star has been forced to adopt at some stage in a product's marketing. Male characters, of course, are never presented in this way.
What about this pose has anything to do with the character you're building in tracer? It's not fun, it's not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces Tracer to another bland female sex symbol,” a forum user wrote in a long plea that eventually led to the image's demise.
We aren't looking at a Widowmaker pose here, this isn't a character who is in part defined by flaunting her sexuality. This pose says to the player base, oh we've got all these cool diverse characters, but at any moment we are willing to reduce them to sex symbols to help boost our investment game.
What I'm asking is that as you continue to add to the Overwatch cast and investment elements, you double down on your commitment to create strong female characters. You've been doing a good job so far, but shipping with a tracer pose like this undermines so much of the good you've already done.”
Game director Jeff Kaplan later stated on the same thread that he understood the complaints.
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,” Kaplan stated. Apologies and we'll continue to try to do better.
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.
We wouldn't do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch, and we're not going to remove something solely because someone may take issue with it. Our goal isn't to water down or homogenize the world, or the diverse cast of heroes we've built within it. We have poured so much of our heart and souls into this game that it would be a travesty for us to do so.
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.”
The reaction both to the original criticism of the pose and Kaplan's response has been mixed. Many echo the concerns and support the decision. Others, however, have defaulted to the predictable ‘censorship' position, seemingly infuriated by the belief that Blizzard's artistic freedom” and liberty” has been somehow limited or impeded.
Similar responses followed Capcom's decision to alter poses made by female characters R Mika and Cammy in Street Fighter V, as well as Nintendo's ongoing efforts to tone down the sexualisation of young girls in its Japanese-centric titles.
However, in exercising its right to alter its game, is Blizzard not employing precisely the creative freedom that these critics claim to be championing? And presumably it's just a big coincidence that every outcry about creative freedom involves annoyance that a pair of digital tits or a digital arse is what has been hidden? Yes, it must be…