Even before it had any officially out gay characters, Overwatch has been, like, the gayest game.
Pretty much from the beginning, fans of the game have been shipping the characters. In the Overwatch comic published December 2016, it was announced that Tracer is a lesbian — a pretty big deal at the time considering Tracer is literally the face of the game.
Now, through a new short story, Jack “Soldier 76” Morrison, arguably the other main character of the game, was also announced as gay. In the context of the story, Soldier is talking about a previous relationship with a man named Vincent.
“Vincent deserved a happier life than the one I could give him, Jack sighed. ‘We both knew that I could never put anything above my duty. Everything I fought for was to protect people like him… that’s the sacrifice I made.’”
The reaction to Soldier’s sexuality has been overwhelmingly positive — Soldier has been regarded as the daddy of Overwatch forever so this is a big win for representation, that’s for sure! But while I really don’t want to be a buzzkill, I just can’t bring myself to care about this. My immediate response was a thought of “Oh, cool” and not much more — “What’s for dinner?” I feel so distant from this piece of lore because the character doesn’t feel gay, he feels like a straight man who happens to like men.
Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but sometimes I think this is why pieces of fiction add gay characters — because it’s not required to do anything beyond that. Overwatch has been recently criticized for not having a single Black female character in its roster. While the developers can’t just decide one day that an existing character is Black, they can do that for queer characters. It’s an attempt at getting the acknowledgment of diversity without really doing any work toward it. I don’t just want a label, I want an identity with dimension.
Thanks for all the messages about “Bastet”!
Jack and Vincent were in a romantic relationship many years ago. Both identify as gay. ❤️
— Michael Chu 🎉💼 (@westofhouse) January 7, 2019
What I mean is that beyond this short story (and a follow-up tweet from head writer Michael Chu) that says he is in a relationship, nothing about the character of Soldier 76 reads as queer and I’m tired of that. If we’re getting a gay male character, I want one who says “Sashay away” when they get a kill or has a voice line of a Madonna lyric. Things that my friends would actually do or say.
Obviously not all gay men watch Drag Race or listen to pop stars, but it’s a good place to start. When I first came out, Blaine and Kurt were starting to become a couple on Glee and even then, I remember being annoyed with this trope. Blaine never felt like a gay character to me, he just felt like a straight man they flipped in order to be a romantic interest for their gay character.
Blizzard's desperatly pleasing the SJWs again. Great.
— Arturo (@Maaluszone) January 7, 2019
A part of this frustration stems from the fact that we either get super masculine straight men or caricatures of effeminate gay men, no in-between. Instead of trying to figure out an empowering way to portray feminine men, creators default to making vague male characters that are gay in name only.
The details of someone’s queer interests aren’t just superfluous, they’re what make a character. I’m not friends with people because they’re gay, I’m friends with them because of the gay culture we both engage with. How am I supposed to relate to a character if I don’t know how he exists within that culture also?
Even if this representation doesn’t give me joy, the anger that it gives straight gamer nerds will definitely give me joy. What’s interesting about Soldier 76, and a positive point in all of this, is that he was designed to be the most traditional hero in Overwatch, in that he most resembles a regular shooter game both in terms of gameplay and appearance. If you’ve played Call of Duty, you can understand the basics of how to play Soldier in Overwatch. So, it feels kind of gratifying that the roughest and toughest masculine hero in the game is now gay as heck. The straight nerds are not pleased.
— Twright (@Twright20XX) January 7, 2019
Obviously I would like gay characters that felt like they were more thought out and well-written — characters that feel like they were gay from the start, but if simply announcing a character is enough to upset these dorks, then I’m all for it.