LGBTQ+ Representation in Overwatch
Written By: Reese Coulter
Edited By: Mary Joaquin
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Last June 29, we welcomed Chris “Boop” Lessard, Rammy, and OhKay for our LGBTQ+ Representation in Overwatch panel. Before we dive into their thoughts, let’s first get to know our speakers.
Chris “Boop” Lessard (he/him) is the Managing Director for Monkey Bubble, an esports production house and tournament organizer. Boop also works as a freelance commentator and host and Giant Slayer TFT caster.
Now without further ado, read on below about our panel with them and how they discuss the importance of diversity and inclusivity in Overwatch, and what could be improved.
Our moderator, Austin DuPilka, is our Overwatch SIG leader!
Austin DuPilka: What makes representation so important in a medium like video games?
Chris “Boop” Lessard: Representation is important, because seeing yourself in somebody can be one of the biggest motivators you have in your life.
OhKay: It makes you feel part of the community.
Rammy: There is no such thing as representation without inclusivity.
Austin: Does Overwatch do a good job of representing a wide array of people?
Chris: What I like to call Overwatch is superficial inclusivity. Basically, just because you can color a character, or say a character is something, doesn’t mean you are actually being inclusive… Something that I have felt, distinctly with Overwatch in particular, with a lot of companies during pride month, is being a prop for someone else’s success… Are they appreciating me, or the money that I am spending?
OhKay: When I look at Blizzard’s history with LGBT issues, they tend to kind of let them try to fix themselves… And when you refuse to take a stand, it’s complacency.
Austin: What would you suggest, say Blizzard was to drop a new Overwatch character, say they were going to do a new event, what would you guys suggest they do? Like, what content do you think they should add, to do better?
Rammy: What I would personally love to see would be another, if you all remember the pink Mercy skin, I believe it was for BCRF, that would be a great opportunity to support… the Trevor Project or any of the other wonderful LGBT charities; Trans Lifeline would be great, too.
Chris: Those [LGBT] skins sell really well to non gay communities as well.
At this point Chris brings up r/MenWritingWomen as a way to prove the point that “...men don’t know the inner workings of what being a woman in this world is”.
He goes on to say, “I think that’s why it’s important that if you’re going to be doing something for the black community or the gay community you get a black artist or a gay artist involved… I feel like that’s the only way that it’s going to feel authentic”.
OhKay: One thing I would love to see out of Blizzard at this point, I don’t even care what content they put out… what I want to see to believe them, that they support this, is actually start taking a stance against hate in the community… I would love to see them actually start taking a hard stance and just banning people for being hateful.
They begin to focus on leadership
Chris: I think we focus a lot on the players and their behavior, and not the people who are hired to guide their behavior… I think we need to put a lot more emphasis on coaches and the support staff to teach these kids to be human… I’m not going to expect a 16-year-old to have as much knowledge as me. Right? I’ve gone through a lot, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gone through a lot of trainings; it’s impossible for the 16-year-old to know. But that 16-year-old doesn’t have to be a bad apple their whole life… It’s the leadership that is letting this happen.
OhKay: I had very very bad internalized homophobia and repression… It wasn’t until I got to university and actually started getting exposed to these groups that I was like oh, these people are cool… It’s when you get that exposure, and you finally start meeting these people, and you break through your preconceived notions of what people are and you stop letting the way that you were raised, and the things that you heard around you…Until they [players] start getting exposed to people that correct them, that [change] is not gonna happen.
Austin: We have a question from Twitch chat, from GaussianGinger, and they are asking, “Are there any bright spots in the industry that you guys would like to highlight?”
OhKay: There’s a lot of games that actually highlight queer experiences very well; there’s a lot of games that will follow it. I mean look at Life is Strange if you’ve ever played that. I mean they navigate a lot of those situations perfectly. Celeste is a fantastic story that is basically about the journey of being trans to a degree... I mean, Apex did a fantastic job of it, even. And they backed up, when everyone was talking about Bloodhound, and stuff like that, everyone was like, “Well, no, it sounds like a dude” and the studio came out and was like “Nah, screw you. They’re non binary, they/them”. And even the voice actor, like, doubles down on TikTok, constantly.
Chris: I think the most positive thing that I have experienced in this space has actually been, at least where I’m living, which is the casting and the business world, a lot of the people who held those old school beliefs are actually starting to age out a little bit… Everyone that I work with right now has been really great in the casting world. All of the Rainbow Six casters are super awesome… The highlights are the people in the community that you meet.
Austin: I feel like an overarching theme of this discussion has been progress, and how things were, and what things are being shaped into, how queer people are entering these spaces, and changing things for the better.
They plugged themselves:
Chris: @Boopasaurusrex. Mondays and Fridays from 9-11 Mountain time, he is open for one-on-ones with anybody. Mock interviews on July 26, as well if you want to learn how to get into the esports industry. “My goal is to actually help everyone find jobs here in the esports industry, as well as give them opportunities to stream and become really great people.
This panel has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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