This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #136. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
They failed you.
Between your creators and your fans, you’ve been underestimated and undervalued. In gameplay, canon and fanon, you have people who always want you to be less than you are. To fit their definition of healer. Doctor. Woman.
Healing too powerful? Rework it. Unparalleled medical research? Sweep it under the rug for fan service. A player takes you to the battlefield? No true skill, and god help them if they’re not a cis man.
But we both know that there are nanomachines coursing through your body and a nip of brandy in your chamomile tea.
And the sad thing is, you’re one of the lucky ones. While the stereotype of a peaceful Swiss woman makes eyes roll, careless writing can become much more dangerous when that mindset applies to Egyptian, Nigerian or First Nations people. That risk becomes compounded when marginalized players are left without the support they need to enjoy their favorite game in peace.
So, Angela, what do we do? It’s not an easy question to answer, but the correct solution certainly isn’t happening right now. A laissez-faire approach to so many aspects of play, community and representation has left Overwatch and its legacy in a difficult place for many. (Barring, of course, the time that the opposite mindset led to even more alienation.)
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that it’ll take plenty of listening and making space for people unlike us. Challenging the dominant viewpoints that might always equals right and that social problems will always sort themselves out. Understanding, stepping aside, elevating voices.
And I’m not sure if Overwatch 2 can tackle those challenges.
Melissa King is a freelance writer and a triple threat at Unwinnable – contributor, social media editor and Exploits managing editor. Follow her writing or commission her work @LongLiveMelKing.