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Director Says There Are Story Reasons For Saving The First Black Woman Hero For Overwatch 2

IbizaPocholo

NeoGAFs Kent Brockman
Overwatch currently has 31 playable heroes. One of them is a gorilla from the moon. Another is a hamster in a mecha ball. None of them are black women. This has led to a series of increasingly exasperated pleas from fans over the years, to little avail. Now, finally, Blizzard has confirmed the existence of an upcoming black woman hero: Sojourn. But she’s not joining the roster until Overwatch 2, a game with no release date.

Big-budget video games do not feature many playable black women. But Overwatch, at the very least, purports to care about inclusion, so for many players, it’s been baffling to see multiple genetically-engineered animals and old white guys make the cut before a black woman. Sojourn, a former member of the heroic Overwatch organization who’s poised to make a return, will finally change that. At BlizzCon, she appeared in a trailer and was officially confirmed as an upcoming hero. Why now, though? Or really, why whenever Overwatch 2 finally comes out? Why a whole new game? Why not sooner? Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said it’s because Sojourn has become a major part of the series’ story.

“We concepted Sojourn before the original Overwatch game even launched,” Kaplan told Kotaku at BlizzCon over the weekend. “She immediately became a very important character to us, and as we were developing the idea for Overwatch 2, she sort of started to move to the center of the story. She’s coming to the surface now. You saw her in [the recent PVE event] Storm Rising. She was the commander sending the troops into Havana on that mission. We’ve always had the storyline for her, and we’ve been working on Overwatch 2 for many years now.”

As Kaplan pointed out, Sojourn has been skulking around in Overwatch’s scaffolding for years. Many fans first noticed her in the 2016 “Recall” animated short, in which Winston used an AI-powered computer to put out a desperate call to lapsed Overwatch members. Sojourn was one of those heroes.

Since then, fans have waited in mounting frustration for her arrival. Some have even sent letters to Kaplan, who, in one case in 2017, wrote back with a heartfelt response in which he said that “the most important thing to me is that those in positions to influence and reflect society start portraying very normal things as being normal” and promised that more black heroes were in development. During our BlizzCon interview, though, Kaplan explained that Sojourn’s slow rollout is all part of a larger plan. He intends on sticking to that plan, despite how many players have voiced their dissatisfaction.

“I personally feel like the right thing to do by the character is still deliver on that story and not just rush her out because the community is upset with us,” Kaplan said. “I tend to find that there’s always a community upset with us over something. I’ve mentioned this before, but the real value of Overwatch inclusivity is the idea that we’re open-minded, that we want everybody to feel welcome into the universe, and the result of that is diversity. I would hate for the diversity to ever feel pandering, like we just had this spreadsheet with a bunch of checkboxes. Because it’s a ridiculous notion to think we’re ever going to be able to represent all the people on the planet.”

But while it’s one thing to overtly pander to a marginalized audience in hopes of coaxing dollars out of their wallets, it’s something else to run a game for three and a half years, add numerous heroes to it, and fail to represent a sizable segment of the populace who have asked to be included countless times, only to be sent to the back of the line. One character among a roster of 31 (and counting) is not pandering. That’s the absolute bare minimum of representation.

On top of that, the Overwatch team has been effusive in the past about moments when they got excited about a new hero idea or design, and that hero jumped the line and quickly made it into the game. But Kaplan said that kind of approach just wouldn’t work with Sojourn. He used the game’s most recent hero, Sigma, as a contrast. Sigma, he said, is “not at the center of our story” and was more an answer to the question “What is great gameplay that matches a cool character right now?” This, said Kaplan, made Sigma’s story “more malleable.”

“We would literally have to redo the entire plotline of Overwatch 2 if we were to just remove Sojourn and kind of fast-track her,” he said.
For now, Kaplan just wants fans to know that he thinks Sojourn will be worth the wait.

“While I know it’s a really important issue to a lot of people, they need to know that Sojourn is amazing, and we would rather do right by the character—treat her like an actual human being—than just rush her out,” he said. “And I think that the fact that she’s going to be at the center of Overwatch 2 is going to be really meaningful to a lot of our fans.”
 

VertigoOA

Banned
Do we think Capcom was virtue signaling when they put Mike Tyson into SF2?

were they trying to appease those obsessed with race politics or just expressing creative freedom?

Blizzard seems to be pandering. The language these studios use... this is just a new way of marketing.
 
Sure mate, the game's been out for years now and obsolutely nothing of importance has happened story-wise, but the black lady is going to change all that, you can be certain of that! Heck, only just now in the reveal trailer for OW2 has Mei met with the other characters for the first time. If there even is a story in Overwatch, people don't care about it anymore because it progresses at a snail's pace and has nothing to do with the actual game you're playing, where Mei has interacted with every single character hundreds of times at this point.

It's also good to know that "my" Dutch character Sigma is absolutely pointless in terms of the story. How is that inclusive exactly? Where's our other Indian rep by the way? There's just Symmetra and she's a lady. You got something against Indian men, Blizzard? You've made 31 characters and not ONE is an Indian guy? This is all so tiresome...
 

Shifty

Gold Member
Do we think Capcom was virtue signaling when they put Mike Tyson into SF2?

were they trying to appease those obsessed with race politics or just expressing creative freedom?

Blizzard seems to be pandering. The language these studios use... this is just a new way of marketing.
SF2 didn't come out amidst the social media driven clown world of today, so that example doesn't work.
Besides, if you want to make a race-pandering argument about SF, 3's big shift toward the hip-hop aesthetic is a better place to look for inspiration.

As for the Overwatch, Kaplan does address the notion of pandering directly, but my levels of trust for Blizzard (and most other corporate PR) are low enough at this point to think it could well just be hot air.
 

BlackTron

Member
I mean I was fooled into thinking Overwatch might have some sort of story years ago, but, well...that was years ago, and I was a fool.

This game had a great start but instead of properly supporting it as a game they tried to skate by supporting it with identity politics. Apparently so they could save the story they had for Overwatch 2....which is really just an awkwardly named/positioned expansion pack masquerading as a sequel. "OVERWATCH 2: NOW WITH EVEN MORE IDENTITY (EVEN THOUGH THE OLD GAME GETS THE NEW CHARACTERS TOO LOL)"

I'm getting too old for this shit. Somehow they have deflated all of my enthusiasm for Overwatch.
 

zenspider

Member
There's a weird tension here - Kaplan's team wants a diverse roster, fans want a diverse roster, then 'capital d' Diversity frames the conversation and everyone sounds like a bunch of dickheads.

My issue with representation has always been how the 1:1 mapping necessitated by the political imposition closes the door to imagination and empathy.

Could you imagine the Wu-Tang Clan not "identifying" with Kung Fu movies because the characters didn't look like them?
Does a movie like 'Rush Hour' allow a black or chinese person to really choose whom to identify with, or do stereotypes not close some doors here.
These are silly examples, but Overwatch isn't worth taking more seriously on it's merits, only it's reach.

It seems a terrible perversion to allow media & industry to create, or at least lend authority, to the boxes in which we are allowed to play, especially in a videogame like Overwatch, where identifying with a character is really built from the hands out, not the screen down.

Tl;dr: Kaplan, make Soldier 76 Jewish you coward!!!!
 

DryPancakes

Banned
It's an obssession, once they have their token black woman the next one will be "Where's the trangender demisexual muslim woman? fans have been waiting for years you blizzard bigots"
 
"community" = Reeeee

But I do like the diversity of characters in Overwatch and I've no doubt it has contributed to the success.
 
Overwatch is one of the greatest games I have ever played in my life.

However, the blatant pandering is going too far. Fuck this trash concept of "representation". It's pissing me off!
 
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888

Member
Man what happened to Overwatch over the years? Used to be my favorite game but I haven't touched it in a long time. Sounds like they keep trying to check all the boxes for max virtue points.
 
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