Speaking to Trusted Reviews at BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard Entertainment has addressed concerns regarding cast diversity in Overwatch.
This weekend saw the reveal of Ashe, a new hero in the world of Overwatch who is yet another, slim, attractive white woman in a female cast predominantly filled with them.
Mei, Pharah and Symmetra are obvious exceptions, although are still conventionally attractive in the way fans have come to expect with the hero shooter.
Blizzard is aware of this, and Geoff Goodman, a lead designer on Overwatch said that we have plenty to look forward to in regards to diversity:
“Definitely. At this point we have maybe over six heroes in planning, so we’re pretty far out at this point so there’s a lot more coming. There’s a crazy cast coming and a lot more diversity in body types as well.”
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They weren’t able to share any specifics with us, and also didn’t confirm whether Echo, a robotic character featured in a recent animated short, will be the next hero to come after Ashe’s release. But she is coming as a playable character, that much is clear.
As to where the inspiration for these more diverse characters will come from, principal designer Scott Mercer cites “other games, films, anime” and the team’s passion for travel for igniting the flames of creativity.
“It’s something we really enjoy doing and I think it’s one of the things that makes Overwatch special, just how diverse it is in characters, maps, languages and everything. It’s a joy to work on.”
Ashe has a fantastic design and a personality to match, although it’s somewhat predictable in the design tropes it adopts. As to how she plays, we had a blast:
‘I like everything about Ashe so far. Her outfit, personality, and repertoire of abilities are all cleverly designed and worked wonderfully in the existing framework of Overwatch.
As with all the heroes, there’s still some tuning to be done regarding the power of certain abilities and her viability once thrust into public play. That aside, Ashe is yet another excellent addition to Blizzard’s hero shooter.’
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Overwatch has received applause for its inclusivity ever since it was first released in 2016, with a cast of characters from several backgrounds. In shorts and comics, it’s noted that Symmetra is autistic and Tracer is a lesbian, however many of these details come from external sources, instead of making an actual appearance inside the game.
In addition to this, it seems Blizzard has a problem with designing their female characters, as many of them are lithe women that adhere to conventional attractiveness standards. Ashe continues this trend, leading to several people taking to Twitter and Reddit to claim that Blizzard can and should be taking more chances with the female characters in their game.
However, Blizzard doesn’t want lore to interfere too heavily with the game’s status as a competitive shooter, “It’s difficult for us to do a lot of stuff in-game because it’s a team-based shooter and you’re shooting each other.”
“The issue is really that we want to tell all the stories. We have all this cool information and we wanna get it out there, but we don’t want to be like, here’s a cinematic after you start every match and you’ve gotta watch this thing. Eventually, you’ll be like, well now I don’t like the lore because it’s in my way.
“It’s always trying to strike a balance and we want gameplay to be the core. It’s a Blizzard philosophy, one of our values is to put gameplay first and keep that in the highest regard. We do a lot with the maps if we can, and sometimes it’s kinda cool to have stuff in there that players can find out as a little easter egg.”
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