THE MAKER of one of the year’s most popular video games has confirmed that one of its characters is gay, and fans are responding with excitement — and a few reservations.
“Overwatch,” the role-playing shooter game launched by Blizzard Entertainment in May, this week published an online holiday comic that depicts Tracer — the twin-pistol hero who’s effectively the video game’s mascot — in a relationship with her female roommate.
Blizzard told IGN in a statement that “Tracer is a lesbian on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.” She is the game’s first known gay character.
Blizzard had suggested in recent months that it would announce that the game has a canonically LGBT character. (Leading creatives on the game told Kotaku last month that they would reveal an LGBT character — though not, they hoped, in a heavy-handed way.)
In the “Overwatch” digital comic “Reflections” this week, as scripted by senior game designer Michael Chu, we indeed see Tracer holiday-snuggling with the tertiary character Emily.
For those who have asked specifically, Tracer identifies as a lesbian.
— Michael Chu (@westofhouse) December 23, 2016
“As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe,” Steven Choo, a representative for the Irvine, Calif.-based Blizzard, told The Post’s Comic Riffs on Wednesday. “From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of ‘Overwatch’ to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world.”
Blizzard engages smartly with its game fandoms (including those of “WoW,” “StarCraft” and “Hearthstone”), listening to the wealth of smart feedback and inspired fan art, sometimes even reflecting that back in what the company creates. And many “Overwatch” fans, in return, applauded the latest reveal.
I love Tracer's new voice line "I AM GAY AND PLAYING AS ME MAKES YOU GAY" and how her ult sends an email to your dad that reads DAD I'M GAY
— Jared Rosen (@notquitefrodo) December 23, 2016
The announcement is a significant step for Blizzard, which, Chu has said in interviews, plans to eventually reveal multiple gay heroes. And Blizzard’s progression is certain to have a ripple effect in the industry as the company sends a strong message of inclusiveness to role-playing gamers. You can bet Blizzard’s competitors will be closely monitoring fan reaction and sales.
If the financial and social-media embrace of Blizzard’s move is strong enough, we could see the gaming industry become as reactive to calls for LGBTQ representation of highly popular main characters as the comics industry has become in recent years.
There has been LGBTQ representation in video games for three decades (since at least 1986’s “Moonmist”), of course, and games such as “Fallout 2,” “Fable” and “The Last of Us” have been markers along a long road. Yet recent years have seen vital strides. In February, for instance, “Mortal Kombat” introduced its first gay character (Shaolin monk Kung Jin). Now, the move by “Overwatch” is a milestone partly because of Tracer’s main role.
Part of the “Overwatch” fan passion is channeled into the “shipping” of its 23 playable characters. And one of the game’s most popular “ships” has been “WidowTracer” — the romantic pairing of Tracer and Widowmaker (real names: Lena and Amélie).
And so thus came the cry: Why not WidowTracer?
Best response to all the people upset about Tracer. pic.twitter.com/2BnW2D4VgS
— Overwatch.TXT (@OverwatchTXT) December 22, 2016
There are numerous reasons why announcing a WidowTracer relationship would have made the reveal even more intriguing. Tracer and Widowmaker, main characters both (unlike the little-developed Emily), have a strong rivalry to play off of. Their interactions are packed with purpose and woven organically into plot.
And then you would have the possibilities of a redemption arc for Widowmaker; Amélie tragically became a villain (at the hands of the Talon organization) against her will.
Many fans contend that WidowTracer (a ship that merits its own subreddit) would make sense in terms of story depth and gameplay potential.
Then again, this week’s reveal could be just the beginning. In the new year, Tracer could still have a redeemed rival in her romantic future.