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Blizzard to change beloved ‘Overwatch’ hero’s name in wake of harassment lawsuit

Launcher Overwatch Mcree (Washington Post illustration/Blizzard/Activision)

McCree, a popular hero in Blizzard’s team-based shooter “Overwatch,” is getting renamed. The playable character was originally a nod to Jesse McCree, a game designer who no longer works at Blizzard in the wake of a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit against its parent company, Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. Further, employees at Blizzard have told The Post that similar changes will soon be coming to “World of Warcraft,” which contains several characters and one city named after multiple former Blizzard developers.

The “Overwatch” development team posted a statement Thursday about the character McCree’s future on Twitter:

“As we continue to discuss how we best live up to our values and to demonstrate our commitment to creating a game world that reflects them, we believe it’s necessary to change the name of the hero currently known as McCree to something that better represents what Overwatch stands for.”

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Blizzard is not ready to announce the character’s new name, but plans to incorporate the change into a narrative arc originally intended to appear in the game in September. That arc has now been delayed to accommodate (and presumably justify) the cowboy’s new call sign.

Currently, another popular Blizzard game, “World of Warcraft,” still contains references to Jesse McCree in the form of five character names and one city name. However, multiple current employees who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal said Thursday that nods to the longtime level designer will be removed from the game soon as well. In addition, references to two other former Blizzard developers, “Diablo 4” director Luis Barriga and “World of Warcraft” designer Jonathan LeCraft, will also be removed. A Blizzard spokesperson confirmed these changes.

“We can confirm that those references in ‘World of Warcraft’ will be removed,” the spokesperson said.

These changes did not come out of nowhere. Commentators of Blizzard’s Overwatch League began deliberately avoiding saying McCree’s name during matches in the wake of a report from video game website Kotaku that showed Jesse McCree in a picture and text thread associated with the “Cosby Suite” — a 2013 convention hotel room alleged to have played a part in harassment of female employees at Blizzard.

This is also not the first time Blizzard has changed an in-game feature based on a real person. Shortly after California filed its suit against Activision Blizzard on July 20, the company removed references to former “World of Warcraft” senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi from the game. Earlier this year, the company also removed references to former Overwatch League MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won from an in-game character skin in “Overwatch” after he was accused of sexual abuse. Not long after, Blizzard announced it will no longer create unique skins based on MVPs.

In today’s statement, the “Overwatch” team said that, in the future, it will more carefully consider how it chooses to roll real-life people and events into games.

“Going forward, in-game characters will no longer be named after real employees,” developers said, “and we will be more thoughtful and discerning about adding real world references in future Overwatch content.”

Shannon Liao contributed to this report.

Inside the Activision Blizzard lawsuit

On July 20, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread, gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. Here’s what you need to know:

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