2016 has been a horrible year, we saw the death of David Bowie, we saw the rise of Donald Trump, we saw Neo Nazis enter the mainstream as "The Alt Right", and right now President Obama refuses to do anything about the genocide the North Dakota Access Pipeline is bringing to the Native Americans of Standing Rock. I'd say hope has sprung in small ways, one of the bigger ones being a little game called Overwatch.
One of the first things people learn about me is the fact that I'm transgender, admittedly this is probably not the best thing for people to know. It endangers me to a degree, I still get death threats and insults on my Steam Account, and on Facebook. Messages telling me that I'm a "faggot", to "accept biology", and how I'm a "special snowflake"
There's a reason why I do it, why I make sure that the fact that I'm trans is one of the first things people know about me. It's my way of saying "I'm Here, I'm Queer, Get Used To It!", which does sound like I'm all up in one's face about it by my confession. I argue that it is only done because I'm necessary, I'd like a world where I can be upfront about the fact that I'm a writer, my favorite genres are Sci-Fi and Fantasy, I'm a huge gamer, my favorite Indie Developer is Scott Cawthon, and my favorite author is catholic fantasy Charles Matthias. (www.metamorkeep.com) who is best known for his story "Never Again A Man"
I would like for people to hear I'm transgender and go, "Oh that's neat I guess, so whose your Overwatch main." This isn't the world we live in though. The world we live in is one where people who hear that I'm transgender can go in any direction. "HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WERE DIFFERENT!?!?!", "Have you had, the surgery yet, you know.... the one.. down there.", "If you're a woman, show me your vagina." (No joke, I've heard people tell me this, in a public place.... Which is more eyebrow raising the more you think about it), "Oh, so you're really a guy then?", and "I know what it's like, I'm a gay man and sometimes I go to drag shows" (I get you're trying to be helpful, but you're missing the point)
The only people who ever just take it at face value are other transpeople or those who truly believe in the cause of transgender rights. That's why I have to tell people, so they know that I'm real. I'm not some fantasy or some dated joke in an 80's comedy flick, I'm a real person, who has real emotions, and experiences the real world. I guess what I'm trying to say here, is that Martin Luther King Jr. did not end segregation by dressing up in white face, pretending he was something he wasn't, and encouraged other African Americans to do the same.
So, I suppose you're wondering what this has to do with Overwatch. Well, before I transitioned, I was still trans. The thing many don't understand is Trans isn't like going to a furry convention and pretending you're a fox or a rat, it's not a 24 hour drag show. Being Trans is something in your heart and your brain, you're a woman even at birth. You just don't look like one and life tries to make it up to you by giving you ability to stand while you piss. The pain you feel from the mismatch can be hard to pinpoint, you don't know where it's coming from or why you have it. You don't know why the sight of a woman is so amazing, why the female sex is so perfect, and why such perfection feels like your birth right. I guess that's kind of a creepy way to word it, but it's how I felt. It's how all transwomen feel, we aren't crazy because we want to be women, we're crazy because we are women trapped in the bodies of the very anti-thesis of femininity, masculinity. When I learned what transition was at a very young age, mostly due to googling the way I felt, hearing some interesting lines in a few movies, and asking questions that were "Purely out of curiosity and nothing more." I learned that there was a way that my body could be fixed, that I could know womanhood.
The next question was, did I really want it fixed? I could see it in movies, I could see it in video games, I could see it in sports, and I could see it in real life. Men were the heroes, men were the villains, women were the damsels, women were the ones seeking men for help. To put it simply, every single aspect of life was like football. The boys play the rough sports and the girls cheer them on. As Oscar Wilde once said, a woman may not aspire to greatness, she can only help a man achieve it. This is something that never changed, sure you had the occasional female hero. However each time it was something either done as a quick gag, it was done as a reason to have the lady take her clothes off, or it was met with eyebrow raising and people asking far too many questions. The conclusion? The female hero is a novelty, it is a bone thrown to fringe groups who speak madness, it is some quota made for a big wig. The female hero is not genuine, she is a farce, a spectacle, and she will never know the level of greatness a man does. Thus I knew that as a man, I could be an Emperor, as a woman I could be something to be mated with and tossed aside. The only reason I transitioned is because the pain of being a man became so unbearable that I stopped caring.
A lot of what I picked up subconsciously prior to transition began to decode itself before my eyes. A female player character option wasn't done to get more people into gaming, hell it's still not an industry standard and I have to ask "Can I play as a character who is my gender?" before I buy every game even if the game doesn't contain a flagship iconic character. For the record, I understand that Mario is a man and I'll play as a man in a Mario game, and I understand that Samus is a woman and I'll play as a woman in a Metroid game. Yet I find when I'm playing as some generic nameless grunt, being female isn't always guaranteed. Imagine how irate I was in Dungeon Defenders, Borderlands, Fable, etc. where if I wanted to pick a female character I either had to pick the only class that had tits or pick a man and wait for the sequel. I'm still a little pissed that my favorite Ultima game, Ultima 8, despite being a brilliant take on the moral difficulty of having to ignore or outright destroy those already damned to save people who have a chance, completely removed the option to play as a female character despite every game in the series up until now including such a thing. It wasn't even added back in the sequel Ultima 9, but fuck Ultima 9. I'd link Spoony's review of Ultima 9, but honestly he isn't the person he used to be and doesn't deserve the ad revenue.
Getting back on topic, most developers add female characters mainly to stop complaints or in attempt to pander to a casual crowd. They don't legitimately want female heroes. Even if you have a female player character option, unless it's a title where the heroine is meant to be a sexual fantasy for a man chances are pretty high it's going to be a man's face on the box. This is the idea the media wants to push, that men are tough, and women are cheese cake to be tossed aside when you're done beating your meat. Since I know someone will put it out, this is the norm, not the rule, I know Tomb Raider and Metroid exist and continuously put Laura and Samus on the box. Call Of Duty, even though women now can legally serve in combat roles and the series takes place in the future, only had female player characters once and even then it was by the company's admission that they only did it to make a more casual title because "Women are too dumb to video games.", and Assassin's Creed's developer Ubisoft once made the excuse that the female sex is "Too difficult and expensive to animate" to get out of providing more female player characters in Assassin's Creed. Simply put, the industry doesn't want women even if women want the industry. Even games with feminist themes are not immune to the industry's misogyny. Just take a look at this.
This is the silent protagonist of Portal, a game featuring only female characters.
Yes, that's very much a woman. Not a girly girl either, she's definitely been roughed up, she's grimy, and most definitely not one of those sexy types. This is a survivor of difficult days, not a busty ninja playing volleyball who needs you to rub suntan lotion on her comedically oversized rack. So she's on the cover of her own game right? I mean it's made by Valve, and Gordon Freeman's on the cover of Half-Life 2. So I mean obviously.
Oh yeah that's right, the marketing guys don't want a woman on the box because it might emasculate the manly men who play manly games to carry a woman's face to the check out counter. After all, no one female has ever played a video game before or even knows what video games are. So here's two comic relief robots from the non-canon co-op missions who never show up in the game's main campaign whose names I can't even tell you.
So anyone whose played Overwatch knows where this is going. The box for Overwatch contains the series poster-girl, Tracer. Tracer who is pretty much the Overwatch mascot, and depending on how well Blizzard does with Overwatch compared to Warcraft may beat Thrall and generic Murlocks out for overall franchise mascot. I don't think I can explain just how happy it made me to see this.
Boom, there we have her. It's Tracer, she's not leaning forward to show some cleavage, she isn't playing with her hair, she isn't groping herself, she doesn't have her backside to the viewer asking to be dommed by the big manly player who plays manly video games. Hell, she's not even lusting over a male character and making a reference to a lewd sex act she wishes to perform on him. (As much as I loved Conker's Bad Fur Day's remake's multiplayer mode..... That is pretty cringe worthy)
We just have Tracer jumping into action with guns pointed right at some sorry ass punk who is about to be blown to Kingdom Come in a hail of gun fire. If you're a man, it's likely never crossed your mind how unusual this is. If you're a woman or someone who works in marketing for video games, you're either celebrating or you're scratching your head wondering why the game sold anyway.
If any other game company in the world had made this game, I guarantee that Soldier 76 would have been on the cover, likely with his gun up in the air heading towards a destroyed city that looks nothing like any of the maps in Overwatch. That's what it'd look like if the company was advertising towards adults. If it was advertising towards teenagers, it'd likely have Reaper in a similar pose to Tracer's against a black background. Point is, no one with tits is getting on this box, unless their name happens to be Roadhog.
If Overwatch doesn't win a GOTY award, I'm going to be very disappointed.
This cover and the fact that no other company would do something like this, even though it's really not asking much, just a female face on the cover of a video game, is actually a prelude to what's truly remarkable about Overwatch. When one thinks of video game characters in the 90's they usually think of fantasy elves and anthropomorphic animals. In the modern era, it's usually that middle aged white guy with brown eyes and graying hair. Unless the game is Japanese in which case it's that androgynous guy who is so nervous around the girls or the busty naive school girl who fights demons by taking off her panties.
The cast of overwatch over includes a Female Korean Starcraft Champion in a mech named D.Va, a DJ of African Descent named Lucio, a musclebound lesbian from Russia named Zarya, Chinese brothers Hanzo and Genji, a french woman with purple skin named Widowmaker, a black guy who is also a skeleton named Reaper, a swedish woman named Mercy, a female hispanic hacker named Sombra, the egyptian woman Pharah and her mother Ana, a literal gorilla named Winston (Insert Harambe Joke Here), and an Indian woman (from India, not deragatory term for Native American) named Symmetra. These are just some of the characters in the game, but I guess the point I'm trying to make is that of the over fifteen characters you can play as only two of them are middle aged American Men. McCree and Soldier 76, the latter of whom honestly strikes me as a parody of the Call Of Duty franchise made by Activision (Which is owned by Blizzard, Call Of Duty guy for Heroes Of The Storm!), the former of whom seems to be a commentary on stereotypes as McCree is the only obvious one being an anachronistic cowboy who loves guns with a rich Texas accent.
No one yelled "PANDERING!", no one boycotted the game, no one announced that masculinity was under attack, and no one cried "Racism against whites", and there's a very good reason why. Overwatch didn't take beloved characters and throw them out the window to be replaced with more culturally sensitive counterparts (Who ya gonna call? Someone else....), they made new characters who feel authentic to their gender and their cultural identity. They didn't just throw a black guy into the roster of white guys and call it a day, they didn't just go "Oh well here's a woman for our woman quota, she's Hero McWhiteGuy's girlfriend.", they made a culturally progressive game that celebrated our diverse planet. The game was successful and is well liked universally in many circles. Proving once and for all that Advertising Companies are wrong, Gamergate is wrong, and the American Right Wing is wrong. Humanity isn't scared of people who are different and we aren't intimidated or threatened by powerful women, that's just a convenient lie told by bigoted people who want to both normalize and profit from bigotry. We aren't going to let them win, we will come together as the inhabitants of the one planet humans live on to stomp out evil and injustice. This is the power of fiction, it's the power that can enrich your soul. Let the power of well written fiction germinate through you.
That's why as a transwoman, the fact that Tracer is on the cover of Overwatch matters to me. I doubt Blizzard or any of their staff will read this, but in the off-chance they do, I hope that a transgender character is added to the cast one day. I mean heck, it's the future, I'm pretty sure you could just make a clone of yourself that has two X Chromosomes and then put your brain in that body for an easy transition in that universe.