One of Overwatch 2’s oldest heroes is out of the closet, but is this enough?

Overwatch 2
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2 is finally celebrating Pride month, providing fans with new icons, an updated map, and a new comic which contains some exciting lore for a couple of the FPS’s oldest heroes. 

“We want it to feel like the game is reflecting what's happening in the real world”, Overwatch 2’s director, Aaron Keller, explained in an interview with TRG. In this sense, Pride will be celebrated like many of the other events in Overwatch 2’s calendar. Although, this one will be on the smaller side. 

Come June 1st players can access free cosmetics such as name cards and player icons. Some of these will be dedicated to certain heroes. For example, there’s “a lesbian card for Tracer and Pharah, a gay card for Soldier: 76, a pansexual card for Lifeweaver, as well as a bisexual card for Baptiste”, according to Blizzard’s blog post. Midtown will also receive an update that will showcase it decorated for a Pride parade. 

There’s even a new short story being released confirming the sexual orientations of Pharah and Baptiste, meaning that two more characters have been confirmed as lesbian and bisexual officially. 

“There are people rejecting these identities, and that's not going to stop us from showcasing them, or creating characters that represent them”, chair of Blizzard’s LGBTQ+ network, senior game producer Brandy Stiles says. However, for fans in countries where homosexuality isn’t legal or frowned upon, this content will not be available as to prioritize the safety of fans.

Retrospective inclusivity

Overwatch 2 Pharah

(Image credit: Blizzard)

At first, I thought that retroactively updating the sexual orientation of some of the older Overwatch heroes was a lazy way of securing representation. However, after talking with Brandy Stiles, and the senior narrative designer Jen Stacey, I’m starting to see this as something more than I first thought it was. 

“I think it's important that we revisit older characters to show that the heroes you know and love have more parts to them”, Stiles says. “And some of those parts might be these identities”. When I honestly stop to think about it, I don’t know a whole lot about Pharah. Despite seeing her fly through the skies for years, I still only think of her as Ana’s daughter, so getting to know a hero that I’ve encountered so frequently is actually quite nice. 

“In the greater narrative of Overwatch, they're (Pharah and Bap) kind of new; they were both featured in our new blood comics, so we're taking a moment to spotlight them and dive deeper into their characters”, Stacey says. 

While it’s helpful to know more about heroes on the Overwatch 2 roster, introducing new heroes that are fully fleshed out with their sexuality as less of an afterthought is crucial for adequate representation. Having Lifeweaver introduced was a step in the right direction for Blizzard and a trend that I hope continues for the first-person shooter. 

Is this enough?

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Blizzard)

While it’s great to see Overwatch 2 embrace Pride Month after seven years, along with a few more diverse heroes, it’s fair for fans to ask whether this representation is enough. For so long, the LGBTQ+ representation felt like an afterthought, with heroes like Tracer and Soldier 76 getting little to no acknowledgement. 

While no one wants a big song and dance of things, is a short story, some free cosmetics, and a photo of Tracer with her girlfriend placed in the corner of the barracks in Watchpoint: Gibraltar enough to pat Blizzard on the back for? While it’s nice to see this is the bare minimum for a developer that gives the impression of a diverse and inclusive game. 

Hopefully, this is the start of a new era for Overwatch 2 that starts to represent all areas of representation. “We're always thinking about how to get representation in our game. That includes trans representation. That's definitely conversations that we have on this team. And as something that matters to us”, Stacey says. 

It’s anyone’s guess as to how the future of LGBTQ+ representation and Pride Month will evolve in Overwatch 2. While I hope the clearly passionate devs keep this pace up for all aspects of inclusivity, I’ve learnt not to hold my breath when it comes to representation from companies. 

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.