Published on November 7th, 2016 | by Elisa Wright


How the gender ratio in Overwatch affects its male players

Many people play video games to feel a connection with someone or something, whether it is the people playing alongside them, or the characters within the game. Many like to see themselves represented in a game so they can relate more closely. Games in the past have lacked gender and racial diversity, and when it is present, it is weak, or inappropriate. For many years men have received positive representation in games while women have been left behind.

The gender diversity in Overwatch is far beyond other video games giving not only fairer depictions of women, but also offering a greater variety of body types to men. For example, Junkrat has a very slender body shape, while Roadhog is rounder, and Hanzo has a muscular fighter body type. Many players tend to seek characters that they relate to or would like to be. Overwatch has a gender ratio of 13 men, including a gorilla and a robot, to 9 women. These characters resemble people of disability, different body types, and a variety of ethnicities.

While reading about the gender representation in the game, I came across a comment that caught my attention, but not in a good way. This player confessed: “I don’t want to sound rude, but I hate playing with females. (with the characters, not actual persons). I don’t really feel… manly when playing it – and I don’t get really into it. But a lot of the classes I like happen to be female..” screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-5-08As a female, I like to play as strong women in video games. Overwatch gave me this and so much more, providing big and small body types, intriguing backstories, and symbolism of global cultures. There are more even pairing of characters in this game, giving players a better opportunity to relate with the characters. I can choose Tracer or D.Va proudly without being mocked by the people I’m playing with, because they are respectable team players for more than just the female figure. In Overwatch lore, Tracer is the pilot of the group, and I connected to that because of my dad’s keen interest in planes and growing up hearing stories about different aircrafts and WW2 history. She is an essential part of the group, the Han Solo figure with her bud Winston by her side. D.Va is important to me because of her small size. I’ve always felt small in my family being the youngest and most vulnerable to change, but D.Va overcomes her size with her giant mech suit and I respected her even more for it. She is inspiring to me, making me feel like when I mess up, I get a second chance to build up my strength and keep fighting.  

Throughout history, men have played a bigger role in shaping society than women. This male supremacy has played a part in our art forms and resulted in women being treated as sexual objects rather than intellectuals. Video games have portrayed women negatively, with unrealistic body types and often weaker attacks, more as healers than main contributors. Overwatch provides players with not only stronger and more reliable women, but also puts men into non-traditional roles. There is a much stronger balance between the genders, with snipers, healers, and vanguards of both sexes.

Striking even farther than these gender boundaries, Overwatch has been ambiguous regarding sexuality. Blizzard hasn’t specifically addressed this topic, so everything is up to interpretation, but many fans have created pairings of the characters as couples. Of course, this is seen in just about every fandom, but the Overwatch characters can support the fandom since they’re up to interpretation. All art is portrayed differently to the audience, so just as one character might seem heterosexual to one person, they might be gay to someone else. Pairings like Pharah and Mercy are adorable to fans, protecting the sky together as “Pharmercy.” Overwatch is such a powerful game because of how relatable it is; people can project their own identities onto the characters.

With all this in mind, the comment really upset me. People are finally being represented in games, but somehow others still want a male-dominated gaming atmosphere. Art usually represents what is happening in society, so seeing this progression in Overwatch is satisfying, expressing the relationship between character and player becoming stronger in games. Providing more opportunities for players to relate to the game they’re playing creates a more inviting experience to the players. The comment was surprising because rather than being happy for better representation, the player took a more selfish view on the matter, advocating for more male coverage. Times are changing, but not everyone is ready for equal opportunities, and are trying to maintain the status quo. “Don’t rock the boat, weak females,” they say. 

Let’s keep fighting for acceptance towards respectable ladies in games. Cheers love, to a more equal gaming experience.


About the Author

Elisa is starting her life out trying new things like writing and gaming. Her goal will be finished when people finally treat each other equally despite gender, race, sexuality, etc. Eating, watching videos, listening to spotify and screaming, "Support the arts!" is what she does best.

  • Kara Ashbeck

    I know a lot of people who will refuse to play females altogether because they absolutely cannot “project” themselves onto a female character. The most absurd excuse I heard was that they can’t play female characters because they automatically sexualize them by looking at their behinds constantly and it distracts them or makes them feel like a pervert. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also men who only play as female characters because they want to look at her behind the whole game.

    I think it’s incredibly absurd that men can’t play female characters or refuse to. I have no problem playing as male characters and I find it hard to understand how someone can refuse to empathize with the opposite gender. I don’t play Overwatch but the female characters seem like colorful and interesting people. It’s a shame to miss out on that simply because of their gender. I think you could’ve brought yourself into the article more (like how you feel when you play Overwatch), even though this is an opinion, to really get your point across. Providing a solution or call to action would’ve been compelling as well. How can we keep fighting for acceptance? What do you suggest Blizzard should do to encourage open-mindedness?

    This kind of stuff bothers me too so thank you for addressing it!

  • Evan Maier-Zucchino

    Yeah that dude can say he likes girls all he wants but he’s implicitly asserting the male dominated role of hero in games. That’s just wrong for so many reasons (like for 1, who cares if they feel “manly” anymore?). I love playing as Tracer and Zarya is the character I’ve put the most time into. I would agree with Kara’s comment about bringing yourself into the article more mainly because I think your title does the article a disservice. This article could have (and I would argue should have) been about why the gender ratio is important. At the moment it feels caught somewhere between a feature, reflection, and opinion to me. There is definitely an opinion here but, if I were writing this, I would title the article something like: “Why the gender ratio matters and I don’t care if it makes you feel unmanly.” It feels like you’re trying to fit several different types/tones of writing into one piece. It ends up feeling more descriptive than anything. That could be what you’re going for. Personally, I would like to see you make a stand and talk about why this is important, not just how we see its relevance.

  • Don

    I know I’m late to this discussion, as a 36 year old male I can relate a bit and hopefully shed a little light on the subject.

    For me – Part of playing games, is assuming the role. While I have no issues playing D.VA – part of me is still drawn to McCree/Hanzo/Rien

    I have tween/teen children that seem to gender role their characters as well. My daughter loves Tracer / Sombra / D.VA – Though she plays a very good Rein, she’s gets really excited about her Sombra skins and tries to play her more then is good for the team comp.

    I assume the author feels the same way as she stated “As a female, I like to play as strong women in video games.”

    As a Male I like to play strong males too 🙂 … I think the guy in the forum was stating he really likes tracer/mercy, but wishes he could play them as men.

  • Pingback: New Overwatch tank Orisa now available to play | Top Shelf Gaming()

  • Cape EniEer

    I am a girl and I think that even though there are more male characters than females in Overwatch, the females are a lot more “attractive” and interesting. And as a girl, I really wish Blizzard would give me a good male character to get attracted and be interested in. For example I really would have liked it if Sombra was a male character.

  • Cape EniEer

    Btw if by “robot” you meant Bastion then Bastion is a girl, so the ratio is 12 to 10.

Back to Top ↑