Published on November 7th, 2016 | by Elisa Wright2
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..” As 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.