While surveys show that 85 percent of gamers think it’s important to have diverse characters in games, just 42 percent of them think the industry is actually working to increase diversity. So it’s not surprising that fans of Blizzard Entertainment’s “Overwatch” are still waiting for a Black woman to appear in the game.
Now, game director Jeff Kaplan says the game will soon have a Black character named Sojourn, and she will be the hero of her own storyline. “We concepted Sojourn before the original ‘Overwatch’ game even launched,” Kaplan told Kotaku on Tuesday (November 5). “She immediately became a very important character to us, and as we were developing the idea for ‘Overwatch 2,’ she sort of started to move to the center of the story. She’s coming to the surface now.”
When asked why she had to wait so long when 31 other heroes have already made their debut, Kaplain said, “While I know it’s a really important issue to a lot of people, they need to know that Sojourn is amazing, and we would rather do right by the character—treat her like an actual human being—than just rush her out. I think that the fact that she’s going to be at the center of ‘Overwatch 2’ is going to be really meaningful to a lot of our fans.” For gamers who have been forced to live in the virtual world of White male fantasy, Kaplan’s reason for the super slow rollout isn’t a good one, especially as Kotaku reports that there’s no release date set for Sojourn’s story debut.
“I personally feel like the right thing to do by the character is still deliver on that story and not just rush her out because the community is upset with us,” said Kaplan, a White man. “I tend to find that there’s always a community upset with us over something. I’ve mentioned this before, but the real value of ‘Overwatch’ inclusivity is the idea that we’re open-minded, that we want everybody to feel welcome into the universe, and the result of that is diversity. I would hate for the diversity to ever feel pandering, like we just had this spreadsheet with a bunch of checkboxes. Because it’s a ridiculous notion to think we’re ever going to be able to represent all the people on the planet.”
Meanwhile, the “Overwatch” universe is one in which a gorilla and a hamster are already stars. Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson noted the weakness of Kaplan’s excuse. “While it’s one thing to overtly pander to a marginalized audience in hopes of coaxing dollars out of their wallets, it’s something else to run a game for three and a half years, add numerous heroes to it, and fail to represent a sizable segment of the populace who have asked to be included countless times, only to be sent to the back of the line,” Grayson wrote. “One character among a roster of 31 (and counting) is not pandering. That’s the absolute bare minimum of representation.”