Response: Overwatch has 10 million reasons devs should think about diversity

This post is a response to an opinion piece written by Susana Polo.

I'll start off by saying yes; devs should be thinking about diversity.

And they are - more than ever, in fact. With high-profile games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, Dishonored 2 and the aforementioned Overwatch all showcasing strong, clever, badass women, it's safe to say that 2016 stands as another year of improvement in celebrating the woman protagonist. It's still a frustrating snail's pace we're taking, and we're still seeing a gross preponderance of men brandished on the box art of this year's games, but it's progress.

This movement (a bit weak for a movement, but given the medium's history...) is very much a response to social media’s focus on feminism, anti-racism, LGBT rights, and other civil rights issues that have been gaining resonance this decade. While politicians and civilians squabble over marriage laws and bathroom privileges, (not to disparage either concern) movie producers, website editors and game developers can enjoy life way ahead of the curve. The media is all ears, and so is Blizzard.

So for the games of 2012-2020, diversity is IN. But Team Fortress 2 - a game franchise which debuted in the late '90s....not surprising there wasn't more sensitivity concerning gender equality, orientation or identity. Back then, the target demographic for most (if not all) games was young-to-mid-20s male consumers. Not because there weren't female players, or even because there wasn't millions of female players, but because the media dictated videogames as a male-dominant culture. Boys like Mortal Kombat and DOOM, girls like Barbie and bedazzled jackets, and everyone likes Full House at 8 p.m.

I don't know your ex-coworker from a few years ago, but it sounds like he was just trying to find his way toward winning the conversation. However, he isn't wrong. There's certainly a demand for female characters in Team Fortress 2 today, but I'll bet no one batted an eyelash back in 2007; Team Fortress tradition demanded male characters, I'm sure (don't play myself). But what stood out to me was his last statement, which seemed to baffle you the most:

But then people would inevitably complain about the roles they put them in being "stereotypical," was his rebuttal.

You can be sure as shit that back in the '90s, or even in '07, any female characters would've been given a scantily clad support class or sniper class at best. Even Overwatch, which has been heralded over and over as graciously diverse and refreshingly progressive, sports blatantly sexualized women with breast-accentuating armor and skin-tight yoga pants. Imagine what Team Fortress 2 might have looked like! Those hypothetical character models would've been heavily criticized today.

So I say again, yes; developers should be keeping a close eye on games like The Last of Us, Life is Strange, and Tomb Raider. I believe Overwatch is an excellent example of a developer reaping the benefits of this astute observation. And I’m glad that its diverse roster of characters has allowed you to enjoy the game more than other class-based shooters. But judging an older game based on its choice of demographic  hardly seems fair. Developers and producers of the ‘90s and 2000s designed their games based on what was marketable. Blizzard made a smart contemporary move with Overwatch, much like they did with Starcraft back in 1998. Perhaps, twenty years from now, we’ll be looking back on Overwatch and condemning it for Widowmaker’s exposed chest - or Hanzo’s, for that matter.