Overwatch developer Blizzard has been described as the “JK Rowling of video games,” after revealing that Soldier 76 is LGBTQ in the game’s brand new comic, ‘Bastet.’ The comparison was made as a result of Blizzard highlighting the character’s sexuality away from the main game, something which the Harry Potter has been criticized for in the past.
Earlier this week, Blizzard debuted a comic in which Soldier 76 discusses his previous relationship with Vincent. After the reveal in the comic, Overwatch‘s lead writer Michael Chu confirmed on Twitter that both Soldier 76 and Vincent “identify as gay.” The move was widely praised for increasing representation of the LGBTQ community in gaming, though it wasn’t without its criticisms.
Blizzard similarly revealed that Tracer has a girlfriend in an Overwatch comic back in 2016. Again, this was a welcome decision on the developer’s behalf, though some questioned why it didn’t translate to the game itself and was instead hidden away in a comic book. Soldier 76 has received the same treatment, with there having been no reference to his sexuality in the game itself.
As a result, comparisons have been made between Blizzard and JK Rowling, with many taking to Twitter to criticize Blizzard for limiting LGBTQ representation to Overwatch comics. This is in line with those leveled at Rowling, whose treatment of Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality has also been questioned.
Rowling previously stated that Dumbledore was gay and that’s the way she “always saw” the character. In a 2007 Q&A (via The Guardian), Rowling added that she had even vetoed a line in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in which Dumbledore references a female love interest. “I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, “Dumbledore’s gay!”‘ the author said.
Again, while Rowling attracted praise for this, she was also criticized for never making this apparent in the Harry Potter books. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2, director David Yates came under fire when he stated that Dumbledore’s sexuality would “not explicitly” be made apparent in the movie, which was written by Rowling. Many have argued that this is Rowling enjoying the best of both worlds; appeasing the LGBTQ community by representing them in a minor fashion, without facing the backlash of openly including a gay character in her works.
In the case of Overwatch, it’s arguable that elaboration on the sexualities of its characters would be out of place, considering the minor characterization offered by the game in the first place. The vast majority of Overwatch‘s world-building takes place outside of the game, with it mostly consisting of animated shorts and comics. While Blizzard occasionally releases timed story-based events, thus far they’ve been infrequent and unsubstantial.
The most characterization offered in Overwatch is the game’s voice lines in its spawn rooms, which see heroes interacting with one another and discussing past events in the Overwatch universe. Back in 2017, Blizzard included a line from Tracer which referenced her girlfriend: “Wonder if I have time to visit Emily? No, better stay focused.”
The same could be offered for Soldier 76, though if Overwatch fans want more than that, they’re likely going to be left waiting. Blizzard has slowed down its updates for the FPS, with it only releasing marginal improvements while focusing on development for the game’s upcoming heroes, after recently debuting Ashe following her reveal during Blizzcon 2018.