February 7, 2024

Is Soldier 76 Gay?

As well as making sure players can continue to have fun playing one of the world's biggest video games, Blizzard might have a good reason for not adding any more content that suggests Soldier: 76 and Tracer are in same-sex relationships. That is because, unlike in other games, the sexuality of Overwatch characters is only ever explored through tie-in comics and not in-game storytelling.

Overwatch's grizzled ex-soldier, Jack Francis Morrison, was revealed to be gay in a short story called Bastet that came out in 2019. Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu told players on Twitter that the character had been in a relationship with a man named Vincent and now identifies as LGBT. The reveal was a big deal to Overwatch fans, with many LGBTQ gamers celebrating it on social media and famous esports players making gay jokes about the game's most popular character.

But despite the positive response to Jack's coming out, not everyone thinks it was a good idea. A study recently found that when Soldier: 76's homosexuality was revealed, his pick rate (the frequency of times players choose to play as him) dropped. The researchers behind the study put out a survey to hundreds of Overwatch players asking how the new information affected their gaming experience. 83 percent of respondents were men, and most played in North America and Europe.

Overwatch's Ed Nightingale tells Newsbeat he hopes the representation of a "very macho, typically masculine character" as gay can help educate gamers who might not be aware that queer people exist in the gaming world. He says gaming is often seen as a straight, white space and anyone who doesn't fit that narrative can be subjected to harassment and bullying online.

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