The popular hero shooter Overwatch has a growing roster of queer heroes, but Blizzard is taking a cautious approach to introducing them. This year, the game’s developer released a set of Pride-themed cosmetic items for players to use, but it’s not allowing characters to affirm their sexuality with voice lines. Instead, the company is saving that information for lore-related content like short stories, which don’t have much to do with gameplay anyway. This strategy could preserve plausible deniability for players who don’t want to see Overwatch’s characters come out as LGBTQ.
The first hero to be revealed as gay in Overwatch was Tracer in 2016, with her backstory featuring a romantic relationship with a man named Vincent. That same year, Overwatch introduced another hero, Soldier: 76, who received his own short story describing his relationship with a fellow soldier named Ana. The announcement of both these characters prompted enthusiastic reactions from Overwatch fans, but it also spurred criticism that Blizzard was pushing the sexuality of its heros for purely aesthetic reasons.
Since then, Overwatch’s hero roster has grown to include Baptiste and Pharah. In a new short story called As You Are, written by Jen Stacey and illustrated by Hannah Templer, the rocket-spewing hero Pharah confirms she is a lesbian to Baptiste, a Haitian combat medic who once worked for Overwatch’s terrorist enemy faction Talon. Both characters are prominently featured in the Pride-themed event, which is now underway in Overwatch’s game world.