Representation matters. And Blizzard Entertainment has made genuine effort to recognize various cultures and ethnicities throughout their games in recent years. But…Black women are still underrepresented.
At Blizzcon 2018, Blizzard unveiled a new Overwatch hero that no one knew they were even working on. Ashe, who leads the Deadlock Gang, is typical of the Western cowgirl villain. Ashe looks to be a fun hero to play who will likely be able to counter Pharah, Widow and Genji. Cool.
Except, Black women gamers who also enjoy playing Overwatch were wondering “Where the Black girls at?” As Black Girl Gamers pointed out, we’ve seen “unambiguous Black female characters in concept art.” Where are they now?
And no, it’s not just Black girls who would like to see themselves represented in the popular first-person shooter. Taylor Smith shared her concept art of an Overwatch character she created and named North because “Blizzard is taking too long to release a Black female Overwatch hero…”
Granted, players need to understand how important the symmetry of story and design are to Blizzard developers. There’s a reason why millions of people are in love with Blizzard games. Their attention to detail transports players to another world. And Blizzard’s committment to diversity gives people of color around the world hope for a more inclusive, less toxic gaming community. But it’s also why people, especially Black women, feel as if they have been excluded from the Overwatch world.
When Blizzard began leaking hints about Hero 24, we were hoping that the reveal would be Efi Oladele, the super intelligent little Black girl who built the guardian robot Orisa. Instead, Orisa was revealed to be Hero 24. Go through the Blizzard forums, reddit, Twitter and Facebook groups and people are asking “Where the Black girls at, Blizz?”
And at the same time, people who are widely represented do not seem to understand how important representation is when you don’t identify as White. They’ll tell those asking for representation that “It shouldn’t matter what they look like.” And it shouldn’t, except it does matter to a group of people who have been fighting for positive representation in film, television and video games for years. It matters because Black women are just as much a part of the world as White women.
Besides, in a 2016 press conference, Blizzard Entertainment heads said they want Overwatch to be as diverse as their fans and company. "We want that to be a part of who we are, what our brand looks like and appears to our community…So it's something we're very cognizant of. We want girls to feel kick-butt, equally represented." Black girls want to feel kick-butt and equally represented, too.
In the Overwatch teaser short “Recall,” Winston activates the Overwatch team and two Black women are on that list. What’s their story? Will we see them, Blizzard? Because every time Overwatch releases a new hero, there’s a long, loud collective sigh of Overwatch fans wondering where the Black girls at.