Just after new hero Ashe has been announced, unhappy voices complained about yet another white female hero – while there are certainly characters of all nationalities and skin colours already, the game doesn’t have a female black character, and surprisingly many people were offended that Ashe didn’t fill that gap.
Game director Jeff Kaplan responded to the displeased players: “I think if you look at the history of Overwatch, there’s been such a wide variety of people that we’ve represented in the game. We have no shortage of heroes that we’re currently working on secretly back in Irvine. Right now I think the number’s around six that we have in development. I don’t think people are gonna be disappointed.”
In other words, we know that the Overwatch dev team is already eagerly working on the next few heroes. Half a dozen really isn’t a bad number, given how many heroes there already are in the game. It also means there’s a good chance that there will, in fact, be a black woman in the game at some point.
Kaplan continued: “I think there’s… I don’t want to say something for everyone, because six is not something for everyone. There’s a lot more people who walk Planet Earth than that. But I don’t think people will be disappointed. We have a lot of really cool, interesting characters that are gonna come out over the next few years”. Ashe, the hardened cowgirl with her (already beloved) robot companion B.O.B. received as many good comments as bad ones – fans are excited to play her, and those that aren’t happy aren’t displeased with her character per se, instead protesting the general lack of black females in the game.
When Blizzard revealed a series of sketches of earlier designs of the characters, fans disappointment grew as one of the early designs showed Ashe as having darker skin. Some remembered quickly that a similar thing had happened to Mercy – a very, very early stage concept had the blonde woman as a black man instead. Fans even went so far as to quickly create alternate versions of Ashe that show her as black instead – some of them are actually pretty good! It’s worth noting that the game’s supporting cast DOES feature some black women, such as the creator of robot Orisa – Efi Oladele. A Winston short that aired in 2016 also featured two black female characters, as fans were quick to remember and point out.
With the 29 heroes that Overwatch currently has, there really isn’t a shortage of diversity, and many of the team are nationalities and backgrounds that are traditionally overlooked by game makers completely – between Doomfist, a Nigerian man, Lucio, a Brazillian DJ and Pharah, an Egyptian woman, it’s clear to see that Blizzard are being anything but racist in their character designs, though some fans have gone so far as to suggest that.
A few fans took another viewpoint on the potential of Ashe being black – they feel that the first black female in the game could probably have a better background than being an outlaw criminal in a feud with the very white McCree, especially given that Doomfist is also a villain character already.
Whichever way you lean on the matter, fans are divided at the moment, and will likely continue to be so until the Overwatch team announce the next new character – likely longer than that actually. It seems that even with one of the most diverse casts in gaming at the moment, some fans aren’t happy with Overwatch’s efforts when it comes to their hero cast.