Overwatch is, without a doubt, one of the most diverse video games in history. Heroes and secondary characters that span a surprising amount of races, genders, nationalities, orientations, and conditions. In a world where the most relatable trait most video game characters have is that they might just be human, Overwatch literally has something for everyone.
But is this standard of diversity important to the game itself? The answer is yes and not only is it important for Overwatch, it's also important for the entire video game industry going forward.
Since Overwatch is set on Earth but in the future, it allows for the story and the characters to be somewhat relatable but also allows for some fantastical elements to be added (like robots and talking apes). In Overwatch's interpretation of the future of our actual world, diversity is at the forefront.
Since Overwatch lore is based in an interpretation of reality, the diversity has stirred some political conversations around the game, and it may seem like the Overwatch team is being diverse for the sake of diversity. This is definitely not the case, and as game director, Jeff Kaplan stated at the 2017 D.I.C.E. Summit,
“I think it’s really interesting that people think that diversity was the goal of the Overwatch team when it was not. What we cared about was creating a game in a game universe in a world where everybody felt welcomed. And really what the goal was was inclusivity and open-mindedness.”
Actual human diversity in a game about people from Earth where diversity is present makes the game more believable. FPS games should have diverse rosters, so why shouldn't the heroes themselves be diverse?
Overwatch stands out in the gaming world for including so many walks of life, but it's a shame that this is something that stands out at all.
overwatch wouldn't be a fraction as popular as it is if it featured the same old tired cardboard characters— H. D. Harris (@Hdharris_irl) March 5, 2017
Of course, the games featuring fantastical creatures and futuristic beings are exempt from this argument but where humans and Earth as a setting are concerned, Overwatch brings the most relatable to the table.
And that's where diversity is most important to the game itself. Overwatch would have been a popular game no matter what because the gameplay itself is excellent (a Blizzard standard of course) but it's one of the most popular games and franchises in the world because it appeals to almost everyone.
Even if you can't relate to a hero or supporting character in Overwatch completely, chances are there's at least one character that's around your age or from your country. Personally, I'm wishing for a Canadian hero to relate to but in the meantime there are plenty of young women in the game that I can relate to, emulate, and idolize.
Literally every single human hero (and even most of the robots) in the Overwatch roster is a diverse character in some way, often in multiple ways. The majority of the bilingual characters have lines in their home language. Sometimes I just marvel at it.— Emry Harris (@Emry_GameOn) June 12, 2018
New Overwatch heroes are introduced to the game all the time, and so even if you're in the small majority of people who can't relate to anyone in the roster, you can always look forward to the day when Overwatch releases a character just like you. It could happen.
Since Overwatch basically includes everyone, it inspires and captures the imagination of so many people. Artists especially can't help creating amazing things based upon their favorite heroes. Writers are inspired to create volumes and volumes of lore. Cosplayers have it easy with Overwatch heroes because there's such a diverse selection of heroes, there's bound to be one that fits your general look - and if not, challenges you to think outside the box.
There are Overwatch fans who only play the game because they love the stories and the characters. There are Overwatch fans who don't play the game at all but can't get enough of the franchise regardless. Overwatch is an attractive fandom because it appeals to people all over the world.
That is important to the game because it ensures Overwatch will entertain players from all walks of life for many, many years to come.
Photos courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment