The Recent “Buttgate” Controversy With Overwatch Embodies A Wider Problem Of Censorship In The Industry

TRACER

If you’ve taken the time to click on this article then chances are you have consequently heard of the recent controversy surrounding a character called ‘Tracer’ in the closed beta of a game made by Blizzard called Overwatch. If, however, you haven’t heard of this controversy yet or simply would like the full picture; then here’s how things went down.

25th March 2016 – 

A user on the Overwatch beta forums by the name of “Fipps” posted an impassioned post titled “Overwatch’s Strong Female Heroes and that one Tracer Pose” in which she proceeded to make a complaint about the following pose:

In her post, the user went on to explain that she found the above pose to be “overly sexual” and to reduce Tracer to a “female sex symbol”. The user also posted how this isn’t the sort of character pose that she wants her daughter to see. More accurately, the user wrote

“WHAT? What about this pose has anything to do with the character you’re building in tracer? It’s not fun, its not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces tracer to another bland female sex symbol.”

The posting quickly electrified many users into joining in on the debate with some agreeing with “Fipps” and then some disagreeing with her line of argument. In particular, a user called “ZAON” responded to “Fipps” rebuking her argument in that it goes against the developers’ artistic freedom. The user wrote that:

“Assuming this is not troll thread, There is something very wrong with the position you seem to hold. Blizzard has the creative freedom to make the game they choose. You have the right do dislike the work of other people, but you should not impose what you think “ought” to be in regards to artistic freedom.

Artistic freedom is the extent of freedom of an artist to produce art to his/her own insight. The extent can deviate to customs in a certain school of art, directives of the assigner, etc.

If Blizz wanted to make a game with 100% males because of some interesting story/dynamic or what ever reason, they have every right to do so.”

28th March 2016 –

Game Director of Overwatch, Jeff Kaplan entered into the debate to inform people that Blizzard had made the decision to remove the pose. He also released a short statement saying that

“We’ll replace the pose. We want *everyone* to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented.

Apologies and we’ll continue to try to do better.”

This sparked outrage from many fans of the game and even those who hadn’t played the game since many perceived this as the developers “pandering” to the original OP. Fans were so outraged that a petition was started to undo Blizzard’s decision to remove the pose. The post is currently the “hottest” post on the game’s reddit page, a sign to the magnitude of disappointment in the decision to remove the pose.

29th March 2016 – 

Game Director, Jeff Kaplan was forced to make another post on the original thread in response to the criticism he faced for making the decision to remove the pose. In yet another official statement, albeit a longer one this time around, Kaplan wrote that:

“Well, that escalated quickly…

While I stand by my previous comment, I realize I should have been more clear. As the game director, I have final creative say over what does or does not go into the game. With this particular decision, it was an easy one to make—not just for me, but for the art team as well. We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer. We weren’t entirely happy with the original pose, it was always one that we wrestled with creatively. That the pose had been called into question from an appropriateness standpoint by players in our community did help influence our decision—getting that kind of feedback is part of the reason we’re holding a closed beta test—but it wasn’t the only factor. We made the decision to go with a different pose in part because we shared some of the same concerns, but also because we wanted to create something better.

We wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch, and we’re not going to remove something solely because someone may take issue with it. Our goal isn’t to water down or homogenize the world, or the diverse cast of heroes we’ve built within it. We have poured so much of our heart and souls into this game that it would be a travesty for us to do so.

We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision, and that’s okay. That’s what these kinds of public tests are for. This wasn’t pandering or caving, though. This was the right call from our perspective, and we think the game will be just as fun the next time you play it.

If it isn’t, feel free to continue sharing your concerns, thoughts, and feedback about this and other issues you may have with the game, please just keep the discussion respectful.

Thanks,

jeffrey”


Why This Embodies A Wider Problem Of Censorship In The Industry

It’s important to make clear that I am unopposed to the decision made by the developers to remove the Tracer pose from Overwatch as I respect their autonomy to – put frankly- do whatever the hell they want with their creation. Developers in general incessantly receive complaints such as the one made by the user “Fipps” concerning a pose for the character Tracer and it can become a real difficulty for developers to keep true to their vision for a game when so many users make complaints and whine about things they don’t like or agree with in a game. While constructive criticism is almost always welcome in most walks of life, the sort of toxic complaining and whining by gamers can often lead to forcing developers to change something in their own game perhaps even against their own wishes.

Further, I’m not saying that those who are labelled as ‘social justice warriors’ or ‘progressives’ are wrong for putting forth their opinions on something in a game since they are also well within their rights to do that but in my view and in my experiences, it becomes a problem when these people then attempt to enforce their ideologies upon others and demand that each video game reflect their own ideologies. Because of the rise of this ‘political correctness’ or however you would choose to define it, can end up resulting in developers being pressured into censoring themselves in order to avoid the controversy caused by those who are offended by something within their game based on their own personal ideologies.

The pertinent issue here is that no game will ever be ‘perfect’ as that’s something that cannot ever be achieved and as such, there will probably always be those who find some form of criticism for a game such as Overwatch. In a medium of entertainment that is made so great by the creative freedom and flexibility that video games allow, it’s hard to swallow when you consider that  you’re likely going to see creators taking less risks in their creation process in order to avoid any negative controversy from those who are offended by any particular thing in a game.

For most of the argument, it comes down to the innate right of freedom of expression. That essentially means that developers should be able to depict whatever they like and in an ideal situation, no one should be able to tell them different. They shouldn’t have to feel forced to change their creative design as a means of avoiding anyone being offended.

One thing that we mustn’t lose sight of is that video games are a form of entertainment. And, in my view, censorship has no place in entertainment. Whether it’s Charlie Chaplin impersonating Hitler or comedians making offensive jokes, we mustn’t allow this freedom to be restricted due to the outcry of some who were offended by it. There’s so many instances of this forced censorship across all forms of entertainment. The sexualization of women in games is sometimes a target for such outcry but denying that females in life or in video games can have a ‘sexual’ side is in itself denying the nature and personality of some women. We wasn’t forget that people are very convoluted and everyone has different beliefs but an attempt to force your ideologies onto other people or other people’s work is an aberration of the freedom of expression that defines western culture.


 

Do you have an opinion on this recent controversy and the wider problem of censorship in the gaming industry? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

 

 

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Charlie Oakley
Head writer and PR guy for @TGGamingReviews.
Business Inquries: charlieoakley@thisgengaming.co.uk
About the author

Charlie Oakley

Head writer and PR guy for @TGGamingReviews. Business Inquries: charlieoakley@thisgengaming.co.uk
  • Aaron MacNaughton

    Fantastic read

  • Titan

    Yes, let’s complain about such a stupid pose but she’s perfectly okay with her daughter playing a game where you shoot people or in her words, “it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer”. If she’s going to complain about something so mundane, she may as well complain as to why they’re not all wearing burqas. So stupid, and even stupider still that Blizzard immediately caved into such a thing. I don’t care anyway, Overwatch doesn’t interest me at all so I have no dog in this fight.

    • CasualPotato

      Mate: Just to let you know, they replaced the pose with something even better: They replaced the pose with Tracer imitating a 1930’s pin-up girl. It’s actually perfect, since she’s a playful pilot. Blizzard made the perfect call: A giant middle finger to people like the OP.

      • FiachSidhe

        It’s not a middle finger. Idiots like you wish it was, but it isn’t. It’s just a more dynamic pose. Stop pretending it was some win for anti-SJW social justice. FFS

  • KashIsKlay

    Great conclusion. Can’t censor art

    • Jason

      When does it stop becoming art and just turn into an abomination? Look at the art recovered from Pompeii, are you even going to try to contend that a sculpture of a man having sex with a goat is art? There is a right and a wrong and art, video games, and movies, etc.. doesn’t get a free pass just because they’re a form of “expression”.

      Did any of the super mario bros. games suffer because princess peach wasn’t baring her chest or behind or is Half Life 2 ill served because Alyx overtly sexual looking? No game has ever suffered because of modesty in regards to sexuality and I can imagine only someone addicted to pornography who want’s their obscene obsession to spill over into gaming would be offended by a lack of perversity.

      • jakdripr

        Art by definition is subjective so it never stops being art, but this is besides the point. Censorship period is just not welcome, you can’t have freedom of speech(and by extension expression) and censorship in the same society, it’s either one or the other. If Blizzard felt comfortable with Tracer posing backwards then who are we to tell them otherwise? Vote with your wallet I always say. I thought Gods of Egypt was an abomination because it cast a bunch of europeans as Egyptian Gods, I didn’t write a petition, I didn’t rant about it online(this post notwitstanding), I simply didn’t watch the movie.

        There is a real issue with the manner in which women are presented in video games, but even in the context of overwatch(a game I think handles it’s women really well) I don’t think Tracer is the person we should be criticizing.

        • Brandon Shorter

          eh I find the presentation argument is weak honestly since it confirm your prejudices White Anglo Wasp Culture are Prudish and hateful in thing related to Sex so any sexually attractive character will be subject to the idea t “negative ” simply in confirmation bias . , The idea that context matter is the silliest shit I’ve ever heard , Context is irrelevant not sure how liberal progressive believe this nonsense anymore , Political correctness is morphing into a new form of middle class white puritanism to replace the old religious right wing version .
          , Most the complaint on Overwatch . Oh her boobs are a bit too big (No character has over a C cup) , Oh she wears a jumpsuits i’m uncomfortable” Some new petty complaint , Oh we want less sexualized character (Well there a woman in Full Armor there a Macho butch woman there is a girl in an eskimo suit…Not enough though ,Since really is about removing attractive characters that sale well for the Vocal Secular political/religious groups that are deeply offended by it none to different than how Christian are offended by er everything , or Any other religous groups ) So yeah Context is Irrelevant ,(Oh yeah she fully covered in armor but she still attractive face can’t you make her face less cartoony more realistic and more ugly so I can relate to her ? ),
          .
          It also a weasel word :”Good Presentation” like there some universal consensus on what good presentation is , and honestly it the same attacks pop stars get , Hell there are woman who are very sexual who have no problem with Erotic art , vs woman who view it all as a symbol of Satan . how fuck do you get consensus on what good presentation there polar opposites ? Complete nonsense

          Also Mobile game company cater perfectly well to people offended by Sexy Woman and Fantastical and exaggerated character , With very bland games that try there best to not offend anyone hell apple bans games with any hint of sexuality . . It really silly that you have group demanding that company targeting core gamer with specific art styles and audience completely alter there games to target a completely different market

          • Jason

            Context has no bearing in an argument and you bring up WASP… So you’re either a not so smart self hating white or the stereo-typical white-hating black; who in this case is using big words like they’re on loan in order to impress us all, but fails as it’s as vapid and transprent as your argument against decency and modesty.

            Pro Tip: There’s a reason people don’t walk around their neighborhoods nude, and suprisingly it’s not because they’re being oppressed and censored.

          • Brandon Shorter

            Er your talking about a Cartoon character and decency and a Video game lol and please go back to your puritan cave with the fear of the cartoon ass coming to haunt your days , There Sexier things on American Day time tv/Reality than there are in Videos games and plenty of woman baring cleavage , Including Movies , Not even talking about a Sex scene here you do realize that right ? T. Decency and modesty in a fictional piece of entertainment is your personal opinion about what you personally like and dislike this I could care less go buy another game or something that suit your religous values . lol it not a debate really it either you like or don’t . Puritanical zealots complaining about Yoga pants on a fictional cartoon character bubble butt LOL is your most pressing concern of decency ? I’d call you fanatical christian since they tend to be obsessed about these things . but given this is a video game site gonna assume it a very puritanical liberal American obsessed with the corruption that comes from tracer booty ? xD or are you a conservative who adopted strong political correct language since the bible doesn’t cut it anymore

          • Jason

            Er… never assumed you were white, genius. Reading and comprehension not a strong point eh?

            Here’s what I said:
            “not so smart self hating white or the stereo-typical white-hating black”

            So what I take from your argument is if the indecency is in cartoon form then it’s ok? Great line of logic. I’m sure that’s how you rationalize watching Hentai full of preteens.

            “Decency and modesty in a fictional piece of entertainment is your personal opinion”

            LOL… I just love subjective morality. Much like you and I (Black and White) there is an absolute right and wrong whether or not you want to acknowledge that is your business, but don’t pull everyone else down to your level because you don’t.

            “The Bible doesn’t cut it anymore”

            Yeah that’s what people who have never actually taken the time to read the Bible usually say.

          • Brandon Shorter

            Lol honestly Could care less about what has bible has to say , I see with my own eyes what there so called Followers have done and as a Black man I am terrified and my ancestors where terrified , . since there practitioners rarely cared about loving anyone with there nonsensical morality , between saying black people had no souls and the genocide and murders , . Good White American Christian are some Greatest monster on the planet , Would never subject Anyone to the bible . You can go Join Mr Trump he’s representing Good Christian Taking America back and “Decency “. He seem to like to bang his daughter , Christian have something in common with hentai that your afraid of , accept it real for you And Honestly given that amount of woman who where married off at a young age and all the rape caused by so Called White Christian during slavery , Banging Preteen seem to be an Old Christian trade

      • KashIsKlay

        Art is art, if you’re offended then don’t pay attention to it. There is always an alternative simple as that.

        • FiachSidhe

          It’s also a product for sale. And as an artist myself, art is always subject to criticism.

      • Titan

        Actually, that is art. It doesn’t matter what subject it displays. Any piece of art however bad or offensive is art.

        As for your arguments about Peach and Alyx, you’re right except that this “pose” was not “sexual” in nature at all. It’s just some Fem having beef with something that she saw that wasn’t there. She’s just standing there looking back at you. Had she been on all fours with her tongue hanging out and saliva dripping down, then yes, there would be a good case against it but this? This is just dumb.

        This really highlights what’s wrong with society. They’re perfectly okay with letting their kids play as “elite killers” killing people left and right but god forbid a woman stands there and looks back at you like that! Think of the children!

        • Jason

          Your argument is pretty convenient for child predator, dont you think? But I’m sure child pornography is just art to you as well. Maybe if you hadnt lost any sense of dignity and decency you once had before becoming an internet porn addict you might actually be able to see reason instead of just validating perverseness.

          • Titan

            1.) I’m shouldn’t even argue with someone who upvotes himself.

            2.) It’s been awhile but your argument is definitely a logical fallacy. You think my equating with some chick looking backwards now equates to child pornography? Sounds like a Strawman argument to me. You’ve done nothing to address the issue except attack me with meaningless quips and a lack of evidence to prove anything.

          • Jason

            “1.) I’m shouldn’t even argue with someone who upvotes himself.”

            Right. I suppose then “I’m shouldn’t” bother arguing with someone who can’t be bothered to use proper english.

            “2.) It’s been awhile but your argument is definitely a logical fallacy. You think my equating with some chick looking backwards now equates to child pornography? Sounds like a Strawman argument to me. You’ve done nothing to address the issue except attack me with meaningless quips and a lack of evidence to prove anything.”

            Oooohhh the “logical fallacy” argument, which of course is a fallacy in and of itself since the object of pointing out the “logical fallacy” is to discredit an arguer which is a form of an ad-hominem attack. The problem with wimps like yourself who hide behind “logical fallacy” attacks is that you don’t have the brains to back up your argument with anything meaningful so you simply fallback and attack the argument from a false pretense of intelligence, a bit of a “red herring” if you ask me.

            Come original mext time, genius.

            Also, you didn’t exactly refute the child pornography/predator position which I find alarming to say the least.

          • Titan

            “you don’t have the brains to back up your argument with anything meaningful ”

            LOL says the guy who accuses people of being things without any evidence. Why should I have to refute anything you say when you’re just spewing bullshit? Where in my original post did I ever mention child porn? I was talking about a digital character who is merely looking backwards. So tell me where is your meaningful argument? Where is your evidence to back up your bullshit? Right, because it doesn’t exist. Oh and here. I’ll upvote you because I know how important it is for your pathetic life to be validated in the smallest ways just so you don’t put a gun in your mouth one morning and pull the trigger because no one loves you.

          • Jason

            All that just to say “kill yourself”. How very classy of you. I hope you’re not thinking of killing yourself.

      • olumuyiwa lartey

        You missed the point. This was an optional pose that you could have used if you wanted to or just ignore if you did not like it. And why do people have to use their children as some sort of moral ground to criticize something not rated for their children. Also, this pose is not as sexual as you would think.

        • Brandon Shorter

          Because there moralistic bigots looking to return to the age when you can ban all those naughty sexy things from media ?

          • Jason

            Yeah because *gasp* God forbid any of us have morals!!! What could be worse?!?

  • JBeauregard

    I read in one place that this is a father writing the complaint, and here I read it’s a mother. I can see both sides, and while censorship is somewhat ridiculous in many cases, I can’t crap on the developers for making a change. Is it really all that exciting and necessary to see an ass? lol does it add anything to the game? Does it make it more interesting? Are the developers 15 years old? I think there’s a smidgen of responsibility to be considered on the part of developing a game that doesn’t just make every female character a sexual object. Doing that will not stifle creativity. Perhaps the greatest issue is that developers view all women characters in this manner and cannot make one that can stand on her own. It is okay to empower women to be women. Women don’t need to show tits or ass to get attention or their points across.
    I do understand the other side. “why change anything? It’s a relatively harmless pose. I find it pretty innocent and not sexual at all.” Then I take a middle stance. Why the hell are people so upset that they do one thing or another. if they want to respect this mother (or father’s) complaint, then so be it. How many other developers do the same? Practically none. It’s nice to know that people are heard.

    • WEL

      it was a guy and some even think it was just a troll.

      And not to mention that almost the entire forum is against the change and Blizzard doesn’t even give a damn.

    • Smiling_Jack

      See, that’s the funny thing. I agree that, historically, sexualizing women in video games has been a problem in the industry; although that was mostly the industry preying on the hormones of their target audience. However, that problem is slowly fading away and Overwatch is a perfect example of it. For the record, I am against the change or the fact that this is even a controversy. But, step back and look at Overwatch as a whole. While people can make claims about Tracer being sexualized purely on the merit of her wearing a jump suit. In the same game, you have a girl who literally dresses like an eskimo and another that’s a freakin body builder. If those don’t fall outside the realm of sex object, I don’t know what does.

  • Chuck Green

    I think if you don’t like the game, don’t buy it. If you like the game and can deal with the creative license then buy it. Decide with your money!

    • Jason

      Yes, because certainly that approach has taught the porn industry a lesson as well as the human traffickers too.

  • Idania

    regardless of their “intentions”, blizzard will forever be labeled the spineless pussies who bent a knee to a fucking feminist

    • FiachSidhe

      Only to manbaby douchebags who care way too much about virtual ass.

      • Betty Black

        sounds like you, weaboo

  • NCIceman

    I think this went exactly as it should have, minus the internet uproar. The user Fipp has the right to voice their opinion. People have the right to voice their agreement or disagreement with said opinion. People have the right to request a change, but not the right to DEMAND one; individuals can always vote with their wallets, and the artist has the right to stick to their vision for their art.
    In this case, the developers already were uncomfortable with the pose. The “backbreaker” pose, designed solely to show off a characters “assets”, is a long running joke and controversy in comics.
    So, change the pose in the profile since it’s an unrealistic and detracting stance, but if that’s her ass in game, leave it.

  • AlyxVixen

    Apparently she has no problem with the model of Widowmaker.

    • captain

      stfu, dont give them ideas.

  • RMQuarter

    Why can’t people just leave this pose alone, I bet that “Fipps” has seen girls like that before (not in that exact pose of course), so why make such a big deal?

  • FiachSidhe

    God WHO FUCKING CARES. Who cares if someone was offended, who cares if it was removed, or replaced. It’s a fucking god damn victory pose in a shallow cartoon shooting game. For fuck’s sake could gamers stop being retarded for just a god damned minute? Take your petition and shove it up your asses. I’m so sick of being perpetually embarrassed by this hobby.

  • Adam Jenson

    “We wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch” Except you did because one social justice fascist complained about it.

    • Jason

      What? You mad now that you can’t jack off to the newer, less sexy pose of the character?

      • Adam Jenson

        Way to doge the actual comment and point I was trying to make jackass.

  • bolvark

    Alot of this is just bad handling. If they had changed it as part of a ninja fix or if they had stated their reasons from the get go it probably wouldn’t have been an issue. But since they basically said “Yes Mame!” as the starting tone anything and everything they could have said would seems like them covering their asses.

    If this was a company that didn’t have a record of stating l that they cave to outside influences their approach may have worked. Blizzard has a policy of being less sexist and more inclusive and their is both good and bad ways to do this. The change to silvanas windrunner’s outfit for instance was done in a good way.

    I probably would have never gotten around to overwatch as is, but this whole incident was the final nail in that coffin.