Cheers Luv, The Cavalry's Queer! Overwatch’s LGBT themes influence the fandom and its story

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Above: Tracer. Below: Hanzo. Credit: Blizzard Entertainment.

Since its release on May 24, 2016, Blizzard’s latest award-winning video game “Overwatch” has galvanized a stream of LGBT elements within the fandom and the creators themselves.

Like any pop culture franchise beforehand, such as the “Harry Potter” series or Marvel superhero properties, “Overwatch” has spanned numerous same-sex “shipping” — the short-term form of relationship pairing — with its roster of 24 diverse characters to choose from.

Alison Nadassy is an avid “Overwatch” player from Coconut Creek who found a deep connection with the game’s message and character’s history.

“As a pansexual, the diversity [in Overwatch] is such an important game because it explores diversity in this world through differences in race and identification in who they are as humans or omnics,” Nadassy said.

The fan content attributed for these same-sex ships range from artwork threads on Tumblr and Reddit forums, fan fiction and even creating pair hashtags on Twitter or dedicated fan zines.

Nadassy herself has a favorite same-sex couple pairing of Jesse McCree and Hanzo Shimada — two of its characters — that’s overwhelmingly popular within the fandom.

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“It was the aesthetic that got me into McHanzo,” Nadassy said, using the pair hashtag name. “[The] rugged cowboy with Japanese bowman, one’s super masculine but goofy while the other one’s stiff and serious.”

As of publication time, the fan fiction website Archive of Our Own has McCree and Hanzo stories as the most popular under its “relationship” tab with 2,440 published fanfictions, with a high-ranked one titled "Hang the Fool" being cited in a Kotaku article on October 2016.

While Nadassy noted other favorite and popular pairings such as PharMercy — security chief Fareeha “Pharah” Amari and Overwatch field medic Dr. Angela Ziegler — and Reaper76, based on the former Overwatch and Blackwatch commanders Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes, she still considers McHanzo her favorite.

“Currently it is one of my favorite couples that I ship out of everything I’m into,” Nadassy said. “It even has some support from the creators and voice actors like Matt Mercer.”

Nadassy is referring to the BlizzCon 2016 voice actors panel where Matthew Mercer, who voices Jesse McCree, ad-libbed a Starbucks order for "McCree and Hanzo" in character form.

This is another phenomenon based on the huge amount of support from the fandom where “Overwatch” voice actors and game developers get involved in pleasing their fans by inserting hints with each update and participating in the shipping elements.

“Since I learned Tracer was a lesbian, I was overjoyed because she’s not oversexualized by the creators." — Alison Nadassy

Contributions range from Carolina Ravassa and Anjali Bhimani — who voice the characters Sombra and Symmetra respectively — uploading quirky YouTube videos of each other, to in-dialogue interactions between McCree and Hanzo during the Overwatch Halloween event read as borderline flirty amongst the fandom.

Finally, the build-up of Overwatch’s first LGBT character resulted in the storyline reveal of Lena “Tracer” Oxton’s sexuality on December 2016, when Blizzard released a holiday-themed online comic titled “Reflections” revealing Tracer as a lesbian and having a girlfriend named Emily.

“Since I learned Tracer was a lesbian, I was overjoyed because she’s not oversexualized by the creators,” Nadassy said. “She’s the poster child, not the main character, that everyone knows. It was such an amazing addition to her background in [Overwatch] canon.”

Five months since Tracer’s reveal, no word from Blizzard regarding who the next LGBT character would be, considering how lead writer Michael Chu specified there’s “multiple [LGBT] heroes” within Overwatch, according to Mic.


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