Responding to Beta Test Feedback is Not Censorship

Blizzard just removed a butt-emphasizing victory pose from the character Tracer in their MOBA/FPS mash-up Overwatch (currently in beta) due to a complaint from a user on the Battle.net forums.

Here is the pose:

Tracer Victory Pose 2 Over The Shoulder

Source

And here is the post by user Flipps in its entirety (with grammar, spelling, etc all in tact):

So I wanted to start off by saying, I think the development team has done a pretty great job with the cast of female hero’s in Overwatch. They are diverse, interesting, and compelling. From Mei to Zarya to Widowmaker the female cast reflects a large spectrum of personalities and player fantasies.

With that being said, lets talk about Tracer. From a marketing standpoint, she’s the star of the show. She’s a great hero. When we look at the way she’s portrayed in promotional media, lore, and art in game we know a few things about her..

She’s Fast.
She’s Silly.
She’s Kind.
She’s a good Friend.
Her body seems to be comprised of about 95% spunk.

Almost all of her art reflects this. She’s got cool skins: http://static.mnium.org/images/contenu/actus/Overwatch/Heros/overwatch_skin-tracer_11_hd.jpg

She’s got fun poses:

She’s got amazing victory animations:

All of this art reinforces the great character you’ve built around tracer.

Then out of seemingly no where we have this pose:

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.

We aren’t looking at a widowmaker pose here, this isn’t a character who is in part defined by flaunting her sexuality. This pose says to the player base, oh we’ve got all these cool diverse characters, but at any moment we are willing to reduce them to sex symbols to help boost our investment game.

Getting art into a triple A game isn’t a small task, it has to go through an implementer, a team lead, an art director, and a creative director. This is a team effort. And I believe the team is responsible for upholding the great example overwatch can set to the rest of the industry for creating strong female characters.

I have a young daughter that everyday when I wake up wants to watch the recall trailer again. She knows who tracer is, and as she grows up, she can grow up alongside these characters.

What I’m asking is that as you continue to add to the overwatch cast and investment elements, you double down on your commitment to create strong female characters. You’ve been doing a good job so far, but shipping with a tracer pose like this undermines so much of the good you’ve already done.

Finally, here is Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan’s response on the same thread (again in its entirety):

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.

Please keep all this in mind, as I address a complaint that I can see coming from a mile away.

This is not, I REPEAT NOT, an instance of Blizzard being “censored” by their fans.

This is not a free speech issue.

Here is one fan making this fallacious argument on the very same thread:

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.

And another:

You have an agenda because you believe Blizzard has to create a game that accomplishes something in regards to how it portrays women, or lives up to some “standard” that you’ve created for yourself by which you expect others should treat women in video games. This game, like any other piece of art, is as Blizzard intends it to be. Trying to force it to change to your perceived notion of what is a standard for morality or how you expect a made up women to be perceived is just plain pretentious, arrogant, and borderline fascist. Get over yourself, and if you have an issue as fundamental with the game as its art direction, then do us all a favor and stop playing. We enjoy the art that Blizzard has presented to us.

If you find a similar argument bubbling up to your lips, pause for a minute and read through this brief reminder:

“Censorship” is when a company is unable to publish or release a product the way that they want to because some authority charged with overseeing their industry has declared it unfit.

Blizzard is not being censored.  They are soliciting the input of fans during the Beta Testing phase of their product’s development.  They asked to be told what people do and do not like about their game as it currently stands.  This particular user offered a suggestion and Blizzard chose to take it.  They made a calculated decision to change their product based on this feedback, thinking that it would be good for business in the long run.

They aren’t being stopped from making the game that they want to make.

Rather, the game that they want to make is a game that is inclusive and welcoming to all kinds of people.

Everyone relax already.

UPDATE: Jeff Kaplan posted on the thread once again in the wake of about 87646574987 angry complaints that this decision is and example of Political Correctness Run Amok!

See if you can find where the censorship is happening.

Spoiler alert!  There isn’t any!

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

(btw, unlocking this thread. please continue the discussion here)

 

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10 thoughts on “Responding to Beta Test Feedback is Not Censorship

  1. Clearly you’re new to the internet. <- Sarcasm.
    I commend you on your attempt to educate <- Not Sarcasm.
    I don't play this game, and don't know the characters and have absolutely zero stake in this specific discussion; but the collection of vocal whiners when it comes to anything they deem denying them the T&A in "their" games borders on ludicrous parody of itself. Seriously, the internet has all the porn they could want, if they're only interested in T&A. And while I like female anatomy as much as the next guy, not slobbering and drooling over some video game character improves my chances of seeing the real deal significantly.
    Both sides (the castrating feminist crowd as well as the chapped dick groups) make me want to make my games in such a manner that the characters are all dots or some such other amorphous entity.

    • But in this case I don’t see a “castrating feminist” I see someone who shared her opinion in a very polite and measured way. Someone who was not against ANY sexualization of a female character but just against the sexualization of THIS character. Someone who stayed in the thread despite catching a lot of abuse to try to clarify her position in a calm and logical manner.

      In other words the “both sides are just as bad” rhetoric really doesn’t seem to apply here unless any woman speaking her mind = shrill castrating feminist.

      • I agree; I didn’t actually mean to link the last thought with this specific case. I don’t see anything wrong with anything this reviewer asked for, though I really don’t care about the image — that’s why I explained I don’t have any familiarity with the character or game.
        The “both sides” comments mainly came from a sense of frustration as a developer that you can’t get it right; regardless of what you do, someone’s going to be angry and boycotting your game.

      • Ah I see. Yea I can see how that would be frustrating. But perhaps this was always true, to some extent. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, etc. Perhaps in the past it was just less visible (and less mean-spirited)?

      • Possibly. I think in the past, a lot of the work was done behind closed doors and then released into the wild.

        Without saying social media is a bane, I would think that in the world it’s created, you either stay relevant or you’re forgotten. Including fans in projects in some form or another is a way of keeping everyone excited about something that takes years to bring to fruition.

        But allowing everyone to have an opinion… well, perhaps you’re familiar with the adage about opinions?

        Thanks for letting me clarify that!

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