Over the past few years, gamers have started to get more vocal and irate over the idea of developers “pandering” to certain groups by “forcing” characters to be certain things. Typically this is for things not considered to be the “norm” by making the character a minority group or by bringing up issues that group faces. It’s not just gamers of course, it’s a reflection on our world as a whole, although that is a discussion for another time.
Video games tend to reflect society. As society becomes more accepting of people who do not belong to the majority or have faced oppression in the past, we begin to see more and more of such characterizations in games.
It’s only natural.
People have been upset again recently as Blizzard quietly revealed that another character is in the LGBT+ group. Anyone who knows Blizzard will understand that they place a lot of focus on building up backstories for their characters and that has been seen with Overwatch through all the comics and animation shorts. No one complains until a characters is confirmed to be “out of the ordinary”. It’s just like how players were upset about Symmetra being autistic. Considerably less people would have been less upset if she was announced to have depression or anxiety because that’s something many of us also deal with.
In a game full of diverse characters, we cannot complain about them being different from us because, well, that’s the point! If developers wanted characters to be like the dominant voices in the gaming community, then games would just be full of the same, commonplace style of characters. Game characters are diversified to make them and their worlds more realistic, exactly like how ours are ever so different. Plus, characters are designed in accordance to suit the story and the worlds they are in. It doesn’t mean the developers are “pandering” to a certain group just because they include someone outside of the “norm”.
With Overwatch, people familiar with Blizzard will have no issues with the backstory. People who don’t like the backstory are FPS fans who just want to play the game and that’s fine, they can just ignore it all and play. Picking and choosing what things to complain about, such as certain characters being LBGT+ or is autistic, is just a reflection of the societal values that have been growing recently.
This isn’t just about Overwatch, gaming, or gamers – This is something bigger than us, and bigger for society to deal with. That is why we should adopt a more “panda-ic” approach to characterizations and societies: