‘Overwatch’ Comic Banned in Russia over Anti-LGBT Law

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 4:54 pm, December 20, 2016

Overwatch doesn’t have much of a story. But for fans of the hit video game, Blizzard Entertainment is releasing a series of comics to flesh out the colorful cast of characters who populate the sci-fi setting, giving them personalities and motives—and, most importantly, identities with which players can identify.

In celebration of Christmas, Blizzard released a new comic to show what the heroes of Overwatch are doing this Holiday season. Granddaddy Reinhardt’s spending time by the hearth with his family, McCree’s drunk at a bar, and Tracer—the highlight of the comic—is dashing through the snowbound streets of London to buy a gift for her romantic partner.

She’s gay, and it’s not a big deal. Or at least, it shouldn’t be, but Blizzard must deal with Russia’s new anti-LGBT laws, which prohibit what the country regards to be homosexual propaganda. As such, the comic is unavailable to Russian audiences.

This is what Russian gamers will see if they attempt to access the comic:

Gamers on the Overwatch subreddit and Blizzard forums are unhappy with the censorship. Some are accusing the game studio of cowardice for blocking the comic in Russia, but in Blizzard’s defense, they are simply following the country’s laws.

Russia’s anti-LGBT law is supposedly designed for the “protection of children from information harmful to their health and development.” It criminalizes the “distribution of materials among minors in support of ‘non-traditional’ sexual relationships,” and was amended to an existing child protection law in 2013. Beyond media representations of homosexual relationships, the law also prohibits anyone from speaking in defense of LGBT rights, and displays such as the rainbow flag have resulted in arrests.

Earlier this month, Russian politicians campaigned to ban EA Sports’ FIFA 17 for featuring rainbow-colored shirts. Members of Parliament demanded the game’s code be altered to remove the offending content, or face a complete ban.

On the flipside of Tracer’s reveal, social justice warriors are offended that the character is subject to the “male gaze,” and that her existence as a lesbian character is “sexualized” by the amorphous blob of regressive video game enthusiasts, whom I’ve argued are a myth, not a monolith.

The game was previously accused of sexism despite offering a diverse mix of characters both male and female.

Never mind that gay gamers are happy about being represented within Overwatch. God forbid some straight cis-male also enjoys playing Tracer.

In the end, there’s no way to please the perpetually outraged. Complaints like these only serve to reinforce the notion that game developers should play it safe and not bother to offer fair representation for their diverse audience.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken game critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.