I do not need to tell you how rare it is to see a gay character in games. Or in media in general, for that matter. But in recent years, plenty of strides have been taken to correct that. Characters have been coming out of the closet left and right, more romance options have been added to games like Mass Effect and The Sims have added capabilities to create more gender fluid sims. However, in the last year of gaming there is one coming out story that stands out: Tracer from Overwatch
In their Christmas themed Overwatch comic ‘Reflections’, Blizzard revealed that Tracer was a lesbian. In the comic, Tracer is seen frantically trying to find a present for someone. It is later revealed that it was for her girlfriend, Emily, and the two are seen sharing a kiss. Fans speculated wildly once the comic was released. People were questioning whether this was a ‘friendly kiss’ or perhaps Tracer was bisexual. However, this was later cleared up by Overwatch‘s lead writer, Michael Chu:
For those who have asked specifically, Tracer identifies as a lesbian.
— Michael Chu #AX2017 (@westofhouse) December 23, 2016
There are a couple reasons why this move was so important. First off, it made people lose their damn minds. People from all over the world were arguing over what the comic meant. Some were celebrating, others couldn’t care less and some were genuinely so deep in denial I’m surprised they didn’t drown! Legitimately, people were saying they were just friends or saying the comic wasn’t canon just so their waifu wasn’t touched. However, Blizzard took a firm stance and left no room for doubt. They came out and basically made the statement “She’s gay, deal with it!”
Secondly, Tracer is not just a background character. In the past, gay characters have often been relegated to supporting roles. However, if you look up Overwatch, Tracer is front and centre. She’s the poster child for this game. She even had a life size statue at Gamescom last year.
When you look at gay characters in media, you won’t find many in the limelight. Companies that try to include gay characters often won’t make them the lead. Often, if you see a lead character being gay, it is in a piece specifically meant for a gay audience such as the film Blue is the Warmest Colour. But Overwatch is not only as mainstream as it gets, it has nothing to do with being gay, other than Tracer.
Which leads me to my next point; Tracer is not defined by her sexuality. Before her coming out, as it were, Tracer was a full character. She had a story, a personality, a playstyle that players loved. She was as close to a full person as pixels can get. Her coming out did not take any of that away, it added. And she is so much more than just a lesbian. It shows players everywhere that “Hey, she’s gay. That’s great, now kill Mercy!” It’s such a non-problem to anyone in game and sends the message that nothing changes by coming out. You are still your own person, with multiple little ticks and quirks beyond the label of ‘lesbian’.
So hurrah for Tracer, and let’s hope we get more excellent role models for the gay community in future. Happy Pride everyone!