If you're a queer player of a character based shooter, you're probably drowning in Pride related cosmetic items to show your pride in-game. Except if you're an Overwatch fan.
When Overwatch was announced, Blizzard, the game's developer, made particular note of the diversity of its characters. Prior to the game's release, while the development studio was drumming up hype for the game at PAX in 2015, Blizzard said, "We've been hearing a lot of discussion among players about the need for diversity in video games. That means a lot of things. They want to see gender diversity, they want to see racial diversity, they want to see diversity along the lines of what country people are from. There is also talk about diversity in different body types in that not everybody wants to have the exact same body type always represented. And we just want you to know that we're listening."
Over time, Overwatch expanded the inclusion of different races and body types to sexual orientation as well. Tracer, the character that's on Overwatch's game box, is a lesbian, according to a one shot comic book from 2016. Soldier 76 was also revealed to be be gay in a short story from 2019.
Other games in the same genre as Overwatch—the "character based shooter"—have gone all out for Pride month. Valorant, developed by Riot Games, featured free Player Cards with a variety of Pride flags as well as titles that allow players to identify as members of those communities or as allies. Respawn's Apex Legends introduced a new Pride badge that players can add to their profile, and released a video about the making of this badge that features queer developers at Respawn. The response from Apex Legends' fandom has been to use the pride cosmetic as tacit encouragement from Respawn to be loudly queer, and depict their characters as queer.
Overwatch, meanwhile, has introduced just one Pride related cosmetic item: a player icon that was added in a June update without any mention in the patch notes that is called "Rainbow." The game’s queer fanbase has been disappointed by this; various fanart has imagined what a celebration of Pride within Overwatch could be. The ideas are more exciting than a simple player icon.
"The Rainbow player icon was added as a way for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies to show their pride in-game,” a Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “We consulted with a representative group of employees and chose Rainbow to reflect the globally recognizable colors that stand as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community around the world. Throughout Overwatch’s history we’ve shown a commitment to diversity, inclusion and LGBTQIA+ support through our characters, lore and hopeful world. While we don't have plans for additional Pride content for Overwatch at this time, we'll continue to create new content and tell stories that reflect LGBTQIA+ experiences across Blizzard's universes. We’re proud to celebrate the month alongside the LGBTQIA+ community in-game and out.”
Especially given that Overwatch has two canonically gay characters, it feels a little weird that June is half over and the game has barely acknowledged Pride. Maybe we'll just have to wait for Overwatch 2, just like fans who are eager to see a black female character join Overwatch's roster.