Commentary: Game developers need to stop sexualizing women

Emily Lau, News Editor
Emily Lau, News Editor

After receiving backlash on one of its character’s overtly sexualized in-game victory pose, video game developer Blizzard Entertainment promised to make changes by using an alternate pose that the company already designed.

While this is great, it still annoys me that Blizzard resorted to the original “sexy” pose when it had another ready.

Blizzard’s upcoming first-person shooter Overwatch is scheduled to be released May 24 but some fans have been playing its closed beta since October 2015.

In March, players in the game’s forums began to argue that the character Tracer’s pose was blatantly sexualized and completely out of character. The pose featured Tracer looking over her shoulder with her entire back facing the player and clearly highlighting her butt as the center of attention.

Tracer has been described by fans as “spunky” and “outgoing,” so having her in such a pose would not do the character justice.

In response, Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch game director, also posted in the forums stating, “We actually have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer… 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.”

This started a controversy in the community between those who believed Blizzard has all creative control and should not have to censor themselves, and those who applauded Blizzard for considering the community’s opinions and respecting the character’s original personality.

In April, Blizzard announced Tracer’s new pose, which now features her in a traditional cheesecake pin-up pose, but still includes a slight over-the-shoulder look.

As someone who plans to play the game when it is released, I am glad Blizzard made the change as it shows the developers are responsive to the community and actually consider the opinions of the fans. The new, alternate pose still gives off a hint of sexiness, but it is not as upfront about it.

However, why did Blizzard not use the alternate pose in the first place?

Women are already sexualized enough in media, especially in video games, and we do not need to force sex appeal onto a character who is clearly not meant to embody that personality.

Sure, Overwatch is still in beta, which means this is where the company can make most of its changes before the actual release. But making the more sexualized pose the default is wrong and further supports the normalization of sexualized women in video games.

Blizzard has been criticized in the past for its portray of female characters in its other games, and one of the main goals with Overwatch was to create a more diverse game.

I just want to play a game without having a character’s sex appeal shoved down my throat every time I sit at the computer. It is tiring to still see these major companies portray women in a sexual manner just to make sure it sells.

These sexual portrayals of women have been too common in major triple-A titled games. For someone who has been playing video games since I was very young, this is something I unfortunately grew up with. I remember playing games where female characters would actually receive smaller and less practical clothing as they leveled up, along with being designed in a way that is totally unrealistic with large breasts and butts.

As sad as it might be to say, sexualized characters have been so normalized by society that most people do not even think about how wrong this is. We are seeing too much of this in the major-titled games because these companies have been doing this for years. When it comes to profit, video game developers are willing to do anything, even if it means reducing women to mere sexual objects.

Blizzard is already such a successful company that it should not be afraid to make changes. Many independent developers have created female characters that are not oversexualized, but this change needs to start from the top.

Emily Lau, a senior journalism major, is news editor for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter @qwoperating.

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