Jerrod Carmichael
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Study: Gamers Stopped Playing Overwatch Character After He Came Out

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Unfortunately, homophobia is alive and well in gaming.

A new report published in Scientific American shows that when a character in a video game is revealed to be gay, it can lead to fewer gamers using that character. The report specifically focused on the gay Overwatch character Soldier: 76.

Back in 2019, the Overwatch short story “Bastet” by Michael Chu was released, and in it, Soldier: 76 was revealed to be gay, having been in a relationship with a man named Vincent. This was confirmed by the story’s author on Twitter.

“Jack and Vincent were in a romantic relationship many years ago,” he wrote. “Both identify as gay.”

While queer gamers and Overwatch fans celebrated the event, it didn’t lead to an increase in the character’s popularity. Instead, a study found that it actually led to the opposite.

After Soldier: 76’s coming out, players' pick rate for the character – the frequency with which players choose to play as that character – dropped dramatically.

The people who did the study then put out a survey to hundreds of Overwatch players asking their views on Soldier: 76’s coming out and how it affected their gameplay. 83 percent of respondents were men, and most were from North America and Europe.

While respondents mostly said that Soldier: 76’s coming out didn’t affect how they saw the character, some did report another reason for no longer playing as him: harassment.

According to the report, a significant minority of players reported homophobic slurs and harassment aimed at them when they played as Soldier: 76, and switched characters to end it.

Others in the survey reported that they felt more comfortable playing as the game’s lesbian character Tracer than as Soldier: 76. They reported that “they felt other players see lesbians as appealing and interesting, but that the same players voice disgust toward gay men.”

Many fans of the game thought that two more characters, Pharah and Mercy, were coming out in the new Overwatch 2. In a line of dialogue Mercy giggles at Pharah and calls her a “knight in flying armor.”

As the couple has long been one of the most popular ships in the game, many thought this was confirming them as a couple. However, it seems fans may have jumped the gun and the two are just “good friends.”

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