Overwatch 2’s first Pride celebration kicks off June 1, Blizzard Entertainment announced Tuesday, bringing free cosmetics, expanding representation, and an opportunity to support the LGBTQ+ community. Blizzard is giving players a series of new name cards and player icons, with which they can showcase their identity or simply support Pride celebrations.
Starting Thursday, Overwatch players can opt in to adding cosmetics based on flags representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, agender, aromantic, asexual, genderfluid, intersex, non-binary, and pansexual identities. Blizzard calls this year’s inaugural Pride event “just the beginning of Pride in Overwatch 2. Over the coming Seasons and years, we’ll have more to share as the deeper lore of the Overwatch universe unfolds.”
Pride in Overwatch 2 will also take over the game’s Midtown map, which has been updated with a series of decorative flags and rainbow-hued crosswalks — Blizzard describes the update to the New York-set map as reflecting the aftermath of a Pride parade in the world of Overwatch.
Blizzard is also expanding Overwatch’s LGBTQ+ representation on the game’s roster, confirming that Baptiste is bisexual and the Pharah is a lesbian. Those two heroes join previously confirmed queer characters Tracer, Soldier: 76, and Lifeweaver. A newly published short story, “As You Are,” further explores the background and identities of Baptiste and Pharah — while also obliquely acknowledging the longstanding “Pharmercy” ship between Fareeha Amari and Dr. Angela “Mercy” Ziegler.
While Pride in Overwatch 2 is currently limited to mostly cosmetic changes, Blizzard developers say they intend to continue to grow the event beyond what it is now.
“We wanted Pride, in the game, the event that we’re running, we wanted it to feel like the game is reflecting what’s happening in the real world,” said game director Aaron Keller in a group interview. “We do this multiple times throughout the year […] for [holidays like] Halloween and Lunar New Year. So people that are playing the game, they can see this reflection of what’s happening in the real world happening in in the world of Overwatch. For us, this is the start of building upon this event, the same way that we’ve built upon a lot of the other events in our games.”
Unlike other events in Overwatch 2, players shouldn’t expect any extra game modes or dialogue related to Pride during this year’s event, however. “We don’t have special voice lines for Pride, not this year,” said senior narrative designer Jen Stacey. “We might in the future — it’s a wonderful idea. But I can say that we do have voice lines, where characters’ sexualities and identities come up in gameplay.”
“The content this year, our goal […] was really about giving our players and our employee players the ability to identify in game — just to self identify and just have the opportunity of expression,” said senior game producer Brandy Stiles. “So you’re gonna see a vast array of player icons and name cards that people can choose to equip, and mix and match as their hearts desire. And then we have the the map content as well. That was our primary focus this year, if that helps see what our goals were.”
Blizzard — and Stiles, who is chair of Blizzard’s employee LGBTQ+ network — stress that Overwatch 2’s Pride event is an employee-led addition to the game. And that it was a long time coming.
“This is something that we’ve really worked toward,” Stiles said. “Why is Pride manifesting as it is now? I’ve been at Blizzard for 16 years — most of that’s been over on Blizzard animation; I’ve just recently joined the Overwatch team — but seven years ago, the leadership of the Overwatch team came to an openly out employee and said, Hey, could you help get us a team together? We need some some consultation on how we develop authentic queer characters. They have a place in our story. And we want to make sure that we do it right. What happened was we a group of LGBT employees from across the company got together — still a pretty small group, but pretty well rounded — and we started just jamming on story ideas and coming up with best ways to authentically represent LGBT people. What came from that was the Tracer comic Reflections. After that, our group saw there’s a need for us to stay together and help all the game teams. So we’ve done that. Overwatch coming to us and asking for this consultation led to what was the first Blizzard employee network and we’ve stayed together since.”
Outside of the game, Blizzard is launching a range of Pride-themed apparel at the Blizzard Gear Store, which has been curated by the company’s LGBT+ employee network. Net proceeds from those sales, from May 16 through June 30, will be donated to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). The NCTE says it “advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people [and] works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice.”