Blizzard Entertainment has altered the graphics of a group of benches on one of their Overwatch 2 maps after a single fan accused the seats of featuring “anti-homeless architecture”.
The initial complaint was leveled on June 6th when Twitter user @ClearTogether took to the social media platform to assert, “Been thinking about this since the beta so I’m just going to say it since no one else has…The anti-homeless architecture of the benches in Midtown makes me super bummed.”
“Benches like this are designed specifically to make homeless miserable,” they added.
@ClearTogether’s issue with the armrests featured on the benches in the New York City map appear to stem from their real world use as a measure to prevent homeless individuals from sleeping on such public features.
Referencing former OW lead director Jeff Kaplan’s 2016 explanation that “Our vision [for the world of Overwatch] was more a future where conflict existed, but we want a bright and aspirational vision of the future–a future that I want to live in someday,” @ClearTogether continued, “[With] Overwatch being an ‘aspirational universe, I just find it depressing at worst and out-of-place at best.”
“held off from posting about this for like a month bc im worried maybe its just that im being too sensitive?” @ClearTogether confessed. “But honestly theres no way around the reality of this design that was chosen. I’ve little hope itll [sic] change, but its so sad to see in Overwatch which is a ‘bright future’.”
Despite achieveing less than 500 total likes and just over 60 retweets, it seems @ClearTogether’s feedback was heard by Blizzard Entertainment, as three weeks, two days, and one Overwatch 2 beta update later, the features were removed from the map.
“Thank you SO much to the Overwatch team for deciding to change this!!,” praised @ClearTogether on June 29th, showing off a screenshot of the new benches. “Its honestly overall a small change but it goes a long way. You guys rock.”
Their thanks then drew a reply from Overwatch lead narrative designer and writer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie, who told @ClearTogether, “This was great feedback.”
“Also, we decided early on in the map story development that Overwatch’s NY offers free, safe housing for people,” Jurgens-Fyhrie added. “Some of this is in the map VO, with further details planned for later. ‘How we hope the world will be’ is a big part of our story dev.”
“Thats amazing!!! and very uplifting!!” gushed @ClearTogether in turn. “And I can’t wait to hear more about the lore, as always. Thank you guys so much for hearing/taking my feedback, I’m so glad it helped the vision!!”
Though the quick response to a single fan’s complaint may seem unwarranted to some, it’s possible that Activision Blizzard is just simply desperate to take any avenue for some good will, as the entity has faced near year PR disasters ever since 2018.
These have included the announcement of Diablo Immortal being mocked as an “out of season April Fools joke,” their stripping of a Hearthstone Grandmaster of his winnings because he voiced support for Hong Kong’s independence, and their poor handling of Warcraft III: Reforged.
According to Activision Blizzard’s Q1 2021 financial report, their games have also lost 11 million players since 2018.
However, the final nail in their reputational coffin came in 2021 when they were sued by the State of California for fostering and permitting a discriminatory and unsafe “fray boy workplace culture” within the company.
Since then, Activision Blizzard has been desperate to be seen as kind and understanding, with their efforts including the purging of references to accused developers (and renaming Overwatch’s McCree) across their titles and censoring “sexualized” paintings and inappropriate jokes from World of Warcraft in order to make it more “inclusive.”
The latest and most spectacular backfire has been the reveal of the company’s “Diversity Space Tool,” a tool intended to literally judge and quantify the superficial ‘diversity’ of a given video game character.
However, after facing backlash to their blatant tokenization efforts and despite previously claiming it had been tested by their developers, Activision Blizzard insisted the tool had not been used in active game development.
What do you make of Blizzard’s changing of the benches in Overwatch 2’s New York City map? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments down below!