Overwatch, a massively popular team-based shooter by Blizzard and the inspiration behind at least three of your college dormmate's tattoos has made a new change within their recent patch that while, minor to the game, makes a major statement about the company's values. Specifically, they removed the character McCree's "noose spray" from the game and instead replaced it with a horseshoe spray. Sprays are basically the in-game equivalent of spray paint and are a purely cosmetic feature that allows your character to tag a surface with whatever image their spray depicts.
Multiplayer videogames are notorious for being toxic, racist cesspools in even the best of circumstances, so you could see why it might be a bad idea to arm any racist toxic trolls with the ability to spray paint a noose on the wall, especially during our current moment.
It's a change from Blizzard that comes following a recent trend of gaming companies cleaning up potentially racist imagery within their games. Last week, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, for example, removed the "okay" hand-gesture ...
... as the signal has been co-opted by the white supremacist movement. Magic: The Gathering, a collectible card playing game has removed seven cards from their database due to having racist connotations. Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of The Coast said in an official statement, "the events of the past weeks and the ongoing conversation about how we can better support people of color have caused us to examine ourselves, our actions, and our inactions." Here also is Call Of Duty publisher Infinity Ward's statement:
Whenever something is removed or banned, be it a symbol from a video game that could be used to racially troll people or an off-brand candy bar from the office vending machine that you use to jumpstart your morning dump, there will inevitably be people who will take this as an infringement on their freedom. "How will I let the other members of my party know I'm an asshat unless I can spray paint nooses everywhere I go?!"
Fair point, but changes like this aren't that much out of the norm or even extreme when it comes to video game censorship. All countries do it and they all have their own hang-ups. League of Legends, for example, famously removed a cigar from a character's mouth in order to appease regions with strict tobacco laws (only for it to be added back to the game three years later.) The American version of Pokemon Red & Blue has an old man passed out from a "lack of caffeine" rather than staying true to the Japanese version where he was just a passed out drunk. Final Fantasy VI's American release might as well have come with a censorship bar you could stick on the TV screen, as various elements of the game from nudity to religious references have all been toned down.
Frankly, the only surprising thing here is that this change didn't come sooner.
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Top Image: Blizzard Entertainment