In the wake of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit, the Overwatch team has chosen to change Jesse McCree’s name. While it’s a step in the right direction, it’ll take a lot more than that to atone for past sins.
The lawsuit against Activision Blizzard has caused major concern over the internal situation at the company. As further details emerge (such as accusations over shredding documents relevant to California State’s investigation), there is continued scrutiny on their every move.
For some, a brief glimmer of hope appeared on August 26, when the Overwatch team decided to rename iconic hero Jesse McCree. As his name is a reference to one of the employees implicated in fostering Activision Blizzard’s “pervasive frat boy culture,” players had demanded that the hero go by a different alias in the future – feedback that Blizzard has taken on board.
It begs the question though – does this even matter? Sure, it’s a step in the right direction, but changing in-game content, like WoW did too, doesn’t address the underlying issues.
I’d like to start off by recognizing that, while I don’t think a name adjustment is enough, changing McCree’s name is a step in the right direction. While players across the globe may just associate the name with the character, the victims of this scandal will forever see it as a reminder of their anguish. For those triggered by the name, this is the only thing that Blizzard could have done.
Thankfully McCree is a bit of a mystery man anyway, so switching his name could easily be woven into the fabric of the game’s lore. Was McCree an old Deadlock Gang nickname that stuck? Is it a superhero name like Batman, where another lurks behind it? All will be revealed soon enough, as Blizzard have stated that a huge lore segment about the hero will be dropping later this year, and that the name change will occur during this arc.
Additionally, the issue has taught the dev team an incredibly valuable lesson: stop naming characters after employees. While the idea of immortalizing someone’s hard work is admirable, there’s much more subtle ways to do it.
You’ve heard of Easter Eggs, right Blizzard?
As much as McCree has come to symbolize Activision Blizzard’s transgressions (and now attempted resolutions) I question whether making a huge display about switching his name was the best idea.
Why not just be subtle?
The likely answer is the Blizzard want to be seen to be doing something. It would have been easy to just switch out the name during the lore arc without an online post, in turn making the transition seem a little more natural and ‘all part of the plan.’
By highlighting the change and causing such outcry, McCree will always seem like McCree, only with a different name to placate fan concerns. From now on, the character will always be haunted by the ghost of the person that inspired his original alias.
The Ugly (truth)
So that’s why, while this decision may satisfy some players, it simply isn’t good enough for me. Virtual changes are great, but only if they actually translate across to real life.
At the end of the day, changing a name in a video game makes literally no difference to the situation that’s occurring on the ground. The accusations of abuse and poor working conditions still loom over the company, and will continue to until this lawsuit is settled. By accepting these token changes so readily, Blizzard may think that they’ve done enough.
There is so much more to do than simply scrub some characters off of the face of our virtual earth. We need to remove those real-life characters from their positions of power within the company and see justice served – Diablo Tyrael style. McCree’s namesake has left the company.
So sure, celebrate the fact that Blizzard have done something right. But don’t let them off the hook – the employees at Activision Blizzard depend on it.