Overwatch Character’s Name Changing Due To Connection With Former Employee Accused Of Sexual Harassment
Jesse McCree, a gun-slinging cowboy character from Blizzard’s Overwatch video game, will be renamed in the wake of California DFEH’s sexual harassment lawsuits against the company. The in-game McCree, a core part of the game since its launch, was named after a real-life Blizzard employee who has now left the company.
According to Polygon, Blizzard Entertainment stated that it would rename Jesse McCree, one of Overwatch‘s original characters, eponymously named after former game designer Jesse McCree, who was let go from the company. In their Twitter statement, the Overwatch team expressed that the character’s name change is necessary. The new name will better represent what Overwatch, and subsequently Blizzard, stands for. The team also acknowledged the severity that this change will pose for the game’s narrative and plan on launching a new story and game content, of which McCree was an essential part. “Was” being the keyword.
Additionally, the team behind Overwatch stated that new implementations and integrations of said changes into the current story arc would likely delay the new arc until later this year. Going forward, the company promises to abandon its years-long practices of naming in-game characters after real-life employees and being more discerning about adding real-life references in future Overwatch content.
Real-life McCree, after whom the Overwatch character was named, has left Blizzard two weeks after the company was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for allegedly creating a “frat boy culture” that allowed gender-biased discrimination and sexual harassment of its female employees. Though he wasn’t directly cited in the lawsuit, McCree was allegedly aware of what was happening inside the infamous “Cosby Suite,” named after actor Bill Cosby who was convicted of sexual assault, then had his conviction overturned.
However, gaming news site Kotaku published a report with photographs detailing the inside of the infamous suite, with photos showing a group of executives posing with a portrait photograph of Mr. Cosby – with game designer Jesse McCree among them. Those photos also show a former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi, cited in the aforementioned lawsuit, to have been engaged in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions while working at Blizzard. Shortly after the photographs were published, real-life McCree and two other senior staff members left Blizzard. Afrasiabi, on the other hand, left Blizzard Entertainment in 2020, ahead of the lawsuit.
Overwatch isn’t the only Blizzard game to suffer name changes or character removals. Like McCree, his name also appeared in another Blizzard video game: World of Warcraft, which is currently struggling to maintain an active player base – partly because of the now-expanded California lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. Still, the developing teams are hard at work in both Overwatch and World of Warcraft to remove any references that aren’t appropriate for the safe environment their games promise to provide.
As we don’t want to point any fingers, we conclude that McCree’s sudden departure from Activision Blizzard, especially in light of developing legal events, is strangely timed – at best. It’s worth noting that the California lawsuit caused numerous executive-level employees to leave the company “in pursuit of new opportunities.” Now, at least, things are starting to look better for Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and other Blizzard games.