Overwatch's Jesse McCree gets name change amid Blizzard lawsuit

PHOTO: PlayStation

It’s a thought that has been making its rounds within the Overwatch community, but the familiar name that is Jesse McCree will soon cease to exist – well, of sorts. Activision-Blizzard has announced plans to rename the sharpshooting cowboy following the dismissal of his real-life namesake amid ongoing fallout from a sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit.

“We built the Overwatch universe around the idea that inclusivity, equity, and hope are the building blocks of a better future,” the development team wrote on Twitter. “As we continue to discuss how we best live up to our values and to demonstrate our commitment to creating a game world that reflects them, we believe it’s necessary to change the name of the hero currently known as McCree to something that better represents what Overwatch stands for.”

While the character’s new name has yet to be announced, Blizzard has vowed to move away from using the names of its real employees. As part of the name change process, the company has delayed the launch of a new in-game narrative arc to the later part of the year, in which McCree plays a key role. A new FFA map will be available in the meantime.

The gunslinger was originally named after ex-Blizzard longtime designer Jesse McCree, who was working on the upcoming Diablo IV before his departure. He left in August this year, two weeks after his name appeared in a Kotaku article about BlizzCon’s notorious “Cosby Suite” hotel room, where Blizzard workers allegedly sexually harassed female co-workers.

Apart from old Facebook images showing the man posing with other Blizzard staff in front of a giant Bill Cosby portrait, the report also exposed former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi for predatory behaviour and gross misconduct.

The lawsuit filed by California regulators alleged that the man had “engage[d] in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions”, leading to his termination from the company last year. Subsequently, any references to him in World of Warcraft were removed as well.

In similar fashion, nods to McCree that are currently in World of Warcraft are set to be taken out, along with the references to former employees Luis Barriga and Johnathan LeCraft, both of whom left the company at the same time as the real-life McCree. Where Barriga isn’t named in any of the current allegations, LeCraft was pictured in the Cosby Suite.

Prior to the official announcement, Overwatch League casters Brennon ‘Bren’ Hook and Josh ‘Sideshow’ Wilkinson have already stopped using McCree’s name during live broadcasts, stating that it was a personal decision.

The name change has sparked a slew of mixed sentiments from the community, with some acknowledging the team’s efforts, and others criticising its performative nature.

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Both sides of the argument are valid – on the one hand, these employees have their hands tied without the same kind of executive power that the management board holds, thus limiting the extent of their actions; on the other, the news comes days after California’s Department of Fair Employment & Housing accused Blizzard of shredding and suppressing evidence, suggesting that the gaming giant is attempting to cover their tracks.

Between the poor handling of lawsuit matters by Blizzard’s leadership and the string of personal experiences that have since surfaced on social media, the situation has certainly spiralled into a hot mess, and it’s one that employees can do little about.

While it’s always easy to push them to fight against management decisions or walk away from the company, things are hardly ever so straightforward. Those coming from a position of privilege can perhaps pull it off, but there are others who have to earn their keep, pay off their bills, support their family, and the like.

It’s, thus, imperative to acknowledge that the matter is very much a slippery slope that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, especially where non-leadership figures are concerned. What’s not welcome, though, are vitriol comments that disregard the feelings of those who are positive or excited about the name change – just be happy that they are happy, it’s really that simple.

Despite everything, there’s one particular bright spot to look forward to, and that’s the contest to come up with the most ridiculous non-cowboy name before Blizzard drops the official change. The alternative might be even more appealing: how would you fancy a petition for the real Jesse McCree to change his name?

This article was first published in Geek Culture.