Blizzard Entertainment have removed a noose spray from Overwatch, possibly motivated by the protests and subsequent riots across the US over the death of George Floyd.
After the incidents, several video game developers and publishers took action. These included delays, postponements, and in-game messages of support by PlayStation, EA [1, 2], EA Sports, IGN, Guerrilla Collective, along with Activision and Infinity Ward with the Call of Duty franchise [1, 2].
A Riot Games executive had reportedly resigned, after an internal investigation due to a Facebook post he made highlighting George Floyd’s criminal history. Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez (also known as FChamp) had also been banned from all Capcom fighting game tournaments globally, after he made a joke about “Watermelon Lives Matter.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that a source “familiar with the game’s development” stated that they “wouldn’t say it’s a political statement. I think it’s just us being sensitive about the issues many people in our audience are dealing with.”
Epic Games also attempted to present a We The People presentation discussing racial discrimination within Fortnite, only for players to pelt the screen with tomatoes.
Now, Blizzard Entertainment may have taken certain actions to avoid comparisons to real life events. In Overwatch, the character McCree (themed after a cowboy) can have a noose spray, unlocked through gameplay.
This is most likely inspired by the stereotype of an old wild west town with a prominent gallows in the middle of town. The spray also has transparent elements and can be placed over other sprays, giving the illusion a character featured on a spray was being hanged (or behind a hanging noose).
Around July 14th to 15th however, players began to notice the spray was replaced with a horseshoe with “Bad Luck” emblazoned on it [1, 2, 3]. It is entirely possible the noose was removed for fear of comparisons to real life racially-motivated lynchings.
Blizzard Entertainment have seemingly made no statement on the update at this time of writing [1, 2]. Further, the change is not mentioned in the patch notes for July 14th (the only major update in July).
While the reception has been mixed (some applauding it, others stating it was unnecessary or making it comparable to real life events only after it was removed in this context), Kotaku reports that some players have made further demands. These include removing police-themed character uniforms from the game as well.
Overwatch is available on Windows PC (via Blizzard Entertainment), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.