Jesse McCree of Overwatch has been renamed Cole Cassidy, due to being named after an accused developer in the Activision Blizzard lawsuit.
Naming Jesse McCree during Overwatch‘s development was difficult, as noted by Michael Chu in a Wired interview in 2017. After making a list of first and last names fitting for a cowboy; the name of Blizzard developer Jesse McCree was suggested and won out.
However, that McCree is also one of the named abusers in the allegations against Activision Blizzard. In a report by Kotaku regarding the infamous “Cosby Suite,” McCree was one of the developers in the photo within the suite.
Though some prior staff have insisted the name came from the rooms’ decor being akin to Bill Cosby’s sweater, others paint the hotel room as green room during BlizzCon 2013, where inappropriate comments and actions allegedly took place; mostly involving former World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi.
Kotaku also reported that in an unpublished photo they had obtained “a group of women are sitting on a bed in the room with the Cosby portrait. One of the women appears to have a hand on another’s breast, which is cheered on by the men in the comments.” McCree is seen present in other photos they published.
As staff joked in a private chat Afrasibabi “can’t marry all of them [“hot chixx”],” Afrasibabi replied “I can, I’m middle eastern.” McCree replied “You misspelled fuck.” Activision Blizzard CEO would later announce NPCs and lore inspired by Afrasibabi would be removed from World of Warcraft.
Diablo IV Lead Designer McCree- along with Game Director Luis Barriga, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft- were let go on August 11th of this year. Forbes reported at the time that according to a source “familiar with conditions at Activision Blizzard” claimed that Barriga and McCree could be described as “super toxic.”
As previously reported, Blizzard Entertainment announced McCree’s name would be changed. Overwatch would have had a narrative arc in September with McCree as a key part, but that was delayed until later this year. In its place, a new FFA map launched.
Now, Blizzard Entertainment have announced McCree will be renamed Cole Cassidy. The text accompanying the announcement also suggests this will tie into the character’s lore, while being thinly veiled over why the change is being implemented. For those using machine translation, the tweet reads as follows:
“The first thing a renegade loses is their name, and this one gave up his long ago.
Running from his past meant running from himself, and each passing year only widened the divide between who he had been and what he had become. But in every cowboy’s life, there comes a time when he has to stop and make a stand.
To make this new Overwatch better- to make things right- he had to be honest with his team and himself. The cowboy he was rode into the sunset, and Cole Cassidy faced the world at dawn.”
The name has ties to fellow Overwatch character Ashe (coal and ash). Another cowboy inspired character, she and Cassidy have a history, and a love-hate relationship.
While some in reply to the tweet seemed happy with the name change, others felt it was a token gesture; not addressing the alleged situation at Activision Blizzard studios.
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment; possibly leading to one woman committing suicide on a company trip. Other claims include discrimination by women being paid less, and promoted less frequently and after longer periods of time.
While initially dismissed by Activision Blizzard as including “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” and “factually incorrect, old and out of context,” almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.”
Staff led a walkout on July 28th. Their demands included ending mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, adopting policies to improve representation at all levels of the company, publishing pay data to show women are paid and promoted fairly, and hiring a third party to audit the company’s executive and HR staff.
CEO Bobby Kotick stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf,” and announced they were bringing in law firm WilmerHale to conduct an immediate review of their policies and procedures. While announcing third party evaluations, diverse hiring, and removing references to accused developers from their games; employees were dissatisfied with the response for not addressing their demands.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff rejected WilmerHale as the third party auditing the company. This was due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and being led by Stephanie Avakian; allegedly specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”
Coca-Cola and State Farm announced they were reassessing their partnerships with Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, pulling their promotions from upcoming events; as had T-Mobile from the Call of Duty league shortly after the controversy broke.
Activision’s logo was also omitted from trailers and alpha builds of Call of Duty: Vanguard; later stated as a “creative choice that reflects how Vanguard represents the next major installment in the franchise.”
Along with the aforementioned name change for McCree, Blizzard Entertainment announced they would be removing references to accused developers and censoring sexual content in World of Warcraft. This has included censoring in-game paintings featuring women with deep cleavage or in their underwear.
Other changes have included removing “negative” emotes (which some may deem suggest physical or sexual assault and mockery) and adding more positive ones, renaming suggestive enemies (and adding male enemies to some purely female mobs), mounts, and achievements. Flirting and sexually suggestive or otherwise “inappropriate” jokes from player characters were also removed.
Claims from temporary workers were added to the lawsuit; along with allegations of Activation Blizzard destroying documents relating to employees and pay.
After an $18 million USD settlement deal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the DFEH objected for it being too lenient, and would hinder their own case as relevant documents were proposed to be destroyed. However, the EEOC claimed there was a conflict of interest thanks to two DFEH attorneys having worked for the EEOC; putting both cases in jeopardy.