Overwatch character McCree will be renamed, due to being named after a developer in the allegations around the Activision Blizzard sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit.
Naming Jesse McCree during Overwatch‘s development was surprisingly tricky, as noted by Michael Chu in a Wired interview in 2017. Despite making a list of first and last names fitting for a cowboy, none fit quite right. Blizzard developer Jesse McCree was suggested, and involved him having to sign his name away to be used.
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Kotaku also reported that in an unpublished photo they had obtained “a group of women are sitting on a bed in the room with the Cosby portrait.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.” This could suggest McCree was flippant about Afrasibabi’s alleged behavior, or believed his alleged interactions were a joke. 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. 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.”
Blizzard Entertainment have now announced Overwatch hero Jesse McCree will be renamed. They explain the game’s universe was built “around the idea that inclusivity [sic], equity, and hope are the building blocks of a better future. They are central to the game and to the Overwatch team.”
The developers appreciate any change to a beloved character can take time to be rolled out correctly, and will share updates as the work progresses. While the game would have had a narrative arc in September with McCree as a key part, that has been delayed until later this year. In its place, a new FFA map will launch in September.
From now on, in-game characters will no longer be named after real employees, along with the team being “more thoughtful and discerning about adding real world references in future Overwatch content.” The developers believe this will help reinforce they are building a fictional world.
“Work on these updates is underway, and they are just a part of our ongoing commitment to honest reflection and making whatever changes are necessary to build a future worth fighting for. We know that actions speak louder than words, and we hope to show you our commitment to making Overwatch a better experience in-game and continue to make our team the best it can be.”
The changes would suggest voice actors for various characters will have to rerecord their lines if they refer to McCree by his last name. Others call him by his first name, and so should cause little issue. However, there may be some issues if a voice actor or actress does not wish to reprise their role, or is to busy to do so.
This is not the first time McCree has been subject to change due to sensitive issues. In July 2020, his noose spray was altered to a horse shoe (the former related to the stereotype of a wild west town with a prominent hangman’s gallows in the center of town). This came in the aftermath of the protests and subsequent riots across the US over the death of George Floyd.
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment, which may have led to one woman who committed suicide on a company trip, and discrimination for women being paid less and promoted less frequently and after longer periods of time.
Activision Blizzard stated that while there was no place for any kind of harassment in the industry, they felt the Californian report “ includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” An internal email from Activision executive Frances Townsend also described the allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”
In response, almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” It also called for official statements to recognize how serious the allegations were, and demonstrate compassion for the victims.
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. Sources claimed staff would not be punished for the walkout, and had paid time off.
CEO Bobby Kotick later stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf.” He announced the company was bringing in law firm WilmerHale to conduct an immediate review of their policies and procedures.
Kotick also stated the company would investigate all claims, create safe spaces for Listening Sessions organized by third parties, an immediate evaluation of managers and leaders, compliance resources for diverse hiring, and removing NPCs from World of Warcraft inspired by those named in the allegations. Employees stated they were dissatisfied with Kotick’s response; for not addressing their demands.
Almost 500 former and current Ubisoft employees announced their support for Activision Blizzard staff in an open letter; calling for new industry-wide rules and processes. Jeff Strain, a former Blizzard Entertainment developer and founder of Undead Labs, recently called for unionization of the video games industry.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff also 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. They join T-Mobile who pulled support 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.”
Frances Townsend, an Activision Blizzard executive and former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, deleted her Twitter account; after backlash against her tweet promoting “the problem with whistleblowing.”
Most recently claims from temporary workers have been added to the lawsuit; along with allegations of Activation Blizzard destroying documents relating to employees and pay.
Image: Official McCree Ability Overview via YouTube (Link active at this time of writing)