Blizzard surprised some Overwatch players today by announcing that they have decided to change the name of one of the game’s original playable heroes: the gunslinging cowboy known simply as McCree.
“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,” says the Overwatch team in a recent tweet. “We realize that any change to such a well-loved and central hero in the game’s fiction will take time to roll out correctly, and we’ll share updates as this work progresses. In the near term, we had planned to kick off a narrative arc in September supported with new story and game content, of which McCree was a key part. Since we want to integrate this change into that story arc, we will be delaying the new arc until later this year and instead launch a new FFA map this September.”
There’s a lot of reactions to this information floating around the internet at the moment, but I’d say that the most common reaction I’ve seen is confusion. While Blizzard hints at the reason behind this name change in that tweet, many people are still wondering what the problem with the name McCree is in the first place. In fact, it seems like quite a few people either believe the name was chosen because it just sounds like a basic cowboy name or because it is perhaps a reference to some famous McCree from a Western.
However, that’s not the case. In fact, the reason that Blizard is changing the character’s name is that McCree is actually named after Jesse McCree: a former Blizzard employee who recently left the company due to their involvement in the ongoing harassment lawsuit that the State of California has filed against Activision Blizzard.
I highly recommend reading our previous coverage of that lawsuit (as well as some of the additional investigation information we shared in those articles) for more information about this topic, but for the moment, the thing you really need to know is that Jesse McCree was recently identified as one of the people in this stunning 2013 photo that was reportedly taken inside a hotel room rented by Blizzard employees that was regularly referred to as the “Cosby Suite.” While some who claim to have knowledge of the context behind this photo have argued that the name of the suite has nothing to do with Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations, others have claimed that the association was very much intentional and that this room is one of the clearest and most horrifying representations yet of what the state of California has described as the company’s history of a “frat boy” culture.
Jesse McCree left Blizzard not long after the Cosby Suite report was published by Kotaku. While Blizzard did not offer an official explanation for McCree’s departure at that time, the timing of the decision made it pretty clear that the public reveal of the Cosby Suite information and McCree’s departure were almost certainly related.
It should also be noted that the World of Warcraft team recently confirmed that they have decided to alter and remove some of that game’s content that references former members of the Blizzard team who are associated with the lawsuit investigation. For example, World of Warcraft NPC Field Marshall Afrasiabi was named after former Blizzard employee Alex Afrasiabi who is named numerous times in the harassment lawsuit and has been accused of physically harassing female Blizzard employees as well as organizing the Cosby Suite.
So is changing McCree’s name the right move? Sure…I guess. It seems to be at least a bit better than the alternative of leaving the name as it is and making things incredibly awkward for players who know its origins. The Overwatch team has also stated that “in-game characters will no longer be named after real employees,” which certainly seems like the way to go given how doing things the other way has worked out for them recently. I’m sure that there will be some Overwatch players who complain about this decision catering to the “woke” crowd or messing with the game’s lore, but…well, don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t take advice from.
Honestly, though, it’s hard to celebrate this decision or even vaguely praise it given that it really seems to be based more on Blizzard’s desire to distance themselves from their sordid past. For a company that has recently been accused of destroying incriminating documents related to the harassment lawsuit, it’s really a shame to see that some of the first forward-facing moves they’ve taken to openly address the horrors of these allegations have been based on purging embarrassing names from their games.
I don’t know how the Overwatch community is going to react to this news once they learn the reason behind it (or how they’re going to react to the character’s eventual new name), but I can certainly understand why a lot of fans seem to be confused at the moment. After all, even when Blizzard is seemingly forced to publically confront the horrors of their past, they still find a way to argue that these decisions are being made in the name of preserving the “idea that inclusivity, equity, and hope are the building blocks of a better future” that they claim the Overwatch universe was “built” around.