Blizzard has been slowly building up Overwatch’s world. The developer has that luxury. This is a first person shooter without a campaign. All of the matches are online. What we learn about characters’ personalities and motivations come from the asides they randomly offer when talking with other members of their team and via official media. The Overwatch comics released on the official website are incredibly educational, and December's volume 10 might be the most informative in recent memory. It’s revealed that Tracer, the game’s most prominent heroine, is gay.
What’s important here is how Blizzard handled this character and storyline. Tracer is the one Overwatch character that’s constantly in the public eye. She’s on the cover of every box. She appears in many promotional videos, comics, and materials. Instead of introducing us to this facet of her life and personality in a way that makes her sexuality define her, it’s instead offered as an aside. The focus of the comic isn’t on what she is, but instead a glimpse at how these heroes and villains spend the holiday season.
To be frank, this Tracer revelation is tasteful. It isn’t an aggressive push or the main point of the comic. The main focus of the comic is to show how she spends the holiday season, with Winston’s celebrations as a subplot that later ties into her own story. Someone could easily say the point of this story is to show that Tracer is someone who never goes off duty. She’s a genuinely good person who wants to help others as often as possible, even if it means putting herself second. It happens when she’s foiling a robbery, but also when she’s shopping for a present. But, because she’s such a good person, we see karma in action. Good things come back to her, as the people she helped earlier give her a gift. The same item she was attempting to get for her significant other, Emily.
Emily’s introduction is similarly sweet. There are no definitions or politics at play. Tracer comes home, is spending time with someone who is clearly important to her, and the two end up sharing a kiss. It isn’t aggressive. It’s presented more as a vignette of her everyday life that happens to show another part of who she is. Her importance to Emily, as well as Winston, appears again at the end. The bond between Winston and Tracer has already been well established throughout Overwatch. That he so warmly welcomes both Tracer and Emily, embracing both and referring to them as his family, shows a level of acceptance and comfort within the universe.
Of course, there are going to be hurt feelings. Overwatch doesn’t have a defined story within the game. The characters, despite having personalities and general backstories, have also been something of blank slates for people to project their desires onto. Some will be upset that a fictional character they consider their “waifu” would suddenly not be open to their imaginary advances. Others may consider such clarification unnecessary in a game where it’s more important to keep your eye on the payload than who you think your character would enjoy kissing. There may even be people who think Blizzard’s decision to make Tracer gay is a “safe” choice and wish someone like McCree, Zarya, or Pharah had been the one who identified as gay. While these feelings are valid and Tracer’s depiction may not be perfect, Blizzard has handled things very well here.
Tracer being gay is important, but what’s more important is that Blizzard announced it in a way that doesn’t make it define her. Instead, it’s another element of a character we’ve already grown to know and love. We were given time to appreciate her for who she is and her abilities. This is an strong woman in a heroic organization that always does her best to make the world a better place for everyone, and this issue of the comic also shows that she’s a loving partner to Emily and a valued member of Winston’s family.