Overwatch 2 is having an in-game Pride event for the first time: 'We're here to be authentic to these characters and true to them for Pride'

Overwatch 2 Pride event 2023
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Pride is coming to Overwatch 2 as part of a new, regular in-game event starting on June 1.

Every Overwatch 2 player will receive a free collection of 15 Pride flag icons and 24 name cards to use on their account profiles—a first for not only Overwatch, but Blizzard, too. Much like Overwatch's other events, Pride will come with an alternate version of the Midtown, New York map, set just after a parade with flags and confetti lining the streets.

Blizzard is also dropping a canon short story that confirms Pharah as a lesbian and Baptiste as bisexual. Fans have spent Overwatch's six-year history speculating on each hero's identity, but the narrative side of the shooter went stagnant as work started on the sequel. With the addition of hundreds of new voice lines in Overwatch 2, particularly those from the newest pansexual support character, Lifeweaver, Blizzard has started to finally move the pieces forward.

In a blog post about the Pride event, Blizzard says it "realized how much more we can do in exploring our character identities and relationships," outside of the recently downscaled PvE side of the game. "This is just the beginning of Pride in Overwatch 2," it says. "Over the coming seasons and years, we’ll have more to share as the deeper lore of the Overwatch universe unfolds."

Overwatch 2 Pride event 2023

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Speaking in a group interview with PC Gamer, game director Aaron Keller described Overwatch's previous events, like Halloween Terror and Winter Wonderlands, as reflections of what happens in the real world at the same time. "We thought it was important to try to carry this forward for Pride as well so that people all around the world, people in the community, people outside the community, would be able to see this celebration happening in Overwatch as a celebration is happening in the real world."

Overwatch's queer heroes rarely, if ever, express that aspect of their identities during matches. That's going to change, according to senior narrative designer Jen Stacey: "We're going to see more of that stuff in the game; that's important to the narrative team."

We're here to be authentic to these characters and true to them for Pride.

Senior narrative designer Jen Stacey

Characters might not announce it out loud, but their identities will be visible in some form, according to Stacey and senior game producer (and chair of Blizzard's LGBTQIA+ network) Brandy Stiles.

"We've had a bit of a shift in the team and how we approach representation for queer communities and wanting to have that in game, so it's absolutely very important to us," Stacey said. "I don't think we want any doubt about these heroes. We want people to play this character, maybe hear a voice line where they talk about who they are and know who they are. There's no point in hiding it. It doesn't serve us. We're here to be authentic to these characters and true to them for Pride."

Last year, EA announced that it wouldn't release The Sims 4's My Wedding Stories expansion, which focuses on same-sex couples, in Russia due to its anti-gay law that bans promotion of "non-traditional sexual relationships," in media.

Blizzard said Overwatch 2's Pride event will abide by similar laws by preventing players in affected regions from using the cosmetics. The developer didn't elaborate on how that works for players who might travel between countries, nor did it provide a list of the countries the event will be banned from.

"I can't talk for all Blizzard," Aaron Keller said. "I'm the game director of Overwatch right now. But we do strive to follow the laws in different countries and my personal value is that it's better to be able to engage where you can than to not be able to engage with people at all."

Overwatch 2's first Pride event starts this Thursday.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.