Overwatch's new Mei skin draws criticism for cultural appropriation

MM-Mei skin
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch has unveiled a new legendary skin for Mei, and that hairstyle ain't it.

The MMA-inspired skin MM-Mei appeared on the Overwatch League store yesterday, sporting a fighter's robe, gloves, and championship belt. But it also gives Mei—a Chinese hero—cornrows, a traditionally Black hairstyle. 

The inspiration for the hairstyle appears to have come from Zhang Weili, a Chinese MMA fighter who wears her hair in a similar style. Tight braids are common amongst MMA fighters with longer hair, but cornrows are typically not worn by fighters who are not Black.

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The hairstyle has drawn criticism from players, who pointed out that there are many other MMA-inspired hairstyles to draw from. As well as the issues around cultural appropriation, the fact that a Black hairstyle has made its way into the game before a Black female hero has been a point of criticism. While Overwatch 2 will introduce Sojourn, Blizzard has not released a Black female hero in the game's five-year history. 

Blizzard has had a rocky history with the way it's handled diversity and representation in Overwatch. Dorado, a Mexican map, was based on an Italian city. The introduction of Sigma was riddled with harmful and outdated mental health tropes, and the choice to make him barefoot being "to sell the 'asylum' look" (via Polygon). 

Blizzard has yet to respond to the feedback, with the MM-Mei skin currently on sale until May 11. 

Mollie Taylor
Features Producer

Mollie spent her early childhood deeply invested in games like Killer Instinct, Toontown and Audition Online, which continue to form the pillars of her personality today. She joined PC Gamer in 2020 as a news writer and now lends her expertise to write a wealth of features, guides and reviews with a dash of chaos. She can often be found causing mischief in Final Fantasy 14, using those experiences to write neat things about her favourite MMO. When she's not staring at her bunny girl she can be found sweating out rhythm games, pretending to be good at fighting games or spending far too much money at her local arcade.