Hard to Lie, Things Are Messy
It’s always a risky endeavor to name a character after someone you know. It’s different from a quick literary or historical reference – those remain fixed over time, for the most part. But people, living people, have an evolving story. These people can become the hero that references them, they can be idolized, they can become a part of digital history… or if they’re the real-life Jesse McCree, they can be caught in the middle of a massive-scale industry controversy.
It’s no secret that there have been some… revelations around Activision Blizzard’s workplace environment. This article won’t be addressing that directly, there are plenty of other fantastic articles on this subject. Here, we have some fallout to deal with.
To bring you up to speed on this particular thread, Jesse McCree (the real one) was a developer for multiple Diablo titles, and a well-known face on Blizzard’s development team. After the information about Blizzard’s workplaces emerged, multiple involved employees were let go – McCree included.
But because of Overwatch’s cowboy, Jesse McCree cannot be separated from Blizzard so easily. Many players see his legacy reflected in McCree’s (the video game one) presence in Overwatch’s cast. As a result, a large portion of Overwatch’s playerbase want that legacy removed. Notably, a number of casters providing commentary for competitive Overwatch matches have started referring to the character as “Cowboy” instead.
From a story standpoint, a change like this wouldn’t be too hard to implement. McCree’s character could go through some character arc, resulting in a character evolution that coincides with a name or identity change. Many of Overwatch’s cast are known by fake superhero-esque names like “Mercy” or “Doomfist”, so McCree taking on a new title is well within his universe’s aesthetic.
The issues with a change like this come from outside the game. Real person aside, “Jesse McCree” is an excellent cowboy name – while some players may be happy to see it go, others might be upset to see it replaced. It might be seen as punishing the character for something that doesn’t need to be associated with it. After all, there’s a good chance that many in Overwatch’s playerbase couldn’t name two Blizzard employees, much less one that was more famous for working on a whole other franchise. These players would never experience the legacy that McCree’s name evokes in others.
What do you think? Should Jesse McCree’s name be changed? We’d love to hear your thoughts!