Blizzard Entertainment says it will rename McCree, Overwatch’s outlaw bounty hunter, after his real-life namesake, former game designer Jesse McCree, was let go from the studio in the wake of a sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit filed against publisher Activision Blizzard.
“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,” Blizzard’s Overwatch team said in a statement posted Thursday to Twitter announcing the name change.
“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,” Blizzard continued. “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. Going forward, in-game characters will no longer be name after real employees and we will be more thoughtful and discerning about adding real world references in future Overwatch content.”
A message from the Overwatch team. pic.twitter.com/2W3AV7Pv6X— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 26, 2021
The real-life Jesse McCree was a longtime Blizzard Entertainment employee who worked on the developer’s World of Warcraft expansions, Diablo 3, and the upcoming Diablo 4. He left the company in August, two weeks after a report was published that featured McCree taking part in a Blizzard gathering at the BlizzCon “Cosby Suite,” with former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi. In the lawsuit filed by California regulators in July, Afrasiabi was alleged to have “engage[d] in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions” while at Blizzard.
Blizzard confirmed McCree’s departure on Aug. 11, alongside the departure of two other developers. Afrasiabi himself left Blizzard Entertainment in 2020, ahead of the lawsuit. Like McCree, his name also appeared in a Blizzard game: World of Warcraft. Blizzard removed references to Afrasiabi from World of Warcraft shortly after the lawsuit was filed.
“We also want to take immediate action in Azeroth to remove references that are not appropriate for our world,” Blizzard’s World of Warcraft team said in a statement from July. “This work has been underway, and you will be seeing several such changes to both Shadowlands and WoW Classic in the coming days.”
Activision Blizzard was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in July for allegedly creating a “frat boy culture” that allowed gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment to proliferate. Several top executives, including former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, were described by the lawsuit as knowing about and enabling the alleged behavior. The DFEH said it conducted a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard before filing the suit.
Activision Blizzard initially called the lawsuit and the DFEH’s investigation “distorted.” Fran Townsend, Activision’s chief compliance officer, said it painted an “untrue” picture of the company, with “factually inaccurate, old, and out of context stories.” Activision Blizzard employees, furious with the company response, signed an open letter and walked out of work in protest, before Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick apologized for the “tone deaf” response to the lawsuit. The company has since hired law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of its policies and procedures. Workers have spoken out on social media about their distrust in this review; the DFEH also said, in an amended complaint, that the investigation “directly interferes” with its own.
You can read more about the allegations against Activision Blizzard in Polygon’s explainer.