The Reason Behind McCree's 'Overwatch' Name Change

The team behind Overwatch have announced that they will be changing the name of one of their title's most popular characters, on account of the ongoing Activision Blizzard controversies.

Why Is McCree's Name Changing?

McCree is a sharpshooting cowboy—styled after famous spaghetti western gunslingers—who has been a key part of Overwatch's roster since it debuted back in 2016. Alongside 20 other launch heroes, he has always been an iconic part of the online game.

Yet his inclusion has recently become problematic due to his association with a certain Blizzard employee. For context, the character was originally named after Jesse McCree—a level designer at the studio—who was let go from the company earlier this month.

As first reported by Kotaku, McCree was one of the Blizzard staffers who appeared in a controversial image of the Blizzcon "Cosby Suite."

What Is the Cosby Suite?

The notion of the "Cosby Suite" first came to public attention in July 2021, when a lawsuit was filed against Activision Blizzard by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Among other things, the legal document contained allegations of harassment in the workplace, pay discrimination, and a pervasive "frat boy" culture ingrained in the company.

Alex Afrasiabi, former senior creative director of World of Warcraft, was explicitly named in the lawsuit, with accusations that he would engage in "blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions". According to the document, Afrasiab's inappropriate behavior with female employees was so well-known that his hotel room was informally nicknamed the 'Crosby [sic] Suite'" in reference to alleged rapist Bill Cosby.

Following the publication of the lawsuit, an image from 2013 then resurfaced, depicting a number of men gathered in this hotel room, posing next to a giant portrait of Cosby. Among those seen in the controversial image was Jesse McCree. He (along with two others) was promptly let go from company as a result.

Cosby has consistently denied the serious accusations against him and was freed from prison in June, after the state supreme court halted further prosecution.

What Has the Overwatch Team Said?

With his namesake no longer affiliated with the company, Blizzard has decided to change the name of McCree in Overwatch.

An official statement, attributed to the game's development team, was posted on Twitter. It read: "We built the Overwatch universe around the idea that inclusivity, equity, and hope are the building blocks of a better future. They are central to the game and to the Overwatch team.

"As we continue to discuss how we best live up to our values and to demonstrate our commitment to creating a game world that reflects them, 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."

The statement goes on to say that the alteration will take some time and that a planned narrative arc featuring McCree will have to be delayed. It also clarifies that the team will be implementing a new policy that means they will no longer be naming their characters after real-life employees.

Elaborating upon this point, it continues: "This will help reinforce that we're building a fictional universe that is unmistakably different from the real world and better illustrates that the creation of Overwatch is truly a team effort [...] We know that actions speak louder than words, and we hope to show you our commitment to making Overwatch a better experience in-game and continue to make out team the best it can be."

A message from the Overwatch team.

— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 26, 2021

There is currently no word on what McCree's name will be changed to but the Overwatch team have promised regular updates on the situation.

Newsweek has contacted Activision Blizzard for comment but, at the time of publication, has received no response.

McCree In Overwatch
Image shows the character originally known as McCree in "Overwatch". The gunslinger will be getting a new name, to distance him from level designer Jesse McCree. Blizzard Entertainment