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Blizzard Entertainment is launching an inclusion program called Calling All Heroes for its Overwatch games and Overwatch League esports community.
The mission of the program is to build an inclusive gaming and competitive environment in the Overwatch ecosystem, which will get a big boost on October 4 with the launch of Overwatch 2 with early access.
It’s no different from Riot Games’ attempt to make Valorant more inclusive when the shooting game launched in 2020. At the time, Riot made efforts to involve more women in esports games and events. About 40% of Valorant players were women, well above the percentage for League of Legends.
Esports is a gaming category that could certainly use more diversity, and Blizzard Entertainment has work ahead of it, as evidenced by an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit by the state of California against the company and its parent company Activision Blizzard. Blizzard has said it will do better, and this program could be proof of that effort.
Blizzard said the new effort is one of many that focuses on equality, visibility and community support for underrepresented genders.
Developers, the League office, teams, casters, players and fans all have important roles to play when it comes to making Overwatch a safe and welcoming community, Blizzard said.
The game team is implementing a new initiative called Defense Matrix – an infrastructure of systems designed to protect gameplay integrity and promote positive behavior in Overwatch 2. Defense Matrix amplifies Overwatch’s security and gaming experience through aspects such as SMS security, audio transcriptions, and the all-new first-time user experience.
Challengers Cup and Caster Camp
The Challengers Cup will run alongside Path to Pro in the fall and winter of 2022 as an additional competitive avenue for underrepresented genders. This tournament is not a replacement for the Path to Pro; Rather, Blizzard hopes it will serve as an entry point for underrepresented genders to jump into the wider Overwatch esports ecosystem. This is similar to what Riot did with women-only Valorant esports events.
Blizzard encourages everyone who is eligible to participate in both Challengers Cup and Path to Pro. To maintain a safe competitive environment, Challengers Cup will be supported by a thorough gender verification system that all entrants must complete.
In regards to that process, Blizzard said the Calling All Heroes verification process was built with the insights and efforts of people from marginalized spaces and their gaming experiences. The verification process is designed to prevent people from acting in bad faith and therefore requires verification of accounts, including Battle.Net, social media accounts, and gender identifiers.
“We will rely on an applicant’s gender self-identification and if an individual completes all the steps, he or she will be accepted into the program,” Blizzard said.
This is to ensure that all participants are of under-represented genders, such as but not limited to: transgender, non-binary, genderfluid and women-identifying individuals.
The company is partnering with Raidiant, a production company and platform for underrepresented genders, to host the upcoming Challengers Cup. This is the event format, with details subject to change:
Qualifying 1 takes place from October 21 to October 23. The format is according to the Swiss system playing around in a single elimination round, with the top four teams advancing to the final. Open registration is limited to 128 teams
Qualification 2 takes place from November 18 to November 20. The format is according to the Swiss system playing around in a single elimination round, with the top four teams advancing to the final. Open registration is limited to 128 teams.
The final will take place in December, the exact dates to come. The top eight teams (top four of each qualifier) compete in a double elimination round. Registration is open to both full teams and individual participants.
The Caster Camp aims to give underrepresented groups the opportunity to learn from some of the best broadcasting talent in the industry, build skills and build professional relationships.
We hope this program will help create equity in the commentary space and produce a more diverse talent pool for Overwatch’s competitive ecosystem. Programming for the Caster Camp is led by Soe Gschwind, Matt “Mr. X” Morello and other Overwatch League talent. It will cover various topics on how to be successful in esports broadcasting.
All camp participants will have the opportunity to apply what they have learned during the sessions and submit a video roll of themselves attempting to cast an Overwatch card, to be judged by a panel of instructors.
You can register from September 30 to October 17.
“Throughout the rest of this year, we will be actively listening to feedback as we consider how we can best support our players in the future and create a better world for everyone,” Blizzard said.
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