Rolling Stone


Animators have turned a popular game into a surprising­ly inclusive mode of sexual expression


LAST JUNE, Overwatch, a well-known multiplaye­r shooter from Blizzard Entertainm­ent, tweeted that the long-awaited sequel was coming, receiving around 70,000 likes.

Four days after Overwatch 2 came out in October, a porn-animation artist called Memz revealed that they had obtained the updated character models. That tweet received nearly 100,000 likes. This was, it seemed, a bigger deal than the game — it meant Overwatch porn, an already thriving genre, was about to get a whole new reboot.

Fan porn is an establishe­d fact of the gaming industry, with XXX tube sites awash in Fortnite filth, Second Life sex, and Resident Evil orgies — animated versions of favorite characters going at it in every way imaginable. But Overwatch has, since its 2016 release, seen its characters most frequently borrowed. There are more than 70,000 Overwatch illustrati­ons on erotica website Rule 34; it consistent­ly ranks among the most common Pornhub searches (once even beating “anal”); and r/Overwatch_Porn has 693,000 subscriber­s. While Overwatch 2 itself garnered mixed reviews, production of this content — representi­ng a global and diverse range of sexual perspectiv­es — hasn’t slowed for a second.

A European animator in their twenties, preferring to remain anonymous, offers one possible reason: Previously, the software for rendering bootleg video-game porn was “crappy,” they explain, and there weren’t many decent models to work with. Then came Blender — free, open-source, high-powered 3D-animation software that upped outsiders’ work to industry standards. It just so happened that the women of Overwatch were the first good models available. “Pixar quality, really,” the animator says. “Easily recognizab­le and unabashedl­y sexy.”

If Blizzard has an official policy on the porn, it’s never been made public: Requests for comment to them and more than a dozen people who have worked on Overwatch went unanswered except for a single former animator declining to comment. Just days after the game’s 2016 launch, Blizzard issued a handful of copyright takedowns on videos using models ripped from the game’s beta version. But since that initial, halfhearte­d crackdown, the porn purveyors have run wild.

Andres Guadamuz, a reader on intellectu­al property law at the University of Sussex, says U.S. companies are “faced with some choices on how much they should pursue adult-themed fan art.” A few, like Disney, will be more aggressive in order to protect their family-friendly reputation. Blizzard, however, may find most litigation isn’t worthwhile. “My guess is that they must be playing the numbers,” he says. “Overwatch is still a reasonably popular game, and anything that will antagonize their community would be negative.”

Karina, 29, used to make some “very simple poses” of Lara Croft, the sex-object protagonis­t of Tomb Raider, with primitive fan-designed software from 2009. That was a “silly hobby,” she says, but years later, she “discovered Blender and got sucked into it, learning about materials, shaders, lighting, camerawork, and other stuff.” Now, with 20,000 Twitter followers and a Patreon, she charges $150-plus for an Overwatch porn scene. “I get quite a lot of Overwatch commission­s,” she says.

“Human beings are inherently turned on by novelty,” says Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. “Some people have these sexual fantasies about impossible scenarios — animated porn is a way of vicariousl­y living out these kind of fantasies.”

The digital “actors” in these scenarios can do and be anything, of any sexual orientatio­n, with any combinatio­n of physical traits. That’s a potential upside, Lehmiller thinks, for transgende­r and nonbinary people usually seen through a “fetishized lens” in mainstream porn, or anyone plagued by insecurity when looking at the body types traditiona­lly showcased there.

But all of this leaves us to ponder the enduring appeal of naked Overwatch characters. Solomon, a 20-year-old who moderates the Overwatch porn subreddit, says that computer-generated porn is “simply ethically better” because it’s made without “abuse or coercion.” Perhaps Blizzard, between its meticulous art and massive footprint, accidental­ly engineered the pinnacle of the form. At this point, the thirst for Overwatch is self-sustaining, even devotional. So says EvilAudio, 28, a voice-over artist in Brazil who has supplied the sound effects for hundreds of these videos: “It’s a religion, I guess.”

 ?? ?? The character Sombra is often in Overwatch porn.
The character Sombra is often in Overwatch porn.

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