It’s time to talk about the Officer D.Va skin. I believe all this controversy over the new Officer D.Va skin is a little out of hand. We’re talking about a cosmetic item in a video game here. An Officer D.Va skin is far removed from real problems of police brutality, governmental oppression, or systemic socio-economic racial oppression.
The Officer D.Va Skin isn’t Special.
This isn’t the first cop skin in video games…by a long shot. There are at least two officer skins in League of Legends that are based on the generalized idea of police uniform in modern America. There are more in LoL if you count the Riot skins. In fact, Vi, is a cop that beats people, for fun. Nobody is up in arms about that.
That’s just League of Legends. Let’s not even delve into the vast catalog of police officer characters in video games, or any of the visual content based off of police in other MOBAs, MMOs, character based FPS, or any other genre.
None of these pieces were ever in support of police brutality. None of them were ever even considered to be in support of police brutality. This Officer D.Va skin is no exception. It’s absolutely impossible to logically believe that the most socially progressive game in the limelight right now, in support of LGBT+ rights and outspoken about mental health, is somehow in support of police brutality.
Let’s go in the other direction, though.
Let’s talk about armed, government funded agencies tasked with enforcing government rule. Police, the National Guard, the Army (on foreign soil), Overwatch. Yes, let’s talk about the shady shit that all those agencies have don, killing innocents and oppressed people (and omnics). Let’s talk about how the argument that those games that depict war are somehow supporting oppression and murder doesn’t hold water.
It’s not that it doesn’t make sense to be upset at the perceived correlation of a cosmetic item to police brutality. It’s that it doesn’t make sense to do that while blindly accepting the general theme of war and multiple forms of violence at the core of most video games, including Overwatch.
The funniest part about the officer D.Va skin is who it belongs to. In the lore of the game, D.Va is a young, popular gaming personality (gamerception), in South Korea. What some people might not know, is that South Korea has a long-standing problem with police brutality. In September 2016, a 68 year old farmer was killed during a non-violent protest by riot police using a fire hose, taking a page right out of the 1960’s Birmingham police playbook. That is but a recent entry in a long list deaths of peaceful protesters and civilians at the hands of South Korean police dating all the way back to the country’s liberation in 1945.
In fact, the South Korean government and its police force have a history of using creative and somehow sleazier tactics for punishing civil unrest in its citizens, including using special force martial artists dressed in street clothes to suppress protests from within.
Under the direction of Chun Doo-hwan, some 400 student activists were forcibly inducted into the nation’s army as punishment for civil disobedience. Later, the same unelected president ordered the incarceration of 40,000 critics and potential rebels in the Samch’ong “re-education camp.” At least 50 people died in the camps. Of course, no vocalization of South Korea’s history of militarized violence against its own people is complete without mentioning the Gwangju massacre, which “officially” killed 144 citizens. The unofficial death toll is believed to be in the 1,000-2,000 range.
I’m quite sure that the team of multicultural, multiethnic, multinational artists that put together this game includes at least a few people acutely aware of the problems of police brutality in Korea and/or the United States. Yet here we are, with a shiny, new, controversial topic to talk about.
The Real Problem.
This long history of police and military violence toward Korean citizens under the order of their own government sets a backdrop for a continued turbulent relationship between the people, the police, and the Korean government. More so than what is going on here in the United States, where police violence often stratifies the people based on race and political ideals. Police violence in Korea is much more openly oppressive, while police violence in the states has a much darker tone of oppression of the people as a whole.
Police violence in the United States, at least in my opinion, is often more a matter of personal hatred and abuse of power on the part of the officer towards the victim. These officers rarely have action taken against them, sparking outrage amongst people in support of the victim, allowing the abuse of power to continue unchecked. However, the real oppression of the people comes as the media stratifies the people, seemingly along racial lines, pitting us against each other, rather than against the government. None of which has anything to do with the Officer D.Va skin.
The problem with confusing correlation and causation is that it often calls attention away from the real problems at hand. This is universal. Getting upset at Blizzard and Jeff Kaplan for putting D.Va on a beat doesn’t solve anything. They are not the police. They are not the government agencies responsible for checking and balancing the human factor in law enforcement. They are not the medium that forcibly divide us along imaginary lines. They make video games.
Claiming your new D.Va skin.
Arguably, the most frustrating part about this skin is the process required to unlock it. Along with the Oni Genji skin, and a pack of other Officer D.Va related loot, this new D.Va skin is only obtainable through a special, limited time event. The Nexus Challenge, is a promotional event put together by Blizzard, to try to bring more players over to their less popular MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. HotS actually features a wide range of characters from the catacombs of Blizzard video game lore, including some of our favorites from Overwatch.
The event, which began on April, 24th 2017, consists of four “quests,” with each one rolling out one week apart. The first week the Oni Genji skin will be available by playing five Heroes of the Storm games with at least one friend. For this quest only, A.I. games will count. Quest two, starting on May, 1st, the new D.Va skin will be the coveted prize. To get it all you need to do is play five quick match, unranked, or ranked matches with at least one friend. Quest three, five games will net you an Officer D.Va icon and spray. Finally, five more games during quest four will award you 10 loot boxes.
To claim the Genji and D.Va skins on PC you need only to play the HotS games on the same Battle.net account you use to play Overwatch. To claim these prizes on console, you must link your Xbox Live or PlayStation Network accounts to the Battle.net account you used to play Heroes of the Storm. A detailed guide on how to link your accounts on console can be found here. In addition, both Oni Genji and the Officer D.Va skin will be made available in regular loot boxes in a later update.
The Long and Short of it.
When it comes down to Overwatch, there will always be an air of uncertainty around things. The community that has been drawn towards this game will continue to have divided opinions on certain “hot button issues.” It is literally impossible for Jeff Kaplan to make every single player happy; he’s not exactly in an envious position. This controversy, similarly to the controversy that followed Tracer’s Blink from the closet, is completely bonkers. At the end of the day, none of it matters, and none of it affects the game. The new D.Va skin does not have some hidden passive or magical ability that will help you win the game, because there still won’t be anybody on the payload. Just like Symmetra didn’t stop having character interactions when they said she was autistic.
If you don’t like the D.Va skin, don’t use it. If someone on your team is using it, take solace in the fact that the imaginary brutality buffs are in your favor. If someone on the enemy team is using it, let that anger you, shut them down, win the game, then drop the bm: /allchat “ggez.”
If you’re still pissed, though, your time would be much better spent picking up signs in opposition towards the current, abysmal state of society. Go for the throat of systemic oppression. Get active in your local community politics. Vote, run for office, write your representatives, educate yourself on policy. Be the angry force for change you wish to see in the world, but don’t take your frustration out on a harmless D.Va skin. I don’t think she really cares.