A transphobic ad aired to Aussies on Twitch during the Overwatch League

Posted on January 19, 2018

Last week saw the launch of the highly anticipated eSports event, the Overwatch League. Describing itself as “the first major global eSports league with city-based teams”, the Overwatch league is setting itself up to emulate traditional sports in almost every way. From using permanent teams and regular play seasons to paying their players a salary on top of their potential tournament winnings. The Overwatch League has all eyes on it to prove the worth of eSports to the world and hopefully birth official leagues for many other long standing titles.

It seems likely that Blizzard made the choice to start an Overwatch League due to the game’s insane popularity. A popularity that undeniably stems, at least partially, from a cast of lovable characters heavily influenced by diversity. This makes it even more infuriating that a hate-fuelled, transphobic advertisement was given air time during the League’s second weekend of events.

The ad in question was found by Twitter user Tong Clodbill, as seen below, while watching the League via Twitch. The ad was region specific so it would only appear for Australian viewers. It was also specifically targetting the Australian Safe Schools Coalition, an institution that is the continuous target for opposers of LGBTI+ issues and specifically demonises the idea of youth education on gender and sexuality diversity. The group behind the ad is named Parents HQ, relying on the now very familiar trope of fear mongering parents with click bait terminology, who are linking the Safe Schools program with pedophilia.

The ad is also branded along the top corner with the words “This Ad supports OverwatchLeague”, which all ads during the event are automatically branded with. Not only is the ad despicable for obvious reasons but it also actively goes against Twitch’s own policy of not airing political advertising. They have since made an official statement:

“Twitch does not allow nor support political advertising which slipped through our political ad filter due to a categorization error at the ad network level. We have since removed it.”

As of yet Blizzard have not made an official statement but Tong Clobill did let those following his Tweet thread know that his complaint to Blizzard Australia was received and was being passed up the chain.

For the Australian LGBTI+ community this advertising is nothing new after the plebiscite allowed this kind of debate to be freely aired to our homes and billboards around the country. However following the momentous victory on Dec. 9, after 61.6 percent of Australians responded in support of the legalisation of same sex marriage, this is a reminder for a lot of the community that there are still many issues that need the same unwavering support we put behind the same sex marriage debate.

Blizzard reported this week that the Overwatch League reached more than 10 million viewers in its first week — but it is unclear how many this specific advertising campaign reached. Blizzard has a $90 million deal with Twitch to exclusively bring the Overwatch League to the streaming site in the West for the first two seasons. The ad has now been removed and hopefully this oversight will lead to a bit more monitoring of the advertisements played through Twitch as I’m certain Blizzard wouldn’t be to pleased about their brand being attached to this message of intolerance.