The Overwatch update removes the Russian “Z” from Zarya skins

A new update for over watchtied to the new game Anniversary Remix Event, also seems to have made a subtle change to two skins for Zarya, the hero shooter’s Russian soldier. Blizzard has apparently removed the letter “Z” from Zarya’s Arctic and Siberian Front skins, apparently in response to the letter’s mutating into a symbol of Russian nationalism. That single letter, which some refer to as “zwastika“, meanwhile stands for “devotion to the state, murderous anger and irrepressible power”. The New Yorker writesamid the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Blizzard didn’t announce the change to Zarya’s pair of legendary skins Patch notes for Tuesday’s updatebut the subtle tweak was spotted by members of the over watch underreddit. As seen in the images below, the small Z on the upper left chest of Zarya’s jacket has been removed.

Zarya in her legendary Overwatch Arctic skin, before April 5th

Zarya’s Ancient Arctic Skin
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Zarya's Arctic Skin from Overwatch, coming April 5th

Zarya’s new Arctic skin
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

The change is minor but logical. Blizzard seems to be distancing itself and so is Zarya over watch‘s heroic Russian character, from the letter Z’s association with Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine and domestic support for the invasion fueled by state propaganda. The letter was spotted on Russian tanks and other military vehicles when Ukraine was attacked in February, but the Z’s intended meeting was initially unclear. Regardless of its original intent, the letter has morphed into a key symbol to signal its support for Russia’s increasingly brutal and violent siege of its neighbor.

Blizzard made similar content changes to over watch in the last six years: Changed a victory pose for tracers that was considered overly sexualized by fans; Removing a snare spray; change the hero’s name formerly known as Jesse McCree; and offering refunds for a premium skin inspired by one Overwatch League player accused of sexual assault.

Polygon has reached out to Blizzard Entertainment for comment and will update when the company responds.

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