Multiplayer first-person shooter Overwatch allows players to choose from among 21 characters to combat a robot revolt.
But one character stands head and shoulders above the rest: A pink-haired Russian badass named Zarya.
Aleksandra “Zarya” Zaryanova wields a particle cannon and has sworn to protect her people and homeland. A former bodybuilder, 28-year-old Zarya is the strongest of the playable female characters and, in the short time the game has been out, has become a fan favorite for LGBT gamers.
But is the Siberian soldier a lesbian—or are fans reading too much into her butch aesthetic?
“We’ve been hearing a lot of discussion among players about the need for diversity in video games. That means a lot of things. They want to see gender diversity, they want to see racial diversity, they want to see diversity along the lines of what country people are from.
There is also talk about diversity in different body types in that not everybody wants to have the exact same body type always represented. And we just want you to know that we’re listening and we’re trying hard and we hope Zarya is a step in the right direction.”
The most intriguing element in the “Is she or isn’t she” debate is that Zarya is from Russia, a country infamous for its oppressive homophobia.
Kotaku spoke with Russian gamers who were torn between their admiration for Zarya’s fervent patriotism and the possibility that she might be gay.
Reactions ranged from “I think she isn’t only as strong as a fortress, but full of goodness and love, too,” to “All this LGBT nonsense should be burnt in the inquisition.”
We dare you to say that to her face.
Overwatch is now available on PC, PS4 and XBOX One.