Overwatch Skins Fuel An Economy Of Virtual Porn

Category: 
Overwatch Skins Fuel An Economy Of Virtual Porn
June 7, 2019
Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

 

When Overwatch debuted its new “Academy” skin for Korean idol, war hero, and champion gamer Hana “D.Va” Song last month, few people more delighted than Kim. Kim, who asked to be kept anonymous, is a 22-year-old student living near Los Angeles. In many ways, she’s exactly what you might expect from an Overwatch fan. She plays with friends, cheers for the Seoul Dynasty in the Overwatch League, and is a proud Mercy main. There’s just one difference: Kim works as a cam girl, doing online shows for paying customers.

 

Kim expanded her webcam business in 2017, when she noticed racy digital animations gaining traction online. This revelation coincided with the boom of fan-made Overwatch animations — and as it turned out, Kim does a solid impression of D.Va. Soon, she began voice acting in Overwatch fan erotic shorts. Rule 34, or the internet axiom that states “if it exists, there’s porn of it,” has been a godsend for Kim, because not only is there a flood of Overwatch porn, but it’s becoming increasingly elaborate. The new Academy D.Va skin, which puts D.Va in a schoolgirl outfit, gives Kim a great opportunity to get new work.

 

After an introductory chat on Discord, Kim tells me that she needs to film a take for an audition to play D.Va in an sexual short produced in the free 3D modeling program Blender. She asks if I want to listen in, and I say sure. So she drops her normal voice and cadence, which is low and tinged with vocal fry, and becomes D.Va through moans and gasps.

Blizzard Entertainment

 

Every Overwatch character has a defined set of lore, but fans still like to fill in the blanks. McCree can be a soft, sweet cinnamon roll or a rooting, tooting cowboy. Reaper is shown as a serial killer in-game, but fans love thinking about Gabriel Reyes’ wholesome relationship with other Overwatch members. For many, D.Va is a feminist icon, a Cheetos-eating gamer gremlin, or perhaps she’s a sex symbol. Academy D.Va, which puts her in a schoolgirl outfit, appeals to many of the latter kind of fan.

 

New heroes and costumes come out in Overwatch throughout the year for events and celebrations, which means there’s a constant stream of new content that can be sexualized. And D.Va, a Korean teenager in a catsuit, is one of the most popular Overwatch porn characters. When Blizzard released its “Shooting Star” short, it didn’t take long for the outfit she wore in the cinematic to show up in new videos and loops of her performing oral sex and being penetrated. Overwatch was among Pornhub’s most searched terms three years in a row in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

 

This staying power as a sexual hub might be explained by Overwatch’s fanbase, who love to ship characters and create queer headcanons. Overwatch also stars a wide variety of women, most of whom are conventionally attractive. It also helps that Source Filmmaker and Blender, which are used to make videos, have both become more accessible over the years. Years ago, something as simple as a cumshot could be a struggle, as artists initially couldn’t render convincing ejaculations. Most importantly, the rise of crowdfunding platforms give artists more revenue streams, especially if they’re willing to produce erotic work for fans. And Overwatch is one of the most lucrative games in this field.

LordAardvark

 

“Tim,” who asked to stay anonymous, says he used to dabble in various games, making models for characters from Resident Evil and Dead or Alive. After an animation he made of Overwatch’s Mei performing oral sex went viral, fans swarmed his small but steady Patreon — and now he works exclusively in Overwatch. “I can’t afford not to,” he says.

 

One artist, “Ron,” calls the field of Overwatch porn “just a business.”

 

“I myself personally have no attachment to it,” Ron says. “It’s a job.”

 

Whenever there’s a new batch of Overwatch skins, established creators often rush to produce models — 3D figures that can be posed and moved — that can be used in sexy animations.

 

“It’s like an exclusivity deal,” says Tim. “Sony wants to be the only one with a Spider-Man game, because it sells PS4s.”

 

Similarly, when there are new characters, being quick can be lucrative. “When Ashe came out, that was a bit of a race, because if you’re the only one with an Ashe model, you have a monopoly,” Tim says. “It won’t last, but it gets you on the map.” After Academy D.Va was revealed, Overwatch porn creators knew that a timer was ticking down to the moment someone would provide the base for the next slate of big D.Va porn films.

 

“New skins are like DLC for the porn [makers],” Ron says. “Any skin [D.Va] has is popular, but ‘schoolgirl’ dress up is more along the porn side too. Plus, in the technical side, it was about four hours work, which is far less than some other characters.”

 

Despite the timeliness factor, rule 34 creators have to be careful. “Being first is important if it is good,” says Ron. “If you are first and it looks like you scraped it off your boot, then there is no point.”

Blizzard Entertainment

 

As Overwatch maintains its standing in the rule 34 community, fan creations are becoming increasingly complex. Some artists scrape together in-game sounds and voice lines for their shorts, others pay actresses like Kim for custom performances. One Source Filmmaker artist, LordAardvark, says that his shorts cost somewhere between $400 and $1,200 to produce. He stresses that he goes for ambitious projects, and pays well above industry rates. His Patreon draws in about $4,000 a month, with little variation over time.

 

LordAardvark is working on a video series starring D.Va called Rabbit.Hole, a parody where D.Va finds herself in increasingly brazen sexual conquests to unlock new cosmetics. It’s supposed to be a mirror of how players want to unlock new skins like Academy D.Va during an event. The first episode has racked up nearly 900,000 views on PornHub, as well as views from LordAardvark’s Patreon and other upload sources.

 

“It’s taking digs at the AAA industry as a whole, and the toxic elements Blizzard is spearheading,” LordAardvark says.

LordAardvark

 

As Overwatch porn explodes, there’s been increasing concern whether creators can keep the magic going. In May 2016, while Overwatch was still in its infancy, Blizzard sent out a wave of cease and desist orders to Overwatch rule 34 artists. Tumblr, which was formerly a haven for online porn, put a rule in effect that banned pornography and “female presenting nipples.” This policy change forced Overwatch artists to relocate to new platforms, which inevitably leads to losing legacy followers — “Tim” says that he lost three quarters of his followers after the purge. Twitter, meanwhile, blocks “sensitive” accounts with adult content from searches. Overwatch pornography artists have to maintain fanbases within ever-shifting platforms, all while dodging Blizzard’s wrath.

 

“Obviously, [a cease and desist] is always a possibility hanging over my shoulder,” says LordAardvark. “If [Blizzard] ever have an issue, all they have to do is send me an email saying ‘stop this shit, we don’t like it’, and I’ll fucking cut it out then and there.”

 

There are social ramifications too. Kim works under a stage name, and thinks her parents would stop paying for her education if they learned about her job. Her income is also dependent on the web of Patreons, fan communities, and Twitter accounts that draw interest to individual artists.

 

“I don’t think I could do voice acting for anything else,” she says. “I’d probably have to cam more, or if that doesn’t work out, get a job.”

 

Porn-makers also have to keep working within the confines of their audiences’ tastes. While LordAardvark’s Rabbit.Hole series is very popular, that doesn’t necessarily funnel interest into his other projects and works.

 

“It created a bubble off to the side,” he says. “This entirely separate sphere with Rabbit.Hole and D.Va fans who don’t really participate with much of the other work. As a whole, they tend to be a very isolated group.”

 

That fervent D.Va fandom may explain why Blizzard expected the schoolgirl outfit to make waves. In a stream with a community figure, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan said the cosmetic would likely “break the internet,” a term that brings the 2014 Paper Magazine shoot that starred Kim Kardashian’s derrière to mind.

 

Despite D.Va’s popularity and extremely visible life as a gaming sex icon, it’s unclear if Blizzard anticipated that the schoolgirl cosmetic would become a sexually charged image within the Overwatch porn economy. Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment. What we do know is that Blizzard keeps an eye on how fans interpret their characters, sometimes even working those depictions back into the game. Grillmaster 76, a skin that depicts Soldier: 76 as a grumpy paternal figure, was inspired by the fans who lovingly depicted Soldier: 76 asOverwatch’s dad. In the case of D.Va, the developers say the Academy skin is a callback to her early career.

 

“We ultimately decided to tie [the anniversary skin] to the idea of D.Va being a pro gamer in high school,” designer David Kang said in a press release.

 

Overwatch characters are aged down for special skins all the time, though Hana Song is one of the few protagonists who now appears underage in the game. This reality makes her prominence in virtual porn tricky. And there’s also no denying the charged imagery of schoolgirl outfits, which have been a staple of hugely popular “barely legal” and “roleplay” genres of pornography for years.

 

Two days after D.Va’s anniversary skin reveal, an artist who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of potential Blizzard intervention released the first images of a useable model of Academy D.Va via Patreon, where it is available for $1 backers. It is, as far as I can tell, a perfect recreation of the in-game thing — except in this case, D.Va’s clothes can be removed or altered. There’s more to figure out: textures, physics, poses. Already, smut-makers are hard at work with minute concerns, like making sure Academy D.Va’s head maintains a good tempo while she deepthroats an unseen figure. Nobody is done yet, but like Black Cat D.Va, and Cruiser D.Va before her, Academy D.Va’s starring role in a porn film is a foregone conclusion. 

Related articles

VRrOOm Wechat