As reported by Polygon, a couple of Zarya’s skins in Overwatch have undergone a minor change. Both the Arctic and Siberian Frost skins have had the letter “Z” removed in conjunction with an update for the Anniversary Remix event.
Whilst Blizzard hasn’t yet commented on the changes to these Zarya skins, the most likely explanation is that the letter “Z” is also being used by Russian armed forces during the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The change also wasn’t announced by Blizzard in the official patch notes.
Before and after photos of the Zarya skins can be seen in the Reddit post below, with the “Z” placed on the character’s upper left chest.
As Zarya is a Russian character, it appears that Blizzard has removed the symbol from Overwatch due to its inappropriate nature alongside current real-world events. Whilst the exact origin of the use of the letter “Z” regarding Russian military forces is unknown, New York Magazine noted in March how the symbol has been spotted on many Russian military vehicles.
It has been suggested that the “Z” – along with other similar symbols – was first used to identify Russian forces and prevent friendly fire, or to identify specific Russian task forces.
The symbol has also been adopted by Russian supporters, as nationalist activist Anton Demidov said to The Wall Street Journal: “I don’t know where this symbol came from […] The symbol is not important. What’s important is what position it represents, and that is that we understand we need to back our president and our army in their difficult task.”
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak is facing a lengthy ban due to him deciding to tape the letter “Z” to his chest when receiving a bronze medal at a World Cup Event. Kuliak was stood next to gold medalist Illia Kovtun of Ukraine (via The Guardian).
In other news, a remake of both Max Payne 1 and 2 is in the works at Remedy Entertainment, with both games set to release as a single title.