The Overwatch Character We Need

Like a lot (and I mean a LOT) of people, I really love Overwatch. The major reason being the diverse and unique array of characters. Some of my faves include Symmetra (no surprise there), D.Va, Sombra, Widowmaker, Zarya, Lucio, Junkrat and Roadhog. I also have a soft spot for the Shimada brothers (I don’t really like Hanzo but I hope he and Genji get to reconcile) and Pharah.

Overwatch’s ever expanding lore takes the time to include more characters, with recent additions including Sombra, Ana (Pharah’s mother), and Orisa, and it looks like Doomfist is going to be next in line.

But I feel like there’s a major character who really needs to be introduced, both as a playable character and a significant member of the lore. Who would that be?

Pharah’s father.

When the game first came out, Pharah, an Egyptian character, had some Legendary Skins clearly inspired by the First Nations people of Canada’s Pacific Northwest:

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Cultural appropriation? A lot of people certainly thought so, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

According to THIS post from someone who is actually a Native Canadian from the Pacific Northwest (Eyak to be precise), it is actually not a bad idea at all to appropriate this particular culture. Why? Because Eyak and other Native cultures in that area are in extreme danger of dying off. What better way to keep the culture alive than by featuring it in such a popular game?

Nevertheless, there was enough of an uproar for Blizzard to try to rectify this situation. So they revealed Pharah’s father…sort of. We don’t know his name, his relationship with her or Ana, or how he fits into the Overwatch lore, but we do know that he is Native Canadian, making Pharah Métis.

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Now, I think it’s really cool that Pharah is mixed race with Canadian heritage! As a Canadian myself, I was so happy to hear that! However, it can be easy to see how making her father Native without actually including him can be seen as a get out of jail free card, especially since Pharah’s native heritage isn’t always explored and we only know about Ana, who is full-blooded Egyptian as far as we know.

So, why not make him part of the game and give him a bigger role in the lore? Let’s see him interact with the other characters. Let’s see how he feels about Ana being MIA for so long. Let’s see him bond with his daughter more. Let’s see what his relationship with Gabriel, Jack, and Reinhardt is like. You could definitely delve into some truly interesting and compelling lore of how Pharah, her father, and Ana are connected.

And of course, let’s give more visibility to Canada’s First Nations people. Recently, Canada just celebrated its 150 anniversary as a united sovereign country, but a lot of our Indigenous community called attention to the cultural and literal genocide they have faced in those years (just look up residential schools and the 60’s scoop to get a general, horrible idea). You can see how a Native Canadian character can do some good, especially when you consider the positive impact of Pharah’s skins on some people.

Overwatch is not going away any time soon, so there’s plenty of time for him to show up. When (hopefully not if) he shows up, I will be very excited to see his impact on the world of Overwatch and Native Canadian cultures.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Autistic Character

In a world where autism is often portrayed in a negative light in media, a lot of people (myself included) create autistic headcanons to give to popular, positive characters who exhibit some characteristics of autism without being overly stereotypical. Yet canonically confirmed autistic characters do exist.

Here’s a (possibly incomplete) list. What really sticks out to me right away is that almost all of them are white men.  One of the biggest problems of autism in the media is that it’s portrayed almost exclusively as a white male thing. This results in autistic girls and boys of colour getting misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, and raises stereotypes.

Some of the portrayals vary widely. Sheldon Cooper is a stereotype and his autism is often treated as a joke, so that’s not good (and his show is extremely unpopular, so that doesn’t help). Gil Grissom (from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) is brilliant. He’s smart, a competent leader, is able to look at things from a unique point of view, is shown to be capable of loving others, is a hero, and is a multifaceted, layer character. When I read that he was on the list I was so happy.

When I saw Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) on the list, I was surprised, but then I realized it did make sense. That said, his character can be a huge asshole (there have been a lot of instances of him being a shitty husband to Sue), so, not the best representation.

Two literary characters that are autistic include Christopher Boone (from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a book I read for school), and Jacob Hunt (from House Rules). Christopher Boone is very stereotypical (if you find a find a checklist of autistic characteristics he fits every box), and his parents treat him like shit (they lie to him and tell them to his face that he’s driving them to an early grave), BUT I ultimately did feel for him, and I liked how the story was told exclusively from his point of view. I consider it a mixed bag. On the other hand, I could not get past the first chapter of House Rules because Jacob is 18 but treated like a child. No thank you.

But two characters that I want to bring to attention are Symmetra (from Overwatch) and Peridot (from Steven Universe). These characters matter to me because they’re both women/female-aligned (like me) and from series that are the most popular at the moment.

Symmetra is canonically autistic, and Peridot is very strongly implied to be so. There is an entire tag dedicated to Peridot being autistic. Some of the evidence of Peridot being autistic is her lack of social skills/inability to understand social cues, hyper focus, is easily frustrated, uses comfort objects, can be abrasive, needs a routine, etc. At first, she was a likable character! She was funny, she was unique, and a great foil to the crystal gems. What happened?

The show infantalized her.

Ever since season 3, she’s been described as a ‘gremlin’. She has been behaving more and more childlike, always shouting, always running around doing weird shit, not being allowed to show her technical skills. What’s worse, she’s had her comfort items broken (her recorder) or threatened to be broken (her tablet), there was one point where she was put on a leash, and in a deleted scene Amethyst tried to show her how to eat by putting her in a fucking high chair. Ultimately everything that made Peridot interesting is gone.

By contrast, we have Symmetra, a canonically autistic character who is not infantalized or treated like shit at all. She’s beautiful, talented, and capable. She’s allowed to be a hero. She has a desire to do the right thing, even if she’s doing it the wrong way (but is starting to realize something’s up). We can tell she’s autistic (the need for order and routine, black and white morality, special interest, smart but not very social) without relying too much on stereotypes. She’s a breath of fresh air.

Basically, if you’re going to create an autistic character, 1) don’t base them off stereotypes, 2) don’t overly infantalize them (having some childlike quirks and interests is okay, but constantly behaving like a toddler is not), 3) don’t have them seen as a joke or constantly treated like shit by the narrative or other characters, 4) let them be heroes and have them save the day, portraying their unique ability and worldview in a good light, and 5) try to make them something other than a white man.

Basically, WRITE US AS PEOPLE! And if you’re still having difficulty, research and ask people on the autism spectrum for help. I’d be more than happy to help. (You can look up some traits of autistic people HERE.)

Also, if you’ve seen, read, or played any of the media featuring canonically autistic characters, let me know of how you think they’re portrayed, and if it’s positive, I’ll be sure to check it out! In the meantime, I’ll make more posts on autistic headcanons to give visibility to characters who have characteristics of autism that are ultimately positive potential portrayals.

Thoughts on Overwatch’s New Hero

A few weeks ago the Overwatch team began posting pictures and information on a new character, an 11 year old African technology prodigy named Efi Oladele. People were curious what this was leading up to, since it was unlikely she’d be a playable character (there are laws in other countries prohibiting child characters in violent fighting games).

Well, today it was revealed that Efi was the creator of Overwatch’s newest tank hero, the robot Orisa!

What I like right away about this character is that it’s a female coded robot (fembot) that ISN’T sexualized or a maid. In a lot of media robots are mostly gender neutral (but still meant to be read as male) whereas the more gendered robots are highly feminized and often put into sexual or subservient roles. So, to see a female-aligned robot being big and bulky and as a fighter/protector is a real refreshing turn of events. It’s also nice seeing more bulky women (human or not) in the game, Zarya was looking kind of lonely there.

What we know about the character so far is that she is concerned about protecting people and keeping them safe, but still has a lot of work to do. It would be really neat if we could see her interact with Bastion and Zenyatta and what their dynamics would be like.

People are already drawing parallels between Orisa and Efi and Hiro and Baymax and I think that’s adorable. I think we need more stories of robots being helpful and caring (rather than just mindless drones or usurpers). Overall, definitely looking forward to this character and what role she has in the overall lore.

I Kind of Want An Overwatch Doll

The Overwatch game is rated T for Teen, but the rest of the franchise is actually pretty kid friendly. Which is probably why I can’t stop thinking about how Overwatch would make for some really awesome toys.

The merch available is pretty generic. They’ve got shirts, Funko Pops, stationary, mugs, plushies of Winston, posters, other clothes, and the like. But mostly shirts. Not much else.I mean, come on, think of all the action figures you can make of the characters. What kid wouldn’t want to play with these characters? If a kid is interested in Overwatch but is too young to play the game, I think making toys of the characters is a great alternative.

And I know it’s unlikely to happen, but I would love to see dolls of the female characters. I know dolls for Zarya, Mei, and Ana might be a little harder to make, but I still think all the women would make beautiful dolls.

Now, there’s a market for adults that sells collectible dolls. Those with a lot of detail and care put into them. I wouldn’t be too surprised if there are some Overwatch fans who wouldn’t mind having them to collect.

But also, I feel like they could be great for little girls too, even if they aren’t interested in the rest of the franchise. The women of Overwatch are all diversely beautiful. I can totally imagine a little girl looking at a doll of one of them, getting excited, and wanting to have it. I can especially imagine a brown and/or amputee girl (yes they exist, look up the War Amps) loving a Symmetra doll.

At any rate, there’s a goldmine of opportunity released by this game. I do hope we get a better variety of merch soon, even if they’re not toys, because the current slate is kind of underwhelming. I’m hoping eventually we’ll get an animated TV series of movie, and when that comes, they’re definitely going to need a better quantity of merchandise to market the film and make it a success.

But more than anything, I want a Symmetra doll.

 

Tracer Comes Out and Proud, Korra and Asami Remain Stable

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Short post because it’s been a long day (I’m starting my Christmas vacation) but I needed to talk about this now. This has been a big week for queer women.

December 19th marked the two year anniversary of the series finale of Legend of Korra, where it was revealed that Korra and Asami are bisexual and in love with each other, and will go on to be happy together. The fact that people have been celebrating this on social media proves just how major this was, and how many lives it touched.

And just a day later, Overwatch (which never fails to impress me), as a warm Christmas gift, released a comic confirming that Tracer, the face of the hit franchise, is gay and in a happy, healthy, explicit relationship. Tracer was the first announced gay character from Blizzard (they had teased that at least one of their characters was gay), and hopefully this will pave the way for further LGBT characters in the franchise and for others.

This is huge. Two significant series that have given representation to the LGBT community. Not minor characters. Not offscreen relationships. Nothing that ended in death or misery. But main characters in loving relationships.

In a world where LGBT representation (especially for women) is rare and not well developed, it’s wonderful knowing that we’re getting closer and closer to showing happy, living characters together in mainstream media. And in our current troubled climate, lots of young LGBT fans will take comfort in knowing someone cares.

Merry Christmas, my wlw friends. You are valid and you are loved.

 

Sombra is here!

 

After lots and lots and lots of teasing, Blizzard Entertainment finally unveiled their newest major character, Sombra!

I love how we already know so much about Sombra and how much of a complex character she is. She’s definitely youthful (and a bit of a troll) and spunky but also a genius who is very diabolical. She works with the main villains of the game but goes behind their backs to get their target to work for her. This is clearly a confident and powerful woman who knows how to get people to do what she wants (and of course, her design is excellent, reflecting her personality and skills very well).

It was a lot of waiting, but it looks like the reveal was worth it, because we know Sombra plays an integral part in the worldbuilding of the game. I’m totally invested in this character now and want to see where she takes us!

The Quiet Brilliance of the Latest ‘Overwatch’ Short

To help build the world of its hit game, Blizzard had released four Overwatch shorts: Dragons (focusing on Hanzo and Genji); Alive (focusing on Tracer and Widowmaker); Recall (focusing on Winston and Reaper); and Hero (focusing on Soldier: 76). All of these shorts have garnered millions of views and hype for the game. Now, Blizzard has added another short, called The Last Bastion. 

While the other shorts have ranged from good to fantastic, this short is a masterpiece. In just over seven minutes with no dialogue (but with brilliant use of sound effects) we are told a simple yet compelling story. The character of Bastion and its relationship with the bird are fleshed out, and the story effectively uses the slow burn method of contrasting Bastion’s life during and after the hell of war. It is also one of the most chilling portrayals of PTSD flashbacks and triggers; the calmness of the forest helps the intensity really hit you.

It also makes you excited for more to come. What else will we learn about the war, and how it’s effecting the characters? Will Bastion be accepted in a post-war world? At any case, we’ve definitely come to care for it.

I’m definitely looking forward to more Overwatch shorts, and I hope they get better and better (and maybe nab an Oscar or Annie award). Till then, The Last Bastion is proof of Blizzard’s skill of being great storytellers and filmmakers in addition to fantastic game developers, and I look forward to supporting their further efforts.