“When the makers of the globe-hopping video game “Overwatch” were coming up with the backstory for a character with the ability to freeze enemies and erect ice walls, their initial inclination was to make her homeland a stereotypically chilly place, someplace like Iceland, Canada or Norway.
“That’s what you would expect,” said game director Jeff Kaplan. “We asked ourselves, ‘What if she was from somewhere else? What if she was from China? How would that look?’ It’s not your normal expectation, and that’s what is cute, adorable, endearing and exciting about that character.”
Inspired by Chinese ice sculpture festivals, “Overwatch” lead character concept artist Arnold Tsang crafted a look for Mei, the bespectacled climatologist among the 21 characters of various races, genders, nationalities and sexual orientations which players can portray in the superhero-inspired multiplayer game.
Mei’s unlikely heritage and ability to encase her body in a chunk of ice aren’t her only unique attributes. She doesn’t sport a busty, Barbie-like physique that most female characters have in video games.
“From a visual standpoint, we want every character to have a different silhouette, not just because that’s more interesting to look at but because you want to be able to know which character is coming at you from a distance when you’re playing,” said Tsang. “With that sort of philosophy, it’s easy to embrace diversity.”
For years, the video game industry has been criticized for relying on stereotypes and not depicting a wider array of characters. Many games invite players to construct their own avatars, but a new wave of multiplayer games such as “Battleborn,””Paragon” and “Overwatch” are providing dizzying rosters of defined characters—each with different looks, abilities and histories.
The initial line-up of 21 heroes for “Overwatch” features 10 men, eight women, a pair of robots and one genetically engineered gorilla. (By contrast, the original “Mortal Kombat” featured six men and one woman when it was first released in 1992.)…”