We Need To Talk About Overwatch’s Lore Problem

Overwatch truly needs no introduction. After its release in May of 2016, the game has taken the gaming and esports scene by storm. After only two years of being in the esports scene, Overwatch has reached even new territory from being one of the first esports to be covered by channels like Disney XD, a huge step into mainstream news coverage. While Overwatch continues to grow and release new content every couple of months, there’s still one glaring hole in the otherwise solid game: lore.

After three years, fans have gotten snippets of information through the writing team’s comics, short stories, and cinematics. We’ve even had new characters and events released in the game. But why does it feel like I still know nothing about the game and its characters? To answer that question, we will have look at Overwatch‘s storytelling as different angles.

Zen doesn’t have much lore but he does have cool skins.

Blindspots

Overwatch is no doubt an ambitious project for the game devs. Having 30+ heroes, with their own storylines and relationships. Unfortunately, this has led to certain heroes getting tons of content while others, some released upon launch, still haven’t gotten a dedicated piece for them. The biggest example of this comes from the DPS-character-disguised-as- healer, Zenyatta. So far what we know about this character is: he’s a monk, mentor to Genji, his friend Mondatta got killed, and he’s 20. Most of the information we have on this hero comes from the more fleshed out backstories of Tracer and Genji, both of whom have full animated shorts. For this to happen to Zenyatta, a core character for casual and competitive play, is a definite lack of effort for fleshing out certain characters.

You can already hear the Twitter replies, oof.

Lack of Consistency

Every good storyteller knows that for a narrative to work you must have consistency. It allows the consumer to focus on being entertained rather than struggle to keep track of a character’s ever-changing back story. However, the Overwatch team seems to have a habit of confirming then retconning character info. The most famous instance being when Hana Song aka D.Va gaming background. At BlizzCon 2015, D.va was described as being a professional StarCraft player. This fact was continued to be used to market her as a relatable cool “gamer girl” even as late as SDCC 2017 by lead writer Michael Chu himself. In the above tweet in 2018, Chu says that this was a ” common misconception.” Is it truly a misconception when the director and lead animator confirmed this fact years prior?

Why do some omnics have hair and others don’t? Aesthetics?

Breadth Over Depth

The sheer amount of unfinished plotlines Overwatch has is astounding. The tidbits we have are like supermarket samples. It’s enough to make people curious but not nearly enough to satisfy. For a game being out for over three years, this is too egregious for me. Lucio who stole Vishkar tech from his dad, the same company Symmetra works for. The corporation has learned how to manipulate solid light and sonic waves. Are there any repercussions from Lucio stealing the technology? How did he learn how to use it? Mercy has wings but why? How many people are affected by the Overwatch recall? Who is Echo and why is she important. Why does Maximillian own a rum distillery if he can’t drink it? Most importantly: who the heck is this omnic meeting with Doomfist? It’s been months and we don’t even have a name.

Overwatch lore being in a constant “to be continued” state does not do the game any favors. It leaves the game able to open more and more plotlines while never resolving others, including ones from launch. If Overwatch wants to surpass just being another colorful FPS and solidify its worldbuilding, then there’s definitely some work to be done. Dealing with a universe this large is a respectable goal even from a dedicated company like Blizzard. I’m confident they can fix this lore situation but the Overwatch team has to make the conscious decision to. Otherwise, we may just have to wait for Overwatch 2: Electric Boogaloo.

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