Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Messed Up Things In Overwatch Nobody Talks About

There's an old saying that goes, "the brighter the picture, the darker the negative." The more irresistibly good and pure something is, the higher the chance that person, place, or thing is hiding deep, dark secrets the likes of which we can barely imagine. While there's plenty of happy games with questionable, subversive elements, make no mistake, Overwatch is absolutely no exception. Yes, Overwatch is a colorful game with equally colorful characters, mostly out to save the word and inspire heroes to be their best selves. But look just a little harder at its characters, its lore, and the world that needs saving to begin with, and you will absolutely find something far less cheerful.

The game that has captured the hearts, minds, and reams of fan art of the gaming community does indeed have a dark side, and here is just a small taste of the distressing undercurrent permeating Overwatch.

The AI that should not be

Most players don't really give much consideration to Overwatch's stages and what history each character has there. The Temple of Anubis makes a strong case that maybe players should start.

On its face, it's just where Pharah's army makes its home, a really cool Abu Simbel-inspired Egyptian temple and a small marketplace. The reality, however, made itself known in a Pharah-focused comic called Mission Statement. In it, the Temple is seen as hiding a massive research facility housing a rogue AI called Anubis that went dark after the Omnic Crisis. Called a "God Program", the AI brings itself to life suddenly, commands a legion of omnics to attack, and hacks into nearby friendly omnics, even forcing one of them to kill himself rather than harm a human being. So, if it makes you feel better, next time your team fails to take that Objective B, take comfort in the knowledge that a Skynet-like AI will likely murder them in your stead.

The one-armed main

Much like how no one talks about just how many severed limbs get racked up during the course of the Star Wars saga, no one really mentions just how many of our brave Overwatch heroes are not just sporting missing parts or cybernetic replacements, but parts that have either no explanation or a troubling one.

There's certainly no mystery to how Junkrat — the guy who shoots himself, ironically, in the junk with one of his own bombs during a victory pose — might have lost his leg (spoiler alert: he loves making bombs). We know that Ana had a cybernetic eye, and Widowmaker shot her right through it, resulting in a permanent eyepatch. We know that Torbjorn lost his arm during an assignment gone wrong.

The big mysteries, however, are McCree and Symmetra. It's up in the air what exactly happened to McCree's arm between his Blackwatch days and joining back up with the regular crew, but Jeff Kaplan has confirmed that Symmetra is legitimately an amputee, and her arm is indeed a replacement. It makes one wonder what exactly a Vishkar operative did that would've resulted in a full prosthesis, but Symmetra's adventures in corporate espionage in her own comic make one wonder a lot of things about her.

Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's VALUABLE SCIENCE?

One of the continual sources of cognitive dissonance with Overwatch fans is how Mercy, a supposedly 37-year-old woman, looks like she's just barely in her 20s. The answer could've just been the typical answer of artistic license, because, really, when was the last time you had a middle-aged video game character with wrinkles, or laugh lines, or stretchmarks, or varicose veins? Jeff Kaplan, however, had another answer, in that Mercy has either slowed or altogether managed to stop her aging process. That sounds awesome, except when you think about it in context.

Immediate context being that you have a very heroic 60-something-year-old man on the roster who's been fighting the good fight for decades suffering from aches, pains, and numerous scars who is aging like hell, who'd probably benefit from such a treatment. You also have the tiny matter of anti-aging technology that, without a shadow of a doubt, the entire world could benefit from that has not been shared with the world at large. The good doctor, despite her humanitarian work, is holding out on the rest of humanity with the first step towards immortality. And that is NOT okay.

The abominable Dr. O'Deorain

Moira is that special kind of scientific monster: she legitimately believes her work is ultimately for the good of mankind. The problem is her absolute refusal to submit to the system of checks and balances that prevent misuse, war crimes, and the like. That refusal is what led to the good doctor being drummed out of the academic community.

Where things get really unsettling is realizing that even after years of unethical experimentation and horrifying conclusions presented to the scientific community, Overwatch still saw fit to draft Moira into their Blackwatch program to  perform her research outside of the constraints of the law. We never quite learn what exactly Moira was working on, but whatever it was is enough of an ethics violation that discovering it is one of the factors in Overwatch being disbanded, as well as directly leading to the technology that turned Gabriel Reyes into an ethereal angel of death. That makes her possibly one of the most terrifying individuals in the game.

Every turret's sacred, every turret's great

It's played for a running joke throughout the game that Torbjorn treats every turret he builds like his own child, exclaiming "My baby!" when one is destroyed, and even having a victory pose where he owns a photo album that's just all pictures of turrets. It's fairly hilarious, until you realize one simple fact: Torbjorn has actual children. A lot of them.

In the Reflections comic, a single panel reveals that Torbjorn has EIGHT (!) children with his wife Ingrid. And yet, there is no voice line referencing them, there is no photo album. Most telling, a letter Torbjorn sends after his fateful injury shows an injured Torbjorn tiring of Reinhardt being at his bedside, and makes the trade that Reinhardt can name his child as long as Torbjorn can be left alone. That child turns out to be fellow playable hero Brigitte, and almost all the ancillary materials seems to point to Brigitte spending more time with and learning from Reinhardt than her own biological father. That seems to be the case across the board, since even the Christmas comic shows Reinhardt reading to all of Torbjorn's kids. While one might not go so far as to call Torb a deadbeat dad, he's maybe a better teammate than he is a father. Which is kind of messed up.

Non, je ne regrette rien

We could almost fill this list with just Widowmaker things. Her entire backstory is a nightmare. Having been the wife of an Overwatch agent, Amélie Lacroix is kidnapped, tortured, and brainwashed into murdering her husband in his sleep. She is picked up by Talon, her memory wiped, and changed into the expert sniper known as Widowmaker through a process that numbs her skin to all sense of feeling, and turns her into a sociopath unable to feel any emotion whatsoever.

Or can she?

The Reflections comic includes a panel in which Widowmaker visits the grave of her dead husband, and lays a bouquet of roses — awful curious for a woman who isn't supposed to remember anything about her former life or have any emotions. That leads to two conclusions, and it's hard to tell which is worse: the idea that Widowmaker remembers everything, to the point of having internalized regrets; or the fact that she knows everything, and continues the life of an assassin because she sincerely does not care.

The vanishing of Lena Oxton

It's hard to imagine the endlessly cheerful and optimistic Tracer having a single moment of pain, but like we said, the brighter the image, the darker the negative.

In Tracer's case, it's the nature of the Slipstream accident that created everybody's favorite happy-go-lucky speedster. The Chronal Accelerator that Tracer wears keeps her molecules from destabilizing. Before she got it, her molecules would shift out of reality to the point that she would literally vanish for hours, days, sometimes even MONTHS at a time. When she would return, there would be periods where she would not be able to even interact with the physical world. The Chronal Accelerator doesn't just give Tracer her awesome teleportation powers. It is literally the only thing that allows Tracer to continue to even exist.

There's no way that experience didn't have a profound effect on Tracer, but the fact that she's had the experience and still wants to use it to benefit humankind may make her one of the greatest heroes on the roster.

I live, I die, I live again

Players love to contextualize Reaper's hostility and grim outlook as a simple by-product of an edgelord persona and maybe an overdeveloped goth phase in high school, but as it turns out Gabe might have a very good reason for being constantly pissed off.

See, the experiment that gave him his powers as Reaper — experiments carried out by Moira O'Deorain, we remind you — destabilizes his cellular structure to the point that they dissolve, but new cells are regenerated just as quickly, keeping him alive and tangible at will. Every time Reaper turns on Wraith form, he has destabilized himself to the point where his cells barely hold together. For those lucky enough to never come across such a thing, rapid cellular degeneration is the generalized cause for a whole host of terrifying afflictions, such as dementia, osteoporosis, sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and lupus, and Reaper experiences this phenomenon every second of every day. It is essentially a given that Reaper, at the course of any given moment, is in incredible amounts of pain. When the man says, "This is my curse," believe him.

Apes ... very dangerous

The Winston we all know and love is a gentle soul who loves peanut butter, excels at science, and deeply believes that the world needs heroes. All of this he learned from his experiences on Horizon Lunar Colony, where Dr. Harold Winston plucked him out of experimental gene therapy and taught him to appreciate the ways of the world. If that was the experience all the animals had on Horizon, what happened next maybe could've been avoided.

If there is anything the movies have taught us over the years, it's that nothing good happens from experimenting on apes, and then making them smart enough to thoroughly understand and react to what's going on. See, Winston may have had a privileged life, but the other apes on Horizon appear to have seen things different, sparking a rebellion that killed every single human being in the colony. Winston, however, as the coddled nerd of the group, was seen as an Uncle Tom, ostracized from the rest, driving him (along with, apparently, The Hamster That Would Be Wrecking Ball) out of the colony.

The cherry on top is in the last bit of Winston's character video, where he mentions that one day, he will have to return to retake Horizon. The colony may be abandoned when players get there, but make no mistake: the moon is the true Planet of the Apes now, and Winston will, eventually, have to play the role of Koba.

Starship 'Tubers

In the world of Overwatch, Hana Song, the MEKA pilot known as D.Va, is an internationally known superstar gamer whose face is ubiquitous as the heroine of South Korea. It'd be one thing if she got there just from being a badass pilot, but there's something mildly insidious going on there that's worth noticing.

D.Va got famous during Korea's stint with the Omnic Crisis, a worldwide war that, lest anyone forget, absolutely ravaged the world, leaving billions displaced, in abject poverty, or rampant crime. In Korea's case, when drone pilots weren't enough to destroy omnics, they recruited gamers to physically pilot the mechs. And yes, D.Va did her job very very well, but one gets the sense that her grasp on the seriousness of the situation wasn't the greatest. She is on record as livestreaming her kills during the war, later appearing on everything from movies to ads shilling energy drinks. In one light, it looks like stardom. In another, it looks like war profiteering. If there is an upside, it's that sustained losses might've taught her over time that fame isn't everything.

A Mei-convenient truth

While the world of Overwatch seems like a futuristic utopia most of the time, the problems of today haven't quite gone away just yet. And yes, while we could have a whole entry on their problems with omnic discrimination, there's another big problem: climate change.

When Mei goes into cryosleep to wait out a nasty storm, the world is already in the grip of strange weather phenomenon, and her team's whole purpose for being in Antarctica is to study things directly at one of the Earth's poles. Unfortunately, as we know, when Mei wakes up, the facility has gone dark, and all of her friends and colleagues died in cryosleep. While making her way back to the world is undoubtedly important, and Mei is doing her best to continue her work,  that doesn't quite change the fact that Mei seems to be the only one continuing the work. Nine years pass without a solution to the problems Mei was specifically sent to Antarctica to fix, which is enough time for a major problem to turn into a crisis at the drop of a dime. Our world may be worth fighting for, but right now, there's only one person fighting for it on this front.

Ashe steals from the rich and gives to the ... rich

What's intriguing about Overwatch is that, yes, there are villainous or chaotic neutral characters, but no one who is truly evil for their own sake. Reaper, for his part, is hunting his former colleagues in Overwatch. Widowmaker is slave to Talon's ideology, whether she wants to or not. Sombra is out for herself, but ultimately trying to get to the bottom of a massive corporate conspiracy that ruined Mexico. Even Junkrat and Roadhog, criminals though they are, really are just making do after the Omnic Crisis turned Australia into the chaotic Road Warrior apocalypse most Aussies fear.

So imagine having this much going on in the world, and you, as someone with nearly infinite money, choosing to steal for the hell of it.

Such is the despicable nature of Ashe, whose parents are immensely rich oil tycoons — at a time when the rest of the world is still trying to cope with the effects of war. Even with all that wealth, she chooses to create a criminal gang to steal resources she can afford to buy ten times over. And yet, here she is, the one character in Overwatch with no ideology, no greater purpose other than greed, and no justification other than sheer boredom. That may not make her evil, per se, but it does make her a very special brand of detestable.