We love Overwatch. So we assembled 22 of our best writers and set them to work—a writer to jump into the skin (or robotic shell) of each character. The result is 22 odes. You can use the “Overwatch odes” tag to leaf through them all, or use the handy list at the bottom of this post.
Soldier 76 is a dude. Not just male—the blonde, cold-eyed, brawny former leader of Overwatch is a classic beau hunk, a quiet slice of manness straight out of a John Hughes film. His scars, in spirit and in flesh, from his days at the helm of Overwatch, only amplify the allure of the sexy, steely, man-babe. Sad thing is, he is also totally-homogenous, stereotypical, and a frankly boring character, so obviously extruded from the worn videogame mold that his name is quite literally just “Soldier.”
This is why I’m so embarrassed to play him.
The single greatest feature in Overwatch is the attention paid to developing a rich and diverse stable of characters that—and believe me, this is praising with the faintest of praise—far exceeds the diversity in any other big online shooter. It’s not perfect, and errs a bit too heavily on the Street Fighter school of cultural stereotyping and appropriation, but there’s some value in a cast of characters that range in gender, age, ethnicity and, hell, even species. The recent addition of Ana, a mature woman and a mother, highlights Blizzard’s focus on providing a more representative collection of characters.
Then there’s Soldier 76, or Jack Morrison, the golden-haired golden boy, ex-leader of Overwatch. He’s a vigilante now, which I imagine was intended to dull some of his goody-two-shoes luster, but it only reinforces his powerful position in cultural hegemony. I can only assume that the “76” moniker relates to a United States nationalist pride associated with the drafting and signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776, an idea reinforced by his Daredevil alternate skin that oozes with the very kind of non-contemplative patriotism Evel Knievel peddled. So we’ve basically got a white vigilante patriot with an automatic assault rifle. Cool. Not at all terrifying.
Truth be told, my discomfort with Soldier 76 is mostly born from my own personal existential misgivings. I’m a little bro-ey. Maybe a lot, actually. I love sports, and high-fives, and sometimes Budweiser commercials hit me right in the soft spot. I’m also terrible at shooters. So 76’s spray-and-pray approach fits my inability to accurately aim. Also, he can heal himself, which has helped me in more than one situation because of my inability to move while doing anything else with a button.
It’s entirely possible that Soldier 76 is a joke: intentionally cast as the boring nationalist dude-bro to emphasize the diversity and uniqueness among the rest of the cast. He’s the stick that everyone else is measured against. The fact that you’re introduced to Overwatch via Soldier 76 in the tutorial seems an effort to get him out of the way early: here’s the guy you’ve played in every other shooter—you know him, there’s nothing new here—now explore the rest of the cast. If you do stick with him, you’re slapped hard with that American nationalist, hyper-masculine sentimentality that might be a little too on the nose. His very dialog lines, words that would fit perfectly at a political rally, make me cringe with discomfort: “Young punks, get off my lawn.” “I’m an Army of One.” and “I’m the one who does his job, I’m thinking you’re the other one.”
Amid a cast of curious heroes, Soldier 76 sticks out. Maybe Overwatch is more prescient than I give it credit for, and characters the type of 76 are increasingly in the minority—relics, meant to be gawked at and mocked. If only it were so.
Genji – Genji is with you
McCree – Who you kidding? McCree is Overwatch‘s true shooter
Pharah – Don’t play fair, play Pharah, exclusively
Reaper – In defense of Reaper, the patron saint of mall-goth teens
Tracer – A series of limericks about Tracer, because why not
Bastion – Bastion is the machine pointed at the world
Hanzo – Hanzo “looks like a good man,” my Japanese mom raves
Junkrat – I have fallen in love with Junkrat
Mei – Here comes Mei, the badass nerd hell-bent on revenge
Torbjörn – An ode to hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Torbjörn
Widowmaker – Widowmaker made a widow of me
D.Va – An ode to D.Va, the sassiest dream girl this side of Overwatch
Reinhardt – An ode to Reinhardt, tortured scion of a broken land
Roadhog – An ode to Roadhog is an ode to ugliness
Winston – Winston, the Science Gorilla, is in charge
Zarya – Zarya makes Mother Russia her bitch
Ana – Ana is the protective mother we all want
Lucio – Inside the idiot party-bubble of Lucio
Mercy – Mercy is the most terrifying character in Overwatch
Symmetra – Go ahead, sleep on Symmetra
Zenyatta – Praise be to Zenyatta, then chill the heck out