Space Gorillas and Test Pilots: Winston and Tracer’s origins
Overwatch may not be the type of game with a heavy story — or at least, there isn’t a heavy story involved when you’re simply playing the game, duking it out team vs. team. But the heroes in Overwatch actually have a lot of history behind them, history that works with, or in some cases goes beyond the origins of the Overwatch team. In many cases these stories are actually woven together — since the majority of the game’s cast of characters were all Overwatch members at one point in time or another, it stands to reason most of them have worked together.
For Winston and Tracer, the story goes a little bit deeper than most. Tracer wouldn’t even be alive, much less a member of Overwatch, if it weren’t for Winston. And Winston may never have successfully started Overwatch’s reformation without Tracer on his side.
Winston’s story actually predates Overwatch by an unknown period of time — and it begins in space. At some point prior to Overwatch’s formation, humanity gained a renewed interest in space exploration, and established a base on the moon. This base, the Horizon Lunar Colony, was populated mainly by scientists, but also by a very special group of inhabitants: genetically enhanced gorillas. The gorillas were intended to test the effects of prolonged habitation in space, presumably so that humanity could eventually take up formal residence amongst the stars.
However, there was one gorilla who far exceeded any expectations. He displayed such rapid brain development that one of the scientists, Dr. Harold Winston, took the young gorilla under his wing and began teaching him — specializing in science of course — and telling him tales of human ingenuity. Pretty soon the young gorilla was helping out with experiments the scientists were conducting, and when he wasn’t learning, he was staring out the window of his habitat at Earth, dreaming of what kind of possibilities awaited him there.
Unfortunately, life on the moonbase was abruptly altered forever when the other gorillas suddenly broke out in an uprising, killing the mission scientists and claiming the Lunar Colony for themselves. The gorilla hid himself away, and took the name Winston — after the scientist and father figure who’d raised him and taught him everything he knew. Winston wasn’t completely out of luck, however; he was able to build a makeshift rocket and escape the colony to Earth. Once there, he found a home with Overwatch — an organization that pretty much represented everything he admired about humanity.
Now let’s just pause in the storytelling for a moment and consider this: That’s the end of Winston’s story so far. We have no idea what happened to Horizon Lunar Colony. It’s entirely possible that somewhere up there on the moon, there is still a colony of genetically enhanced, angry, fairly intelligent gorillas hanging out.
Angry space gorillas. Yep.
It’s these kinds of holes that are pretty much ripe with opportunity, whether it be in the form of animated shorts, graphic novels, or any other kind of storytelling material Blizzard puts their minds to. I discussed this briefly last week, but there are little stories all over the place in Overwatch, and the origins of the various heroes pretty much leave everything open for Blizzard to fill in later, if they’d like to — or just leave us with the curiously fascinating idea of an angry gorilla moon colony, just hanging out in the stars.
It looks like, however, we’ll be getting at least a little bit of a glimpse into Winston’s story in the upcoming Overwatch animated shorts. I’m not sure if we’ll see a resolution to that whole angry gorilla moon colony situation in it, but it’s nice to see that some of these origin stories will be getting the animated treatment at some point in the future here.
Lena “Tracer” Oxton was the youngest person ever inducted into Overwatch’s experimental flight program, but with good reason: she was one of the best and most fearless pilots in the world. Overwatch needed someone fearless to test the prototype for a brand-new kind of fighter, one that specialized in teleportation: the Slipstream. True to her reputation, Tracer didn’t hesitate to suit up and take the experimental technology for a spin — but unfortunately, something went wrong with the aircraft’s teleportation matrix on its first flight. The fighter disappeared, and Tracer went right along with it.
Yet she wasn’t dead, as some had feared. Months later, Tracer reappeared, but the experience had altered her at a molecular level — her molecules had been desychronized from the flow of time itself. They called it “chronal disassociation,” but what it really meant was that Tracer was essentially a living ghost, fading in and out for hours or days at a time. And even when she reappeared, she was unable to keep physical form or interact with the world around her. It seemed as though she was destined to an existence of half-reality.
But although Overwatch’s best doctors and scientists were stumped, it was a puzzle that Winston was able to solve. He created a device called a chronal accelerator — the device Tracer wears on her chest — that was capable of keeping Tracer anchored in the present. That wasn’t all — it also gave Tracer the ability to control her own time, allowing her to speed it up and slow in down at will. This ended up making Tracer an incredibly effective agent in Overwatch, simply because it was nigh-impossible to pinpoint where she’d be at any given time — that was entirely up to her.
Both Winston and Tracer share a boundless optimism and enthusiasm, as well as a penchant for righting the wrongs of the world. When Overwatch was disbanded, Winston went into seclusion, cutting himself off from the rest of the world and quietly longing for a return of the days of heroism and good deeds. Tracer, on the other hand, kept right on doing the best she could with fighting the good fight, whether Overwatch existed or not.
And it was probably Tracer that convinced Winston to come out of seclusion — that there was still hope in the world, and the world still needed Overwatch, and if nobody else was going to put it back together, they might as well try to do it themselves. In the Overwatch cinematic trailer, Winston and Tracer fight side by side to prevent Doomfist’s gauntlet from being stolen by Reaper and Widowmaker. Winston helped defeat Doomfist in the first place, so he knew what would happen if the gauntlet fell into the wrong hands.
And while Winston may have been focused mostly on the fight at hand, Tracer took a moment to acknowledge two young boys who had helped her out during the fight, letting them know that the world could always use more heroes. Because it could — and Winston and Tracer are both determined to see the golden days of Overwatch return. Not because they want to relive their glory days, but because they possess endless hope, a vision of a bright future for the world, and they’ll do anything to make the world of tomorrow a better one.
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