Mei-day: Overwatch climatologist gets animated short

Overwatch - Mei

Overwatch’s latest animated short focuses on climatologist, Mei, fleshing out a bit of her backstory. The backstory then gives her the trauma necessary (???) to kickstart her homebrew ice weaponry design. Seriously. It’s all powered by misery and strife in Overwatch [official site], isn’t it? Except for that rambunctious nonsense about Junkrat which was to introduce a new map. I do like Mei’s character design and look, though, and I’m also really impressed with the woolly and fluffy textures Blizzard can do nowadays.

I mean, the tone alternates between devastation and perkiness because the creators seem to want you to sob your heart out while reminding you that Mei is incredibly upbeat. Some people will enjoy that – it feels like it definitely fits with the game’s own cartoonishness – but others will find it too much of a tonal mishmash and a whole bunch of emotional manipulation. I’m somewhere in the middle because these shorts do make me feel the emotions they are so clearly aiming for but I also don’t walk away with any increased affection towards or attachment to the game. It’s so strange to try and see all of this lore as related to the games of Overwatch I play – for me they’re still just disconnected worlds.

My main question, then, is that Mei is drinking out of a murloc mug which Blizzard actually makes and thus… is Warcraft a franchise in the Overwatchiverse? Has that been established?

I mean it could also just be that this is a good opportunity to remind people you can buy a mug and to see how much demand there would be for Mei slippers or a Snowball plushie or Mei pyjamas or a Mei pyjama skin for the game or… AM I BEING TOO CYNICAL? The Blizzard Gear store is down for maintenance at the moment so I can’t check on my cynicism.

22 Comments

  1. Wormerine says:

    I, for one, really don’t enjoy the shorts. The writing is awful. Overwatch is a bunch of disconnected character ideas and trying to tie them to a bigger world just doesn’t work for me. I much more enjoyed learning Mei’s backstory from enviroment details of Antarctica map. With the cinematic I have not learned much more but experienced a lot of cringe.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I liked the Junkrat/Roadhog one a lot. It was slight, but it was tightly packed with no needless waffling. This one runs very long for not much content and isn’t very interesting. Nice production values, shame there’s nothing in there.

    • Flopper says:

      Isn’t this the fat booty chick from Pornhub? Coulda sworn I’ve seen her videos somewhere.

      Also, a fat chick climbing a tower at that speed is so immersion breaking.

  2. Kitsunin says:

    That was cool, but…logically it makes absolutely no freaking sense. Snowball has a solar panel? OK, so why…no, considering it was still functional, HOW isn’t the facility at least partially solar powered. And why did she cry about it? And why can she just leave without getting help?! And if she didn’t need help, why was it so important to get to the top of the tower!? And when all she needed was a ladder, why did she design a magical ice machine!?!?!?!?!?

    Like, the animation is amazing and it hits all the right emotional beats, but again, it makes NO sense.

    • Kitsunin says:

      And the fact that it makes no sense, makes most of the emotional weight feel incredibly cheap and unearned. Good god that was some lazy writing. They do not deserve that animation talent.

      • Vorrin says:

        I might be influenced by how terribly cringe the whole thing was, but in this specific case, I didn’t even find the animation so amazing, her expressions, which were constantly center-stage, where really not quite as convincingly human as your average… say Tracer looking around on the character selection screen idle loop, they were just trying very hard to elicit ‘aw cuuute/aw poor dear!’

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      :D

    • Zorgulon says:

      You’re right of course in that it doesn’t make sense if you think about it at all, but to give them a little bit of devil’s advocate, I’d assume that the pre-existing solar panels were likely buried under a huge pile of snow during the original storm and subsequent nine years.

      I’d hope (it certainly isn’t shown) that she sent some message back to Winston or somebody while she was up on the mast. So hopefully somebody knows she’s alive before she set off into the Antarctic wastes!

      And I think the mini solar panel on Snowball is something she rigged up afterwards.

      But there’s literally no explanation for the ice gun that makes any sort of sense, I’ll grant you that.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Like, sure, she rigged up a solar panel, but if she needed electricity to do that, there is no reason it wouldn’t be the very first thing she did when the battery became a problem. Then, if Snowball’s battery was enough to power the station, and a thrown-together solar panel was enough to charge Snowball’s battery, that means the solar panel could have run the station, at least well enough for Mei’s purposes.

        OK, I admit, you can explain most of it if you go out of your way. It’s just…it would have been so easy to present it all in a way that doesn’t make you angry after you think about it. Like, when she opens the door before leaving, I was completely expecting an Overwatch dropship or someone to pick her up. If that had happened instead of what actually did, I would have been totally okay with the iffy but explainable other stuff. Because she just walked off, it made the entire damn thing seem retroactively really stupid and emotionally manipulative. Or for the least possible amount of effort, they just needed to show the solar panel airdropped in. Then we can infer that she couldn’t leave before because she didn’t have a portable power source.

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          particlese says:

          Yeah…I normally wouldn’t agree with the notion that they should hand us everything on a silver or even fleeting platter, but the whole thing was so manipulative and irrational that, for me, it doesn’t get to be smoothed out by rational extensions, so I’m with you on the whole.

          On the other hand, I’m nuts about good CGI, so this short came across to me overall as a slightly raised eyebrow of confusion – impressed, but not amused by something which is ostensibly entertainment.

    • Excors says:

      > HOW isn’t the facility at least partially solar powered

      It was a tiny solar panel, it wouldn’t be enough to power the whole base. They wouldn’t design the base with large solar panels as a main power source, because it’s the Antarctic and nights are six months long; it makes much more sense to use batteries that are replaced on annual supply runs.

      Snowball’s battery was enough to power the base for hours, so the tiny solar panel would take forever to charge it back up fully, and a few hours trudging through the snow would only get it back up to a fraction of a percent, yet it gets displayed as fully charged at the end. That clearly indicates a software bug in Snowball’s battery indicator UI – its developers never tested it at such low charge and hit some kind of underflow condition.

      > And why did she cry about it?

      She had just found all her colleagues were dead, Overwatch had been shut down, nobody knew she was there, and she was probably going to die, so she could be forgiven for being a bit emotionally fragile; and then her last remaining companion shut down. And she might have assumed it was gone permanently, until rummaging around in a cupboard later and finding that solar panel.

      > And if she didn’t need help, why was it so important to get to the top of the tower!?

      She did need help, it’s not like she could just walk all the way back to civilisation (of sorts) in Australia. But once she saw the message that Overwatch was getting back together, she probably knew there was some communications outpost within walking distance where she could signal to Overwatch to come and rescue her (but their equipment is locked to a special Overwatch-only network (perhaps their provider locked it down after 9 years of unpaid bills) and is unfortunately unable to send an SOS message to anybody else in the world, which is why she had to wait until she knew Overwatch was listening).

      > And when all she needed was a ladder, why did she design a magical ice machine!?!?!?!?!?

      The tower was broken and unstable, it might not have held her weight. The ice gun fixed the missing struts and made it safe(ish) to climb. And ice guns are cool.

      • Darloth says:

        There’s also the matter of expertise.

        I could probably write some lua script to do some reasonably complicated maths, but if you asked me to make a ladder out of scrap, eh, I wouldn’t climb the result and expect it to hold my weight.

        Perhaps Mei is excellent at building small scale things that produce semi-magical liquid ice goo, and really, really terrible at large practical things? It stretches belief a little, but not all that much. It would have had to have been a VERY tall ladder.

    • OscarWilde1854 says:

      Also on the “considering snowball is functioning” train… He’s an advanced fucking AI assistant… HOW did they all not wake up? Was there really no built-in fail safe where, you know, Snowball doesn’t let them all sleep for 9 years? Seems like a lot of advanced technology and very little forethought…

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      Phasma Felis says:

      I figured Talon or whoever had fucked up the base while everybody was asleep. The damage to the tower looked like impact, not just metal fatigue. Would also explain why everyone else died but Mei was 100% fine, if the power infrastructure was damaged and the computer tried to preserve what it could.

  3. Zorgulon says:

    I think the way I look at Overwatch’s “lore” is that it’s basically a superhero universe, and you have all these origin stories and adventure plotlines floating about. I think any (non-story-based) multiplayer game is always going to have a vast gulf between what the characters do in the official media and what you do with them in game.

    I think OW’s storytelling works best when it accepts this and doesn’t take the overall plotlines too seriously. A good example is TF2, which just presented you with characters in the Meet the Team shorts, and abandoned the game’s confines almost entirely in the brilliant later comics.

    As for this short, the animation is wonderful, but the writing typically clunky. They’re good at conveying broad character strokes and bludgeoning emotions, but the plot details and dialogue is sorely lacking (the exception being the fabulous recent Junkrat and Roadhog sketch). The best cinematic shorts have shunned dialogue almost entirely (Bastion’s) or just embraced the inherent silliness (Sombra’s). The best moments of this one did the former.

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    FhnuZoag says:

    Anyone who thinks nine years of data showing things are worse than they thought it would be can save the world, has clearly never met a republican.

  5. Shinard says:

    My least favourite of the shorts so far, by a fair distance (My favourite being The Last Bastion, of course). Animation was superb as always, but the writing was clunkier than normal (or maybe there was just more of it to notice) and the voice acting was… oddly uninvested. Mei’s voice actor does cheery innocence with aplomb, but I did not believe any of the sadness or fear. I guess that’s a problem with the story, as well – Mei’s backstory was always very unsuited to the character, it would have taken a miracle to pull it together. Snowball was cute though.

    And yup, Warcraft’s definitely a thing in Overwatch! There are murlocs everywhere over the maps, if you start looking, and tablets playing Hearthstone (colon Heroes of Warcraft, lest we forget).

    • Einsammler says:

      D.Va will nerd out intensely if she is on the same team as a Starcraft hero of Heroes Of The Storm.

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    Grizzly says:

    Mei’s origin story is still less depressing then the field of climatology.

  7. kababowie says:

    and why is her head and neck as of kid and the body of grownup fluffy girl? I quite like seeing character that isn’t skinny or in perfect shape, but her proportions are just off any scales.. and her voiceover makes the reboot Lara sound great :D

  8. FeepingCreature says:

    I think that, weirdly enough, my problem with the character design in the animation is that she over-emotes. Like… something sad happens, and she immediately reacts with sadness. Something happy happens and she immediately reacts with happiness. She displays emotions like it’s a performative habit.