As the PvP launch of Overwatch 2 approaches, there’s one country that seems to be getting the most of the spotlight in new content: Canada.
For a country so close to the United States of America, Canada’s representation in esports is minimal at best. So when the first new hero announced for Overwatch 2 was Canadian hero Sojourn, it got locals excited. On top of that, downtown Toronto was the focus of one of the most recent maps. Canadian fans finally got to see their country in the international game that is Overwatch 2.
Sojourn is in the spotlight with the launch of Overwatch 2
In Toronto for the Summer Showdown LAN 2022 – the first Overwatch League LAN in Canada – two Overwatch 2 developers stopped by and spoke at length about the game’s new Canadian creations, starting with Sojourn; as soon as her art arrived, hero developer Paul Warzecha knew she would be Canadian.
“The original sketch of what became Sojourn was done by someone on our team who was from Canada, like me,” Warzecha said. “From the moment I first saw him, I told my co-workers that when the time comes, catch me, I’m in. He happened to be the first character in Overwatch 2 and I’m super lucky to be here for that.
According to Warzecha, this sketch for Sojourn sat for a while as the team continued to develop Overwatch, with the maple leaf design on its shoulder. Some other characters in the original Overwatch art seemed to have a connection to Canada, including a sketch of Mei in “The Art of Overwatch”.
However, for Sojourn, the team knew she would be Canadian from start to finish – they just wanted to get the character and who she represented well. This led to her being the first Canadian hero and the first new hero in Overwatch 2.
New Queen Street brings Toronto street life to fans
After Sojourn, the Canadian map New Queen Street was one of the first maps in Overwatch 2.
After a major change to game modes, removing Assault and replacing it with Push, New Queen Street was one of the game’s first Push maps alongside Colosseo. The Overwatch 2 team wanted to not only create a good map, but to properly represent a country and a city. It was a challenge that lead environment designer Lucas Annunziata took to heart.
“One of the things I’ve learned during my time here in Toronto is that the city is portrayed in all kinds of media, but it’s never portrayed as Toronto itself,” said Annunziata. “People are filming here, acting like it’s New York or LA. It’s usually pretending to be something else, then being able to show it specifically as himself and representing Canada to a mostly American media with Overwatch 2 is very special to me.
There are plenty of details to show precisely what makes Canada unique in New Queen Street. For example, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is all over the map; something Torontonians use every day to get around the city. A small touch is the inclusion of the TTC map itself. It is relatively faithful to the actual TTC map, but expanded due to the upcoming Overwatch 2 setting.
Also, Annunziata pointed out that only locals might recognize some small details. These little touches would show how accurate the map was when it comes to detail.
“One of my favorite things about creating this map was representing all the different cultures of Canada through their food,” Annunziata said. “It’s something that brings everyone together in this city. Honestly, one of the things I’m most proud of, even though it may sound ridiculous, are the trash cans and the bus stops. They are very unique to the city. So we just had to adapt them a bit to the future world of Overwatch.
Some comparisons between the real world and Overwatch 2
From minor things – like references to Tim Hortons and other restaurants – to bigger icons like Union Station and curling rinks, there’s plenty of Canada to see on New Queen Street. Looking at Union Station in real life and in-game, you can see a ton of similarities.
Also, the Toronto sign in front of Phillips Square is clearly both on the map and in the real world. It shows how Queen Street is a must in Toronto, with all that resides there.
KarQ talks about Canadian representation in Overwatch 2
One of the new additions to Phillips Square was a hockey statue. This particular inclusion surprised Toronto Defiant content creator Nathan “KarQ” Chan.
“I’m surprised they added this hockey statue, it was pretty neat,” KarQ said. “Having Union Station as one of the spawn locations was a great idea. The Kim’s Convenience reference was a nice touch, but those orange Beck taxis, that’s something only locals would even know.
KarQ made a video for the Toronto Defiant about the Kim’s Convenience benchmark, among other things the card does to show its local Toronto to a wider audience. All in all, this little explosion of Canadian content in the game does something that Canadians don’t usually get: representation.
“Having a Canadian hero is important to these Canadian fans,” KarQ said. “The Overwatch team didn’t cover all cultures or countries, and they even rehearsed [some] two to three times. So, as a relatively large country, we just want to be heard and Sojourn did that. At the same time, I still want certain smaller cultures or countries to get their due in Overwatch.
At the end of the day, all the recent love the Overwatch 2 scene has provided in Canada means a lot. From Sojourn to New Queen Street and the OWL 2022 Summer Showdown LAN, Toronto and Canada got that representation. It also shows that Overwatch’s recurring motto “the world could always use more heroes” applies to everyone. It just so happens that the northernmost part of North America had its day with the release of Overwatch 2.