Heading into the PvP launch of Overwatch 2, there is one country that seems to be the most highlighted within the 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 the Canadian hero Sojourn, that excited locals. On top of that, downtown Toronto was the focus of one of the newest maps. Canadian fans finally got to see their country in the international game that is Overwatch 2.
Sojourn gets her spotlight with Overwatch 2’s launch
When in Toronto for the 2022 Summer Showdown LAN — the first Overwatch League LAN in Canada — two Overwatch 2 developers stopped by and talked at length about the new Canadian creations in the game, starting with Sojourn; as soon as her art first arrived, hero developer Paul Warzecha knew she would be Canadian.
“The original sketch for what became Sojourn was done by someone on our team who was from Canada, like me,” Warzecha said. “From the moment I first saw it, I told my co-workers that when the time came, grab me, I’m in. It just so happened to be that this was the first character for Overwatch 2 and I’m super lucky to be there for that.”
According to Warzecha, that sketch for Sojourn sat for a while as the team continued to develop Overwatch, with the design of the maple leaf on her shoulder. Some other characters in original Overwatch art seemed to have a Canadian link, including a sketch of Mei in “The Art of Overwatch.”
However, for Sojourn, the team knew that she would be Canadian from start to finish — they just wanted to get the character and who she represented right. That is what led her to be the first Canadian hero and the first new Overwatch 2 hero.
New Queen Street brings Toronto street life to fans
Following Sojourn, the Canadian map New Queen Street was one of the first maps of Overwatch 2.
After a major change of game modes, removing Assault and replacing it with Push, New Queen Street was one of the first Push maps in the game alongside Colosseo. The Overwatch 2 team not only wanted to make a good map but to represent a country and city right. This was a challenge that senior environment designer Lucas Annunziata took to heart.
“One of the things I learned while staying here in Toronto was that the city is represented in all sorts of media, but it’s never represented as Toronto itself,” Annunziata said. “People are filming here, acting like it’s New York or LA. It’s usually pretending to be something else, so being able to show it off specifically as itself and to represent Canada to a primarily American media with Overwatch 2 is very special to me.”
There are plenty of details to specifically show what makes Canada unique in New Queen Street. For example, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is all over the map; something Toronto locals use every day to get around the city. One little touch is the inclusion of the TTC map itself. It’s relatively faithful to the real-life TTC map, but expanded due to Overwatch 2’s future setting.
Also, Annunziata pointed out that only locals might recognize some small details. Those small touches would show just how accurate the map was when it came down to the details.
“One of my favorite things when making this map was representing all the different cultures in Canada through their food,” Annunziata said. “It’s something that brings everybody together in this city. Honestly one of the things I’m most proud of, even though it might sound ridiculous, are the trash cans and bus stops. They’re very unique to the city. So, we just had to adapt them to the future Overwatch world a little bit.”
Some real world and Overwatch 2 comparisons
From the minor things — like references to Tim Hortons and other eateries — to larger icons like Union Station and curling rinks, there is a lot of Canada to see on New Queen Street. Looking at Union Station in both real life and the game, one can see a ton of similarities.
Plus, the Toronto sign in front of Phillips Square is clearly on both the map and in the real world. It goes to show how much Queen Street is a staple of Toronto, with how much resides on it.
KarQ speaks on Canadian representation in Overwatch 2
One of the new additions to Phillips Square was a hockey statue. This particular inclusion was something that surprised Toronto Defiant content creator Nathan “KarQ” Chan.
“I’m surprised they added that hockey statue, that 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 did a video for the Toronto Defiant about the Kim’s Convenience reference, among other things the map does to show off his local Toronto to a wider audience. Altogether, this minor explosion of Canadian content in the game does one thing that Canadians usually don’t get: representation.
“Having a Canadian hero is important for those Canadian fans,” KarQ said. “The Overwatch team hasn’t covered every culture or country, and they’ve even repeated [some] a couple of times. So, as a relatively big country, we just want to be heard and Sojourn did that. At the same time, I still want some smaller cultures or countries to get their due in Overwatch.”
In the end, all the recent love that the Overwatch 2 scene provided for Canada matters 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 of “the world could always use more heroes” applies to everyone. It just so happened that the northernmost side of North America got their time with the release of Overwatch 2.