We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
The great bloggers just keep on coming! Today we’re joined by DL McGowan of Lost in Reverie, who is quite the storyteller. Her blog is a unique experience well worth perusing, and she has quite the established Twitter following! Please go follow if you’re unfamiliar with her work.
Thank you, DL, for submitting this amazing piece. Enjoy!
Let’s be real for a second, my friends. There’s a LOT of awesome video game characters out there in the world, and my heart knows no bounds. I love far too many of them! I’m a very indecisive girl, so if this collaboration were built around discussing our favorite characters I wouldn’t have been able to participate. But when I read the description, to pick a character that has deep meaning to me on a personal level, I found myself hungry for the answer. I love deep topics like this, facing aspects of myself that I would otherwise ignore. Given that, I expected this to be one of the hardest conjectures of my life. Finding the answer, however, was surprisingly effortless. So much so that I doubted it at first. It HAD to be harder than that, right? Turns out, no. While there have been a small handful of characters that left impressions on me over the years, there truly is one that shines brighter than all the rest — Hanzo Shimada from Overwatch.
Who is Hanzo Shimada?
Hanzo is a complicated man who, despite having such deep meaning to me, is a very different person from myself. He’s a badass archer, for one. The last time I picked up a bow was, oh… 7 or 8 years ago? Probably longer than that, and even then I wasn’t very good. I was just learning, firing shots at styrofoam with my little compound bow in the backyard. Oh, and missing 90% of the time, let’s not forget that!
Hanzo is the eldest son of Sojiro Shimada, head of the Shimada Clan- a criminal organization based in Hanamura, Japan. A stern, proud man and unrivaled warrior/assassin, Hanzo was groomed to one day take his father’s place as leader. That day never came to pass. His younger brother, Genji, continually shirked his duties to the clan, reveling in a playboy lifestyle and refused to clean up his act. And so, the clan elders tasked Hanzo with eliminating his brother, as the boy made it clear he wouldn’t change his ways. Bound as he was by honor and tradition, Hanzo reluctantly agreed. However, following through with those orders- killing his beloved brother- broke him. As a result, the Hanzo of today is a much different man. Still very proud, but deeply tortured, torn between duty and his emotions.
Hanzo severed his ties with the Shimada Clan, traveling the world as a nomad in an effort to achieve some semblance of redemption for taking his brother’s life. He’s never forgiven himself for killing Genji, even after seeing that his brother was, in fact, “alive” and well?
Yes, you read that right. Genji survived what should have been a very brutal death, saved by the ever-lovely Angela Ziegler, aka “Mercy.” Genji didn’t have much of a body left to save. Through acts of incredible scientific ingenuity, Angela was able to take what remained of Genji and fuse it with a cybernetic body. He had full functionality, able to fight and move the same as he had before. But living with the knowledge that his brother tried to kill him had Genji feeling understandably bitter. But, thanks to the guidance of the omnic monk Zenyatta, Genji was eventually able to understand the reasons behind his brother’s actions and eventually let go of that bitterness.
Their reunion was tense, to say the least, resulting in a battle of epic proportions. Seeing Genji again filled Hanzo with a torrent of conflicting emotions. Much as he was relieved to see his brother alive- and that he’d somehow found a way to forgive Hanzo for the attempted murder- Hanzo couldn’t help but feel Genji’s survival made him even more of a failure. Not only had he failed Genji as a brother, but now he’s also failed in his duty to his family. They fought out their feelings, but now the two of them are on speaking terms…sort of. Genji has joined the reformed (and totally illegal) Overwatch and extended the invitation to his brother, but Hanzo wants no part of any organization at this point in time. (Please, Doomfist, STOP asking him!) In his eyes, he must earn redemption before all else.
(Note: This is just my summary based on the information I’ve read over the years, so hopefully I’ve done him justice. For official information on the character, I highly recommend you check out his bio on the Overwatch Wiki. And do yourself a favor and check out the “Dragons” animated short to see the brothers’ reunion.)
What Drew Me to This Character?
I know, he sounds like a stand-up guy, right?
Look, I know how it might sound, but Hanzo is a deeply complicated character and his flaws are what make him for me. I love me a good anti-hero, but I’ll be honest here. I knew NONE of this stuff when I first started playing Overwatch. I was drawn to Hanzo for the same reason anyone else was- that bow! In the world of first-person shooters back in 2016, archer heroes weren’t common. (Or at least, not to my knowledge? I could be wrong I suppose; first-person shooters aren’t my forte.) I was fresh off of playing Skyrim, where my Dragonborn is an archer/thief 90% of the time I make a new playthrough. And my single-player, RPG loving self felt like a fish out of water in this-here new-fangled shooter, so I tried the bow-guy because it felt familiar. I was terrible at first, like many people, but he was fun! Plus, he fired these fantastic blue spirit dragons from his bow as an ultimate ability, and boy do I love me some dragons! (Seriously, my first tattoo was that of a dragon. They’re something of a spirit animal for me.) On top of all that, Hanzo’s character design was so *chef’s kiss*; helloooo pretty tattoo sleeve! And the man’s voice was like music to my soul. I couldn’t explain it, but I could listen to him talk all day long.
Once I latch on to a character, I cling! In a game like Overwatch where lore is scarce and mostly non-existent in the game itself, I took to the internet to research every little thing about him. This led me to the “Dragons” animated short, and from there to his official character bio. Needless to say, I was floored by how dark and complicated this character was, and, more surprising? My heart broke for him.
Hanzo’s not a hero.
Hanzo’s not a hero. He was raised by what is essentially the Overwatch version of the Yakuza, doing questionable things his whole life. He’s made mistakes, big ones at that, and he regrets them every day. He’s painfully aware that he’s not a good person, and that fact eats him alive.
Many of the heroes in Overwatch are flawed and maybe this is just my bias, but I feel like Hanzo ranks among the most flawed of the bunch. He’s not outright evil, but he’s also not exactly good. And boy do I love me that grey element!
Back When Being a “Hanzo Main” Wasn’t Acceptable
There was a dark time where being a “Hanzo Main” was a bad, bad thing. Choosing him as your character was akin slapping your poor defenseless grandmother at the dinner table, I swear! Or that’s how people liked to make you feel. See, Hanzo wasn’t conducive to, well, any meta at the time, and his Scatter Shot ability- where he fired a single arrow at a target and it would splinter into several other arrows that bounced around- was laughably overpowered when aimed at people’s feet. Not to mention the fact that his ultimate ability (those glorious dragons) takes ingenuity to use effectively as they’re generally easy to avoid if fired head on towards the enemy team. Plus, being a hit-scan hero, Hanzo required a bit more skill as the player has to aim where enemy characters are going to be. (His fire speed has since been increased, so players today have a much easier time of this.) That means to be an effective Hanzo, you needed to land headshots the majority of the time and be able to predict the frequently unpredictable. As you can imagine, his learning curve was quite high and more players than not were unable to meet it.
But you don’t get better if you don’t keep at it, right? So I persisted and practiced day after day, and, wouldn’t you know it, I got better. I turned off voice chat to spare myself the negative vitriol of toxic players, and playing on console as I did meant there was no text chat to be had.
I should also point out that I only play Quick Play, which is an unranked mode in this game. Anxiety is a real thing for me, and I was far too nervous to set foot into Competitive. So my opinion was always, “I’m the one that spent money on this game, and this isn’t Comp. No one can tell me how to play the game that I paid for!” But that certainly didn’t stop people from trying. Even in the safety of Quick Play, I’d receive Xbox Live messages demanding I “get off Hanzo,” among other unsavory things. After a few of these, I turned off the ability for people outside my friends list to message me. I just wanted to play the game I enjoyed with the character I liked; I didn’t need the harassment. If anyone had taken the time to look at my stats, I had actually become a damn good console Hanzo, but I’d wager they chose not to. They were much happier giving in to the masses and assuming all people that played Hanzo were terrible.
And that’s when something clicked inside me.
For the first time in the history of ever, my peaceful, don’t-make-waves-so-nobody-sees-you self became spiteful while playing an online game. I chose to make all the waves I wanted in my composed way because, also for the first time ever, I had CONFIDENCE in my abilities as a player. I would prove the stigma and everyone else wrong or so help me! I never went out of my way to be toxic because that’s not in my nature, but when people were rude to me, everything just sort of fell away. All the innocence and joy from playing my favorite game and being in that world evaporated, and all I could focus on was proving those people wrong. Of proving that I was a damn good Hanzo, if only just to spite them. Hanzo’s cocky chuckle as I took down my enemies gave me life in those moments because it mirrored my own sentiments. Righteous spite never felt so good! That cool, calm, collected rage led to some of my best “Plays of the Game.”
What Hanzo Did For Me
Hanzo helped me discover a previously unknown and incredibly rare bit of confidence in myself, helping me discover my ability to stand up for myself in a way I could feel proud of, and to resist the tendency to bend to the demands of random strangers. But it didn’t end there.
Like many, I’ve always struggled with incredibly low self-esteem, coupled with bouts of anxiety and depression. But you know who else does too?
Hanzo is the epitome of self-loathing, falling into a dark mental space following all the ugliness with his brother and family. Despite that, though, he never stops trying to find redemption and overcome himself. “Keep pushing forward,” as the man says. It serves as a reminder to myself too. No matter what life tries to throw at me or how much it drags me down, there’s nothing to be gained by stewing in my own sadness overlong. It’s natural to do that for a time, but eventually, it’s time to stand up and keep walking; to face my demons and never stop working to overcome them. Everyone has days where life brings us down. Sometimes those days become weeks, or even months. But if Hanzo can weather the crap storm that is his life and mental state of being, then maybe I can too. The scariest monsters we face are those of our own creation, and that’s all the more reason for us to overcome them. His ability to press on despite the weight he bares is inspirational to me beyond measure. Besides, my problems feel like small potatoes next to his. It’s not a cure all, of course, but it’s certainly a comfort.
In short, Hanzo Shimada helped me level up as a person at a point in my life where I didn’t think that was possible. I will forever feel indebted to this character, and will defend him to my dying breath.
Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*