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Will’s Armchair Designer: Here’s exactly why Moira from ‘Overwatch’ looks like David Bowie.

 

Moira is one of Overwatch’s more recently added characters, having been announced at Blizzcon 2017 and released later that year.  With a tall, gaunt, and androgynous appearance, there were instantaneous connections made between her and the late David Bowie, who was referenced directly by a pair of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ inspired alternate skins. But why does Moira look like David Bowie? Is it just for a tribute, because the artist liked Bowie’s aesthetic, or pure luck?

To find out that, we have to dive into why Moira’s character design is the way it is. Because Androgyny is a very important part of her character design.

When Moira was first released, many people didn’t like her design. They redrew her looking more feminine, more like Mercy or Tracer.

This infuriates me.

This design is Genius.

Moira’s design perfectly fulfils every core need a character design in a video game should do.

  1. It’s visually engaging. It looks good.
  2. It looks unique enough that you can easily tell that she’s Moira at a glance. In a game where you can easily be sharing a small room with 11 other heroes, this is Essential.
  3. Her design informs the person viewing it about what kind of character she is.

And that number 3 is very important. And very interesting. Let’s talk!

So, Moira’s androgyny. Why is it a predominant design feature? Well, it’s ambiguous. You can’t tell her gender at a glance, you have to stop for a while and analyse her. This reflects her personality – Moira is… An enigma. She isn’t good or evil. She doesn’t give away her plans or motivations. She aligns herself with whoever will help her achieve her goals. Ambiguity and mystery form a very strong part of her character.

Secondly, heterochromia. Her eyes are different colours. One red, one blue. In character design speak, that SCREAMS ‘Duality’. She isn’t single-minded, you absolutely do not know who she is. She works for both sides. In other words, her dual coloured eyes stand for her ability to fit into both moral and amoral actions. Work for Overwatch, work for Talon.

With those two design ideas set in place, the comparisons to David Bowie were obvious. Give her a Ziggy stardust-inspired skin or two and you’ve got yourself a good tribute. Maybe there’s some connection between ‘Heroes’ and the heroes of Overwatch. Who knows.

So, there you go. Two very ‘David Bowie’ design choices lead to a direct tribute.

But I’m gonna keep talking about the design since I like doing stuff like that.

So, another aspect of her character design are her spikes. They line her shoulders, knees, and feet. A character with spikes communicates ‘danger’. Just to touch them could cause you harm. That’s why Bowser, Darth Maul, and Doomfist have spikes.

Moira’s spikes are not like those characters. They’re not broad, clumsy, and animalistic. No, Moira’s spikes are A) Clearly made of artificial material- modern, and precise- and B) Very thin, and sleek. Simply put, the spikes are, yes, spikes, but they’re Smart. They’re modern, elegant, and precise. Calculated. If that doesn’t speak volumes about Moira’s character, I don’t know what does. Moira will absolutely harm you, but not in a clumsy way- she’s intelligent, efficient, and effective. The shape of Moira’s spikes tell us that her intelligence makes her dangerous.

Finally, her eye-patch. It’s a direct evocation of ‘the Phantom of the Opera’, for one. That makes her seem all the more cultured and intelligent. But it also hides part of her face- you can’t see all of her face, because you can never truly understand Moria. You can never see all of her intentions. Part of her- be it her allegiences, her ideas, her morals, or her face, you can never see the full story. Moira is unknowable.

So, through her appearance alone, we learn the following:

  • She is extremely dangerous. It is her intellect, not brute strength, that makes her so dangerous.
  • You can’t trust her. There is always going to be something hidden, some calculations being made.
  • She plays both sides. She has no concern for morality, and will do what is needed to achieve her goals.

In short, Moira’s design is masterful. It communicates all of her character traits without having to speak a word.

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