Overwatch's 23rd character, Sombra, was made available to players this Tuesday. Illustration by Samantha Monterrosa
South East High School

¿Quien es Sombra? – The significance of a video game character

Video game developer Blizzard Entertainment announced “Overwatch”’s newest playable character during this year’s BlizzCon, a convention based on Blizzard’s video games. The character, Sombra, is a Mexican female known to be the world’s best hacker.

In the media, whether that be television or music, Hispanics have been portrayed as menial laborers: maids, janitors, etcetera, etcetera. The list can go on and on. Sombra, on the other hand, strays far away from that criteria.

Sombra is a computer junkie; she specializes in code decryption and all things involving hacking. A hacktivist of sorts, Sombra works to expose fictional corrupt governments and companies, such as “Overwatch”’s version of Mexico and Russia’s Volskaya Industries. Just recently, she’s exposed the illicit activity of LumériCo, a fictional energy company, by releasing the company’s president’s emails online to the Mexican public. Sound familiar?

Put her in today’s world where, according to USA Today, six percent of the Silicon Valley workforce is made up of Hispanics, and that’s not taking into account how many of them are women. Sombra would lie within that six percent, a miniscule number. She defies stereotypes aimed at women and Hispanics through her profession, which to some “might not fit a woman’s capabilities.” She’s dismantling firewalls and tearing down borders with her technical expertise.

The “Overwatch” developers don’t ever make an attempt to show players how different and unique she is. She’s a woman, she’s Mexican, she’s a hacker: that’s her background. It makes her feel like an actual human being. The diversity is there, but it’s subtle and not all up in people’s faces — the way it’s supposed to be done. It’s a excellent execution from the developers.

Not only does the inclusion of Sombra show that women are more than capable of “doing a man’s job,” but it also shows that Hispanics can be more than a housemaid, more than a gardener, more than a busboy, or more than just a pretty face.

In 2016, a female Mexican hacker is a playable character in a popular game; there are two Green Lantern Corps members in the “Justice League”: one is Lebanese-American and the other is Mexican-American; Samuel L. Jackson plays the role of Nick Fury, who has been historically portrayed as a white man in Marvel Comics.

Think about what was presented and ask, were people ever exposed to that amount of people of color in those kinds of professions say ten, maybe even five years ago? Most likely not. Little things like the character of Sombra and an African-American Nick Fury can and are changing the way children see themselves in the future.

Whether or not children decide to play as Sombra, or play “Overwatch” at all for that matter, these are times where, instead of being ashamed of what they see on-screen, little boys and girls of color can say “Hey, that looks like me!” and want to be the people on the screen.

Sombra was made available to play this week on “Overwatch” servers. For those interested, players will be able to play the complete Overwatch roster and game modes for free this weekend (Nov. 18 – Nov. 21) on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4 systems. For more information, visit Overwatch Free Weekend.