Overwatch‘s Doomfist, Terry Crews, and Fan Culture

This blog isn’t even supposed to be back on until next week but you know what they say: strike while the iron’s hot. For some of you at least the first two parts of this title have been flitting back and forth across the internet. “Terry Crews!” whispers one corner excitedly, “wants to play Doomfist!” murmurs another. Because of my search history and their All Seeing Eye Facebook even brought to my attention that thousands of their users were discussing that very subject.

So here I am on a Saturday morning, sitting in front of my laptop determined to bring you literally every piece of information I can find about Terry Crews, Overwatch, and the yet-to-be-released hero Doomfist. Oh, and I’m also going to discussing fan culture so if you want to stick around for that as well that’d be cool.

Who Is Doomfist?

So before I even get into that you should know that Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer FPS [first-person shooter] by Blizzard Entertainment that has a lot of playable female characters [and has been snapping up awards like they’re a limited resource]. Doomfist, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, is predicted to be the newest hero in the game, bringing the roster up to a full 24.

That character has also been hinted at as early as the Overwatch cinematic trailer, which came out November 2014. That’s roughly nine months before the ill-fated ARG [alternate reality game] that Blizzard used to hint at and lead up to the release of Sombra, their 23rd hero.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, which is ridiculous because it’s only six minutes long and painfully good, the trailer revolves around two kids witnessing a villainous duo [Reaper and Widowmaker] try to steal an artifact only to be thwarted by ex-Overwatch agents [Tracer and Winston]. The item in question is, like the younger one says, “Doomfist’s gauntlet”. Apparently by wearing it the user “could level a skyscraper.”

thedoomfist

The elder brother uses it to punch Widowmaker, and after a shockwave that sends them both flying it falls off of his arm, seemingly spent.

endofpunch

He then returns it to Tracer, who places it back in its case.

putthatthingbackwhereitcamefromorsohelpme

What the playerbase as a whole would find out when the game launched in May of 2016 is that the gauntlet makes its way to the city Numbani, which is located in a yet unknown yet likely fictional African country. On that particular map, which bears the same name as the location, one team must escort a payload to a museum to win the game.

numbanipayload

The Numbani payload.

It didn’t take long for players to recognize the gauntlet being delivered, or the various other clues scattered around the map. Most telling are three posters or banners which depict three distinct Doomfists:

doomfists

From left to right: “The Savior”, Adhabu Ngumi; “The Scourge”, Akinjide Adeyemi; “The Successor, [name written in Omnic script].

In an interview with PC Gamer then-Blizzard game designer Chris Metzen reveals that “when [they] made the cinematic, it was just a gauntlet,” partly in reference to the fact that they’re making up much of Overwatch‘s narrative as they go along. Responding to the posters themselves Metzen also reveals that they:

“…started thinking how fun would it be if the Doomfist character is actually more of a generational hero, like you see in some of the the big superhero universes. Potentially any number of people had been The Flash or any number of people had been a Green Lantern. And there’s kind of this sense of generational identity.”

The first Doomfist, Adhabu Ngumi [“The Saviour”], has a name that literally translates to “Doom Fist” in Swahili. Akinjide Adeyemi [“The Scourge”], is similarly on the nose. “Akinjide” translates to “the strong one has returned” and “Adeyemi” means “the crown fits me”, both names being Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria. As can be plainly seen on the banners and elsewhere on the map the first two characters appear to be men of African descent. The third silhouette is rough, and most assume that the character is likewise a man of African descent. Some have surmised based on his legs that he is an Omnic [a member of a race of artificially intelligent robots], but given the number of robotic prosthetics as well as mechanized suits of armour that so many heroes wear it’s just as likely that this doesn’t mean anything.

At the time of his interview Metzen said that they were not announcing the character’s future release, and they had merely spitballed the character concept a bit.

All that being said, the playerbase is currently 100% convinced that Doomfist is next in the pipeline, citing what’s already been listed above as evidence. This of course disregards the fact that the 22nd hero, Ana, was a surprise reveal and Sombra had a smattering of in-game clues before her ARG commenced.

Anyway, that’s Doomfist. Now let’s get to Terry Crews.

Who Is Terry Crews?

crews

Terry Crews is an American actor born in a city that still doesn’t have access to clean water, and it may surprise you based on the picture on the right but he’s also a former NFL player. Primarily appearing in comedies, I mostly think of him as Sergeant Terry Jeffords on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of the funniest and most diverse sitcoms currently airing.

While I’m a huge fan of that particular show, most people are familiar with Crews and are fans of his based on his appearance in a number of Old Spice commercials that succeeded, and at times aired concurrently with, Isaiah Mustafa’s ads. C’mon, you know the ones. Think “power”. Okay, to be more accurate, think “P-P-P-P-P-P-POWER!”

In spite of the fact that he has played roles in such films as IdiocracyTerminator Salvation, and the somehow-still-going Expendables franchise these bombastic ads are what has propelled Crews to fame. Which, the longer I think about it, makes more and more sense to me. They’re Terry Crews Concentrate, the actor’s persona condensed down to tight 15 seconds segments.

Having wrapped up my description of a real, living, actual human being after spending over 600 words on some made up video game person, the point is that not too long ago someone suggested a certain actor voice the presumably upcoming Doomfist, and that actor was, well . . .

#TerryCrews4Doomfist2K17

On November 17th redditor SleepyRicky posted a thread to /r/Overwatch titled “If Doomfist becomes a hero I’d be so hyped if Terry Crews voice acted for him”. Since the time of its posting, and as of this writing, it has received roughly 14.6 thousand upvotes, which is really saying something about how many people agree with the suggestion.

Four days after that /u/TheTerryCrews, the official presence of Terry Crews himself on reddit, made an appearance on that very thread. Prior to that he answered questions in his second AMA [Ask Me Anything] back in January 2015, with the first having taken place in August 2012. He’s not an active redditor is what I’m saying. He didn’t even share more than a dozen words in his return to the social media site.

iwouldlovetoplaydoomfist

“I would LOVE TO PLAY DOOMFIST”

And with those six words things began to take off. /r/overwatch, thrilled at Crews’ excitement about the possibility, began envisioning what it would sound like having him in the game. What might have stayed a pipe dream took a huge step towards becoming a reality the following month, when Crews visited Blizzard headquarters in Anaheim, California.

That’s when all of the gaming journalism outlets, none of whom I feel like linking to because you can find that yourself, really started picking this up and running with it. Crews didn’t stop there, either, and began tweeting [as well as sharing a corresponding post on Facebook] about voicing the character just this past week. It started with-

-which resulted in him receiving support from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson just a day later:

With two charismatic and extremely musclebound men signing off fans of the game, and of both actors, were in a frenzy. A thread on /r/overwatch discussing his Facebook post has garnered 47.9 thousand upvotes at the time of this writing, receiving almost unanimous praise and approval. A few people disagreed, of course, but you know how reddit is [they were downvoted pretty heavily]. And now, having finally touched on the hype tidal wave that shows no signs of slowing, let’s talk about Terry Crews voicing Doomfist and what it might mean for both Overwatch and art as a whole.

To be more specific, I want to express two of my concerns, which I’ll be framing as questions for SEO purposes. The first is-

“Can Terry Crews do an accent?”

Up until this point the video game studio has put a lot of effort into creating a game that feels representative of the world we live in. To be more specific, it features playable characters from across the globe, oftentimes casting voice actors that correspond to the hero’s country of origin. One example would be Zhang Yu as the Chinese hero Mei, shown below posing next to some bearded White guy cosplaying the character:

-which I can only describe as good-ish, but extremely far from great. It should be taken into account that Keith Silverstein, who voices the character Torbjorn, has had his portrayal criticized for sounding nothing like an authentic Swede. There’s even the possibility of Blizzard taking the same tactic with Doomfist as they did with Lucio, a Brazilian character with no discernible accent speaking English and no lines in Portuguese.

Again, we have no idea whether or not Doomfist will have an accent, be African, Black, or even male at all, but if they do fit that description Crews may not be a choice that is consistent with their recent casting decisions for the game.

“Wouldn’t This Set a Precedent?”

A few days ago I came across and reread one of my favourite articles on The AV Club, titled Ghostbusters, Frozen, and the strange entitlement of fan culture”. At that point in time the 2016 version of the film had yet to hit theatres, and there was still a lot of judgement being leveled at a movie no one had seen. Writer Jesse Hassenger brings up James Rolfe [AKA famous YouTuber Angry Video Game Nerd] and a video he made announcing that he would not be seeing or reviewing the film. From there the article mentions fans’ desires to see Frozen‘s Elsa come out as a lesbian in the sequel, while also listing disappointments along the way of expectations that were never met.

Hassenger readily admits that requests from fans come from a place of inclusion [Elsa being LGBT] just as often as the opposite [the immense backlash against an all-female Ghostbusters]. That said, his stance is clear from the first sentence of his concluding paragraph: “Fans don’t need to get what they want, and much of the time, they probably shouldn’t.” For him the emphasis shouldn’t be on pleasing fans [the word “pandering” is, refreshingly, never used] but instead on creating art for its own sake and hoping that it connects with them regardless. In his own words:

“But the more often that can happen—the more often movies can assert themselves as creative works made by directors and writers and editors and actors and cinematographers, not in service of fans—the better.”

Now this isn’t to say that Blizzard choosing Terry Crews would be a betrayal of their creative and artistic vision for both the character and the game they might appearing in. It should also be noted that the company has taken care to take note of what fans like and make small tweaks or QOL [quality of life] changes as a result. My worry is that this one decision will set a precedent that could strongly affect Overwatch moving forward.

What if another celebrity expresses their desire to do voice work in the game? What if fans rally around another change or addition in even stronger numbers and more vocally than with Crews voicing Doomfist? If this casting passes will it increase the amount of backlash that results when the next petition is summarily denied? Will Blizzard feel the need to positively respond to these fan movements in the years to come?

There are a lot of “what ifs”, but even during its beta Overwatch has been played by an extremely reactionary fanbase. The truth is that these outbursts happen because people actively care about and value the game. Unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily lend merit to their complaints or concerns, their demands or politely worded requests. Once again Blizzard has taken feedback and acted accordingly in the past, but not when it has come to a more creative decision like this one.


I trust Blizzard.

That’s a very short, optimistic sentence, but I stand by it. Not to say that I haven’t been let down in the past, but in regards to all of this I’m choosing to trust the higher-ups to do what they think is best in regards to Overwatch and its future. My concerns remain, [otherwise I wouldn’t have written about them] but my hope is that if Terry Crews is ultimately chosen both he and those in charge will prove me wrong.

And if Terry Crews isn’t Doomfist? I’m hoping that the fans and everyone who’s been in support of him getting the role can take a similar stance, however difficult that might be.

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