“Cheers love, the cavalry’s here!” If you’re one of the 25 million people that have played Blizzard’s Overwatch, that line and many others like it will be permanently burned in your brain. Unless you’ve been living under a hermetically sealed rock, you shouldn’t need us to tell you that the game has been a massive hit since it launched last year and has garnered widespread praise from critics and gamers alike. It also spawned a huge and dedicated global fan community that have pored over the lore, taken part in every special event and created swaths of fan-art and creations inspired by the game (some more “interesting” than others, but we’ll get to that). Character D.Va even inspired a real-life feminist movement in South Korea. How many other video games can say that?
One of the most popular characters on the Overwatch roster is Tracer, the young, lightning quick Brit with teleportation powers. Even though the game has a ton of wildly different characters, Tracer has arguably become the face of the game, appearing on promotional material and the final box-art. It was perhaps because of her prominence that she hit headline news late last year when it was revealed, via Christmas themed comic “Reflections”, that she was the first of Overwatch‘s confirmed LGBTQ characters.
But those are the things that you probably already knew. If you’ve glanced at the title of this list, you’ll know we’re here to dig a little deeper. Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Tracer.
15. She was a skilled fighter pilot
Overwatch doesn’t do storytelling in the traditional sense. The game has no campaign mode, but the origins and history of the heroes featured have been slowly revealed via comics, trailers and animated shorts. The Tracer Origin Story short was first shown at BlizzCon 2014 and gave fans their first taste of the game’s unique way of spinning a yarn.
In the short, we learn that Lena Oxton (callsign Tracer) was a skilled pilot, handpicked to fly the Slipstream — a prototype jet capable of teleportation. Tragedy struck on the jet’s maiden voyage and Oxton vanished, and she was presumed dead. She reappeared several months later, where it was revealed that a malfunction with the jet’s teleportation matrix had trapped Lena between timelines. She kept phasing in and out of existence until primate scientist Winston invents the chronal accelerator, a device that stops her disappearing and keeps her anchored in the present day. Their time together also forged a great friendship between the two, with Winston considering Tracer part of his unconventional family.
14. She’s basically a “living ghost”
Due to the Slipstream accident, Tracer is constantly in a state of flux. Her molecules were desynchronized and led to her suffering “chronal disassociation”. Tracer recounts that after her first reappearance, she would fade out for hours and even days before returning to the present. To make matters worse, when she was in the correct time, she was incorporeal, unable to touch or interact with anything. Thankfully, Winston invented the chronal accelerator, and Tracer became an effective member of the Overwatch task force.
Whilst the chronal accelerator is mostly a life support device, it also grants Tracer several awesome powers. She can control her own personal time bubble, meaning she can“blink” forward and even rewind time within certain parameters, making her an incredibly hard target to hit. The harness has been damaged twice so far in Overwatch lore, once in the cinematic trailer and again at the end of CGI mini-movie “Alive”. On each occasion, Tracer was able to stay in the present time, but it’s unclear whether this was by luck or design.
13. Tracer was the first character implemented in the game
Overwatch shipped with 21 playable characters, but subsequent updates added support sniper Ana and sneaky hacker Sombra to the fray. More characters are expected in the future, with rumors currently flying around about actor and expert shouter Terry Crews voicing Doomfist, one of several arch villains of the Overwatch universe only referenced in hushed tones thus far. With such a diverse gallery, it’s interesting to find out where some of these dynamic characters came from in the first place.
According to the developers, Tracer, Reaper, and Widowmaker were the initial three heroes worked on by the team, with Tracer being the first. Her design is all about speed, which is why her iconic look is inspired by both fighter pilots and track athletes. As the character was refined, the creative teams ended up liking Lena so much that she automatically became the game’s “mascot” despite not being intended as one. Creative director Chris Metzen even likened her to a certain wall-crawler, saying that Tracer became a “Spider-Man type character” for them, saying “She’s so rad, and it feels good to leverage her in the front of story ideas.”
12. Her weapons and abilities were taken from the canceled Project Titan
One of the reasons why Tracer was the first to make it in the game could be that Blizzard didn’t have to look very far for the inspiration for their spunky heroine. After the huge successes of their main three franchises (Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft), Blizzard sought to create a new franchise to add to their dominant and venerable ranks. The project was codenamed “Titan” and it was to be a massively multiplayer online sci-fi epic. Little was known of the game, but it suffered through a lengthy seven years in development before finally being canceled in 2014.
Not ones to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Blizzard salvaged some of the already designed player classes from Titan and used them as the inspiration for several of their characters. Seeing a fit for their burgeoning universe, Blizz genderswapped the free-running Jumper class and took the character’s light-up harness and dual pistols and incorporated them into Tracer’s final design. The prototypes for characters like Reinhardt, Reaper, Soldier 76 and Genji can also be seen above. The characters weren’t the only things that came from the Titan project, either. Overwatch’s Numbani map was directly inspired by concept art by Peter Lee, which depicted a gleaming, futuristic African city.
11. Overwatch wasn’t Tracer’s first game appearance
Whilst the Overwatch beta marked Tracer’s official debut, her first appearance in a fully-fledged title was actually in Blizzard’s MOBA game, Heroes of the Storm. Tracer was made available as part of the April 2016 update for the game, a full month before Overwatch hit store shelves and hard drives worldwide. The HotS Tracer has all the same basic abilities as her Overwatch counterpart, with her Recall and Pulse Bomb abilities all present and accounted for.
And Tracer isn’t the only Overwatch character to make it into Heroes of the Storm. Russian weightlifter and particle cannon wielding badass Zarya was the second character to be added to the mix, with a third — audio medic Lúcio — being announced recently. It’s likely that they won’t be the last, either, with many rumblings of South Korean Starcraft champion D.Va (complete with mech suit) making an appearance in the future. Surely Reinhardt is the next logical choice?
10. She has beef with Widowmaker
If you haven’t seen some of Overwatch‘s excellent cinematic shorts, you’re missing out on some significant backstory. In “Alive“, Tracer takes on Talon sniper Widowmaker (real name Amélie Lacroix) and tries to prevent her from assassinating a prominent religious leader. After a furious fight on the rooftops of King’s Row, Widowmaker makes the shot and kills holy robot Tekhartha Mondatta. Tracer demands the reason why, but Lacroix only offers a chuckle in reply. The pair fight again and poor Lena is left winded in an alley with her chronal accelerator on the fritz.
With history like that, it’s not hard to see why the usually sunny and positive Tracer has a few problems with Mrs. Lacroix. Even if a player was unaware of the short, they may have been able to guess something was sour between the two thanks to some of the game’s character interactions. Whilst idle in spawn, some characters will chat with each other, and the content ranges from goofy to informative. If Tracer and Widowmaker are on the same team, there’s a chance the two will badmouth each other, with Widowmaker calling Tracer an “annoyance” and Tracer expressing her distaste at having to cooperate with her rival.
9. Several of her skins have hidden references and story clues
As any Overwatch player can tell you, the skins and costumes for each hero are highly desirable and one of the main reasons to keep playing. After every level up, you get a loot box containing a random assortment of unlockables for the game’s characters. The system isn’t perfect, but it’s always gratifying to finally get the one skin you’ve been after for ages and equip it to show off to your teammates.
There’s a tiered system to the skins, and Tracer currently has the highest number of the top tier “Legendary” skins, with eight in total. Some of these skins contain easy to miss details and references. The “Slipstream” skin seen above puts Tracer back in her original fighter pilot outfit, complete with aviators as a reference to the character’s origins. The name of the “T.Racer” skin, coupled with the character wearing a speedway style helmet, seems to be a nod to cult anime show Speed Racer. Several fans have theorized that Tracer’s “Posh” and “Sporty” costumes are references to British girl group The Spice Girls. However, unless Blizzard unexpectedly drops a Scary, Baby, or Ginger skin on us in the near future, we may never know for sure.
8. Searches for Overwatch characters, especially Tracer, on adult sites led to Blizzard issuing takedown notices
The Overwatch beta smashed all kinds of records when it was released. It attracted an incredible 9.7 million players, who logged a total of 81 million hours played during the beta’s runtime. This resulted in a peak of hype and internet chatter about Blizzard’s new IP. It did have some unintended (but not entirely unexpected) effects, however. Searches for the Overwatch characters on adult sites went up a staggering amount, with Pornhub seeing a crazy 817% increase in searches for the game. The site released several statistics about the most searched terms, and Tracer proved to be the most popular by a large margin. Perhaps as a response to this, X-rated material depicting the characters started appearing everywhere. This is par for the course usually, but the sheer prevalence of Overwatch smut led Blizzard to start cracking down on creators and issuing DMCA takedown notices.
As we love free speech and artistic expression on the internet, this could be seen as a classic case of a big company flexing its mighty legal muscles, but to be fair to Blizzard, it isn’t as clear cut as that. Many innocent searches for “overwatch” led to adult-oriented material instead of game information. That’s not great for something rated “T for Teen”. Some fans saw this as censorship and worried about the precedent it set, but the controversy died down before it escalated into anything bigger. In the end, only a specific subset of content featuring in-game models ripped from the original code was taken down due to copyright infringement.
7. One of her victory poses was deemed too suggestive and was patched out
Tracer seems to be a bit of a controversy magnet, all things considered. When the Overwatch beta released, a chunk of the fanbase had a problem with one of Tracer’s victory poses. The stance was called “Over the Shoulder”, and it featured Tracer from behind looking back at the camera (seen above on the left). One user took to the Blizzard forums to complain at length, stating that giving Tracer a standard sexy pose undermined the whole point of the character. It became a hot topic of discussion and grabbed the developers’ attention.
Creative director Jeff Kaplan took to the forums to apologize. In the thread’s final post, he wrote that the pose was being replaced. He concluded by saying “We want *everyone* to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented.”. In the final game, the “Over the Shoulder” pose was replaced with a cheeky pin-up pose, which is more in-line with the character’s personality and refusal to take things too seriously.
6. Tracer’s voice actress appeared on Downton Abbey
Each of the characters in Overwatch have instantly recognizable voices, and Tracer is no exception. English actress Cara Theobold was hired to give Tracer her signature peppy tones and, judging from the character’s popularity, she did a fantastic job. When the voice cast list was released, fans scrambled to find the actors’ previous work, and it turns out that Cara’s first acting job was a recurring role as a kitchen maid in the hugely popular British period drama series, Downton Abbey.
Theobold played Ivy Stuart, a maid who joined the regular cast midway through season three. The character stuck around through season four before Cara left to pursue other opportunities. Since then, she has starred in episodes of Call the Midwife and The Syndicate, as well as the lead role in the underrated Netflix Original series Crazyhead. Apparently, Tracer’s oh-so-British tones were supposed to be more of an authentic London Cockney accent, but Blizzard changed their mind and went for the cheery “cor blimey guv’nor” voice after the audition process.
5. A gigantic Tracer action figure was created to promote the game
To say Blizzard’s game was hyped before release is a pretty big understatement. The characters became iconic before the game had even come out, and fans were eagerly anticipating Blizzard’s first new IP in 17 years. To stoke the fires even more, Blizzard decided that they needed a big promotional stunt to get people talking. The official Twitter account for the title teased a big reveal on May 20th. This turned out to be gigantic action figures of several Overwatch characters appearing in locations around the world.
Hollywood, California woke up to a giant-sized, boxed Tracer figure, Paris had a Genji, and Busan, Korea had flying rocket nuisance Pharah as their chosen representative. The three-ton Tracer toy (!) also featured buttons on the side of the box that played different voice lines from the game. Blizzard hasn’t made a proper line of highly detailed Overwatch action figures yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time before collectors can get their hands on some sensibly-sized versions of their favorite characters.
4. She appears to follow the teachings of the Shambali – a spiritual group of robotic monks
Fans have been able to gather a surprising amount of information about Tracer’s personal life from the character’s fleeting media appearances. One of the more subtle elements is Tracer’s spiritual side, which has a few mentions scattered throughout the Overwatch canon. In the “Alive” short, Tracer isn’t called to Mondatta’s speech, she’s seemingly there by choice, looking awed in the holy robot’s presence. As a character that’s all about the positivity, it makes sense that she would rather build bridges with the Omnics instead of shunning them — which is more than can be said for turret master Torbjörn.
There’s further confirmation in one of the interactions between Tracer and Omnic monk Zenyatta. Tracer says that it’s an honor to meet the Shambali monk and confesses that Mondatta was an inspiration to her. Zenyatta solemnly replies “To us all. I miss him greatly”. This hasn’t been expanded on since, but it’s a cool detail that adds levels of complexity to the character.
3. Tracer had laser eyes in early builds of the game
From the background material available about the creation and development of Overwatch, one thing is clear — fun was the focus. This may seem obvious, but one of the reasons given for Titan tanking was the fact it wasn’t much fun to play. Blizzard remedied this when it came time to make Overwatch, and extensive gameplay sessions were scheduled to get the feel of the game right.
When quizzed about some of the in-house testing, Jeff Kaplan revealed that very early builds of the game featured a Tracer with laser eyes, firing ocular energy beams at her enemies. The laser vision was never intended to be part of the character, but was instead a placeholder for gun and reloading animations, but it’s a funny image nonetheless. Hey, Blizzard — a Mystery Brawl featuring a 6 v 6 all Tracer match with Cyclops powers would be awesome. It would simultaneously be the best and most frustrating experience imaginable. Make it happen.
2. Tracer’s Overwatch comic is banned in Russia
Okay, this isn’t going to be much fun to talk about, but it’s the way the world is at the moment. So, as many will know, Tracer was identified as a lesbian in the Overwatch comic “Reflections”. The game has a global fanbase, but the Russian government stepped in and banned the comic outright as part of the country’s harsh anti-LGBTQ laws.
This is a shame for any Russian Overwatch enthusiasts as “Reflections” is a rather bittersweet story about friendship and belonging, nowhere near as salacious as a blanket ban would imply. The fact that Tracer has a girlfriend is a small part of the overall story. There are more panels dedicated to Lena running around the shops looking for the perfect Christmas present than there are any detailing her home life, and it seems a pity to concentrate on one aspect of the story over the intended message of the whole tale.
1. She’s capable of removing her chronal accelerator and maintaining her point in time
As a working chronal accelerator seems vital to Tracer’s superpowers and ability to stay tangible, many fans were confused when Lena was shown without the harness a couple of times in “Reflections”. Some regarded it as poor character continuity, but this being far from Blizzard’s first rodeo when it came to meticulously kept game lore, there was a definitive answer.
It turns out that Tracer can remove the harness on occasion and not be lost forever in the flow of time. When questioned about the matter on Facebook, the official page stated “As long as it’s near her it’s okay. It doesn’t have to always be on her.” So there we have it. This may seem like a cop-out of an answer, but the chronal accelerator can be seen charging in the corner of Tracer and Emily’s apartment. This means that at least the poor woman can have a shower without worrying about being hurled through time itself and possibly disappearing for good.
What else should diehard Overwatch gamers know about Tracer? Let us know in the comments.