Overwatch delivers diversity alongside racist stereotypes, still does better than rest of AAA gaming [LONG]

Overwatch, the hit new shooter/MOBA released by Blizzard has been taking the internet by storm lately. (That is, until the internet collectively lost its damn mind over Pokemon Go this past week[1].) As of mid-June, they had already accumulated more than 10 million active players, no mean feat considering that it was released less than two months ago.

Since the beginning of its development, one of the major talking points that has been emphasized in press pieces is that Blizzard was trying to design with an eye to diversity. Like the piece on Kotaku proclaiming that Blizzard wanted to “do women better”, which showed Widowmaker displaying a whole lot of ass cleavage:

Meanwhile over on Polygon, there was a piece with the headline: “Blizzard wants its diverse fans to feel ‘equally represented’ by Overwatch’s heroes“. Which, by the way, only featured quotes from a press conference given by Blizzard, and which completely failed to mention any of Blizzard’s previous problems with representation in their games to date. (*cough* Hearthstone *cough* Worldofwarcraft *cough*)

I’ve written about Overwatch before. (In fact, people talking trash about my Overwatch posts are still a reliable source of occasional traffic spikes from Reddit, which is a bit surprising two years later.) And the game’s recent release, along with the fact that it seems diversity is still being used as a talking point to promote the game – as evidenced by this piece published just 3 days in advance of the release, made me think that it would probably be worthwhile taking a second look at Overwatch to see how it’s shaped up.

Overwatch Characters and Gender

The last time I wrote about Overwatch, 6 out of the (then) 14 characters that had been announced were female, however, 1 character – Bastion – was genderless. If you don’t count Bastion, that made for a roster that was 46% female – not too shabby. At the game’s release, it featured 8 female characters out of 21 characters that have a gender – which was only 40%. However, as of yesterday, a new female character was announced – Ana – which brings the ratio up to 9 out of 21 gendered characters, or 42%.

icons-gender

So, you know. It’s not fifty-fifty, which is disappointing from a game that says it wanted to “do women better”. How hard would it have been to make one of the weirdo characters, like Winston or Zenyatta, female? And sure, 42% is still a damn site better than almost every game I’ve ever bothered to review numbers for on this blog. But I tend to think that to “do women better”, you should at the very least reflect their levels of representation in the actual world. And we won’t even talk about how there are ugly or weird looking male characters, but all of the female characters except for one are in their mid-20s and have flawless skin – except for Ana. And even then, the only concession to her age is white hair and maaayyybbbbe a hint of an eye wrinkle.

It’s worth noting that all of that completely ignores the issue of queer and nonbinary gender identities. Since the canon doesn’t say otherwise, it has to be assumed that all 21 of the gendered heroes are cisgender, which is – again – disappointing from a game that seems to be trying to sell itself, at least in part, on the diversity of its character’s designs and backgrounds.

But overall, those turned out to be minor irritants compared to the embarrassing levels of racism (with a sprinkling of ableism) in the hero backstories and alternate character designs. Hooray!

Character Backstories

Lucio

So out of a lineup of 22 characters, you have exactly 1 black person – Lucio. And YES I get that there are other characters who are visible minorities – Symmetra, Pharah, Hanzo, etc. But what about McCree and Soldier 76, who are both from the United States? Or Tracer, who is from the UK? Or Widowmaker, who is from France? Or Mercy, who is from Switzerland? All of these are countries with diverse populations! Black people live in all of these countries! Coding all of the Western first world nations as white is problematic as hell. (And no, Widowmaker does not count as a PoC because she’s blue.)

So with all of that in mind, it is doubly problematic that Lucio – the only black guy – is a black guy from the slums. And sure, he’s from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. And sure he was “fighting the man”. But the core concept was “black DJ from the slums who stole things”. And when your go-to backstory for the only black guy is “poor thief”, that is super fucking problematic. The stereotype of black people as thieves and criminals is the reason why real actual black people get profiled by police and followed in shops and stores. And the fact that the video games industry is more than 87% white makes all of this even more problematic.

So. You know. What the actual fuck, Blizzard?

Reaper

Similarly, Gabriel Reyes AKA Reaper is the only Latino in the game (you know, despite the fact that it actually would have made more sense to make McCree Latino instead of making him white). And what’s his backstory? Well, according to the Overwatch wiki:

Reaper admits to being a high-functioning psychopath, having a passion for murder and vengeance and is willing to kill even without a solid motivation. —Overwatch Wiki

And this is shitty for pretty much exactly the same reasons that making Lucio a black thief from the slums is shitty. When news coverage of Latin@s is 1% of total coverage, despite the fact that they make up 13% of the US population? And 66% of that coverage is about Latinos as criminals? Making THE ONLY LATINO in your game an actual fucking psychopathic murderer is shitty and racist.

Symmetra

Symmetra’s backstory and concept doesn’t read as racist to me, although I’ll admit to not being conversant enough with those particular stereotypes to be able to spot something that’s not completely obvious. However, where her backstory does fall down is a WHOLE LOT OF FUCKING ABLEISM. And sure, it’s obvious that it’s at least well-meaning ableism? But there is a lot of hinky mental health and neurotypical stereotyping going on. Again, according to the Overwatch Wiki:

Symmetra may be on the autism spectrum as implied in A Better World[1]. In it, she says it used to “bother her” when people would ask where she fit on the spectrum; further, she appears to have what could be described as obsessive-compulsive disorder, namely her preoccupation with “perfection”, such as when she can’t resist fixing a crooked picture or how she notices the perfection of a child’s face. Traits common to OCD are also associated with autism.[2] —Overwatch Wiki

For fuck’s sake.

First, if you want to have a character who is on the autism spectrum, EITHER DO IT OR DON’T. Don’t say well she miiiiiiight be, but then maaaaaybe not. Because what the fuck is wrong with having a heroic character who is autistic? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Second, fixing crooked frames or noticing a perfect face isn’t OCD – unless you spend your entire day checking and re-checking and re-checking every picture frame to make sure it’s straight, or obsessively scanning people’s faces looking for flaws, to the detriment of actually getting anything done. OCD is an anxiety spectrum disorder, emphasis on the disorder. If it doesn’t interfere with your daily life and ability to function, then it’s not OCD. Being particular about how things are placed or wanting things to be just so? That’s not fucking OCD, and it’s really shitty trivializing OCD that way.

Character Designs: Racist Tropes and Culture as Costume

Mercy

So I’ve written before about how it’s really problematic making the character who is coded as “angel” blonde. But you know what’s even shittier? Making your angel character blonde, then having an alternate skin named “Devil” and giving that skin black hair.

Not following why that’s problematic? Well, allow me to quote myself:

Here’s another one I wish I didn’t see as often as I did. If you’re writing a race that has inborn magic powers, immortality, supernatural sexiness, preternatural senses, or is otherwise superior to normal boring humans, DON’T have the defining trait of that race be a real world racial trait.

Wait. No. I’m going to be more explicit.

DON’T MAKE THEM BLONDE. Because that is some creepy white supremacy shit right there – ESPECIALLY when combined with the Evil Darkies [aka: the trope of making evil races have dark skin] mentioned above.

That’s not to say you can’t have superhumans! … you can keep 100% of your magical superhumans and still have them not suck. Case in point, World of Warcraft. The good elves are purple and the bad elves are blonde. (Granted, there’s still an awwwwwful lot of fail of just about all types in WoW. But this is, at least, one small thing that they did manage to get right.)

When you tie the idea of “good” to traits that are White and “evil” to traits that are Not-White, THAT IS RACIST.

Mercy-angel-devil

The irony is that Mercy’s other alternate skins depict her as a Valkyrie, which honestly I like about a million times better than either her default skin or her “Devil” skin. Boobplate aside, they did a great job of translating the character concept into a design appropriate to the character’s cultural background.

Zenyatta, Roadhog, and Pharah

Zenyatta is a bit of a tricky case in that he is a robot (who is gendered as male) monk who is never explicitly called out as being a Buddhist monk. But his backstory says he wanders the Himalayas, and the Saffron robes as well as descriptions of Zenyatta’s approach to philosophy make it pretty clear that he is supposed to be a Tibetan Buddhist (robot) monk. And, you know what, cool. There could be some cool elements about robots deciding to investigate humanity and ending up identifying as a particular gender and culture.

What is definitely uncool is tying Zenyatta strongly (if implicitly) to one culture, and then using other cultural costumes as alternate looks:

Zenyatta

Look. This is a theme that I’m going to come back to for the next few designs, but I would think that after the stink that gets raised on the internet and social media every October, people would start getting the hint that using cultural attire or cultural dress for the sake of looking “cool” is not okay. Culture is not costume.

This gets even more problematic when Native and Aboriginal cultures are the ones being used as costume, because there is a global history of white people oppressing Native and Aboriginal peoples and then appropriating their culture.

Take Roadhog, whose has two alternate skins that show him in Maori dress:

Roadhog-Maori

And. Man. Here’s where I admit that things get real fuzzy and hard to tease out. Because while it’s not commented on officially, it’s possible that Mako is of Maori descent:

“It is highly likely that Roadhog is of New Zealand Maori heritage due to his real name (Mako) and alternate skin titled “Toa” which is the Maori word for “Warrior”.” – Overwatch Wiki

And honestly, I keep going back and forth on whether this is problematic or not. Roadhog’s pale skin reads more “white” than “Maori” to me. But then, the long struggle of Metis and non-status Native Canadians to be recognized as “legitimately Native”, makes me feel like that might not be a valid criticism. Except, Roadhog is said to come from the Outback of Australia – and the Aborigine people of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand are two different peoples – or at least as far as I’m aware.

So. I think for me the tipping point, the deciding factor of “is this okay?” is the fact that there are so many other examples of stereotyped depictions and appropriative costumes. This isn’t a singular misstep in a game that otherwise did its homework and tried to be respectful. Because if it was, you wouldn’t have something like Pharah and her alternate skins:

Farah

Pharah is explicitly, canonically Egyptian. And yet two of her alternate skins are explicitly North American Native – titled “Raindancer” and “Thunderbird”. And that is just such an obvious, straight-forward case of “what do we do for a cool alternate look for Pharah?” “I dunno, make her Native?” that I just can’t even.

Symmetra

And here’s the last example, the reason why I’m really not inclined to give the Blizzard development team a lot of slack on the question of “did they mean to be offensive” or not. Symmetra, who comes from India, has two alternate skins – which cost a lot of credits to unlock – that depict her as the Hindu goddess Kali:

Symmetra-goddess

It’s hard to overstate how gallingly tasteless and appalling this is. Hinduism isn’t like the worship of the ancient Egyptian gods. While using Ra as a skin for an implicitly Tibetan character is tasteless, it’s nowhere near on the same level of awful, because you’re talking about a dead religion. There are somewhere around 1 billion Hindu people on the planet, which makes this roughly equivalent to having a male character who can “level up” into Jesus. And obviously, game developers would never consider making Actual Fucking Jesus an unlockable skin, because that would be disrespectful. But because Hindus are mostly brown people, that makes having Actual Fucking Kali – who is a god that real actual people actually worship right now – somehow okay? No. Just. NO.

Conclusion: Overwatch has problems, but it’s still better than the rest of AAA gaming

As horrible as all this stuff is, Blizzard at least gets the absolute minimum of points for trying. Which is something that the rest of the AAA game industry is emphatically not doing, as evidenced by yet another year of Scowly McWhiteGuy being mostly the only thing on offer at E3.

SO. MANY. WHITE GUYS.

So. You know. Reluctant kudos for trying? But “slightly less racist than the rest of the AAA game industry” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement that Blizzard should be proud of.

[1] I am unspeakably bitter that Pokemon Go has yet to be released in Canada

24 thoughts on “Overwatch delivers diversity alongside racist stereotypes, still does better than rest of AAA gaming [LONG]

  1. I couldn’t get past the massive sexism – which I actually give them fewer points for, since they WERE trying – combined with the hypocritical statements that they were actually doing something (a game my daughter would be proud of – you know, while playing Widowmaker) to even notice the glaring racism. The Kali bit is so bad it’s delving into Smite territory (which might be the most racist game still being developed today).

  2. What really bothers me with roadhog is they actually CHANGE HIS SKIN TONE in those two ‘island’ costumes. One is implicitly portraying roadhog as Maori, with darker skin and Maori-styled tattoos, the other seems to be trying to portray him as a pacific islander, with lightened, ruddy skin. Roadhog’s name is Mako and there’s implication he may be Maori, so there is that – but even then, it’s still taking stereotypical cultural traits as costume, and that’s just… so bothersome.

    Also, FWIW – as a trans girl, and one who’s the same height as her, I can tell you that we’ve 100% adopted Zarya as our own. Her gun even fires in the colors of the trans pride flag, for goodness sake. Regardless of whether or not it was their intent (and it can be argued that if it was their intent, it was kind of gross making the biggest, strongest girl their trans character) we’ve taken her and made her our own.

    In general, though, you’re dead on. And holy shit, those Pharah, Zenyatta, and Symmetra costumes. Just, fucking *hell*. It is interesting to me, though, how many of these characters would, in todays world, be read as disabled. We have multiple amputees in the lineup, several with clear mental disorders, there’s hints that Pharah may be an augmentation addict, Ana is missing an eye, etc. I’m disabled, and seeing disabled heroes in our game is kind of awesome. It’s just a shame Blizzard is so damned crass and tone deaf about all of this.

  3. The Kali thing with Symmetra made me think of Smite (and Wundergeek’s commentary on it) as well. And yeah, the Pharah and Zenyatta alternate costumes really smack of an attitude that all non-white people are interchangeable. It’s sort of worrying that this is Blizzard actively aiming for better representation.

  4. Some indie dev needs to make a “religious figures fighting game” where they crassly take major figures from say, the top 10 current world religions (based on practitioners) as the characters. To avoid/ensure offending anyone/everyone, the actual character skin should be completely separate from the combo/moves/gameplay elements (this is to avoid having e.g. Jesus being OP or something).

    Huh, apparently Juche is officially a religion with 19 million followers. Anyone ready for Kim Il Sung vs Jesus?

  5. Your “so many white guys” picture contains a black guy, a mixed race guy, and an Asian guy.

    What, if your skin isn’t dark enough or if your eyes aren’t slanty enough, you’re white?

    • You’re correct. I should have flagged the fact that I was referencing a longer post about this that I wrote in reference to the types of heroes being churned out by AAA gaming in response to this year’s E3.

      In that post, I wrote about how disappointingly, stultifying homogenous the male heroes fronting new games are, and how overwhelmingly white they are. And even when they are a visible minority, like the characters you reference, they still fit into the blandly homogenous design tropes of Slowly McSquareJaw and his Adventures in Toxic Masculinity Man. The fact that you get Slowly McSquareJaw heroes who aren’t white is… good. I suppose. But making a few male heroes non-white while changing literally nothing else isnt what id call progress.

      (Sorry for typos, laptop is malfunctioning)

  6. I’m sorry that I’m going here, but I’m going to have to object to your analysis of Symettra and her being on the autism spectrum. Your whole criticism of her may-or-may not being autistic and Blizzard apparently being wishy-washy on her is coming from the Overwatch WIKI, which in itself is not officially maintained by Blizzard, nor is it endorsed by them as anything official. However, the comic that goes into her backstory is honestly a great representation of autism, and I’m saying this as someone with Asperger’s, and coming from my background there’s no doubt in my mind that Symettra is autistic, too. If you have a beef with how an unpaid fan phrased the wiki, fine, whatever.

  7. “because there is a global history of white people oppressing Native and Aboriginal peoples and then appropriating their culture.”

    Cultural appropriation isn’t a problem, as long as it’s executed well. The problem is the oppression. And I think it’s cool to see Blizzard incorporating so many different cultures into their games- that’s diversity.

    And PS Roadhog could be a Maori who grew up in the Outback of Australia.

    • Not to argue with Casey, because I’m glad to hear perspective from someone Native sharing a nuanced perspective! Thank you, Casey!

      But cultural appropriation of Native culture IS a problem. Saying it’s not is not listening to Native people who are telling you that it very much is.

      Also, after checking with knowledgeable folks, Roadhog’s Maori skin is a pastiche of Pacific Island cultures and manages to get many of those cultures wrong in the process. So even if his backstory is Maori in origin, the skin is still offensive because the designers lazily cherry picked “cool” elements of Pacific Island culture without bothering to do their research or be respectful – which is the textbook definition of cultural appropriation.

  8. Let’s say the current roster was 50/50, the moment they go and add one male it tilts so essentially it will always build back and forth anyway. And the looks of it, the DLC is mostly female down the short line we know of.

    Regardless, I will have to disagree with your assumption that making one’s culture merely a costume is racist in of itself. Being a (major part of me) Cherokee, it was nice to see the Native American cultures represented in Blizzard games, albeit a little stereotypical fashions. Even excited to see it in Warcraft franchise of games back in the day. But, after living the 30 years I have, I notice why stereotypes are there, and sadly why they never really go away.

  9. I want to start off by saying that I read your entire article carefully twice, because I’m deeply passionate about some of the concepts you touch on (though not in the same way, which i hope isn’t too problematic). I see the video game industry as a growing art form, which in some ways is abused by AAA companies for money, but is still rich with potential. That’s why I love Overwatch. It’s new and fresh AAA title, with a lot of care and effort put into it. That combination of care and status aren’t seen very often, and so I challenge you to look at the game with a different lens than the one you use for most AAA games.

    My first concern with your article, is your comments on race, and more specifically Lucio’s, but I’ll get back to him in a minute. You comment a lot on the skin color of the various characters, rather then there culture, language, and country of origin. As someone from the western world, it can be easy to fall into the trap that race is only limited to skin color or discernible features, but in actuality race is considered by many people to be much more. I would argue that even though Jack Morison, and Angela Ziegler are both white, they aren’t the same race, and I also imagine Miss. Angela if she were real would be rather offended if you
    grouped her in with all white Americans, with her being Swiss.
    Next we have the Gabriel Reyes (Reaper). At first it seems pretty bad that the only Mexican in the game is a psychopath, but I would put it too you that if it weren’t him, who else? Zaria, Mei, Hanzo? if any character other than the “White” ones were a psychopath, you could make the same argument. Also, in spite of his character trait, I like him. He’s a cool antithesis to his foil Jack, and a pretty intimidating villain. In his case, I feel that artistic vision trumps political correctness. I don’t look at him as a psycho beaner, I look at him a serious dude whos up to no good, and also has a unique Mexican/United States cutler.
    Now for Lucio, I was especially upset with how you treated him, because he my favorite character in the game, with my favorite back story. Hes not a simple thief, and hes not black in the same way African Americans are black. He’s Brazilian, and it’s very problematic that you would describe him simply as an impoverished black man, and a thief no less. He’s a musician who sees his art as a way to bring people together, and cheer them up when they feel like all hope is lost, which is a concept that is carried right into his game play, as there is few things more empowering in game than hearing the team Lucio use his ultimate, or activate his healing boost. The “thieving” you describe is actually him arming him self and his community against the oppressive Vishkar Corporation that aimed to “reform” Rio De Janeiro against its peoples will. He stole there “sonic technology,” to amplify his music into a power to fight oppression. You’re article does him no justice, and oddly enough omits that huge portion of his character.

    There are some other thing things to that I’m afraid I don’t have the stamina to cover in depth, so I’ll keep this next bit short. Your dissatisfaction for Symmetra’s possible autism bothers me, because in the real world, many adults with undiagnosed autism struggle in the odd limbo you describe, with no idea what’s wrong with them, nor a desire to admit there shortcomings. Also, the LGBT community is represented, they just haven’t disclosed who the character is yet. It will probably be in an upcoming comic (to be clear, we were told the character is already in the game, I’m hoping it’s Reaper or Genji).

    Lastly, on the subject of skins. They’re just the games artists wanting to branch out of the limitation of the games cast, and are in no way meant to be a reflection of the characters that wear them. Its also important to note that the skins that do depict cultural references do so with a great deal of care and attention to detail, for instance the mentioned Road Hog skins are a rather tasteful representation of the demigod Maui from Hawaiian culture, who was said to be so strong, that he “hooked, and pulled the Hawaiian Islands from the ocean,” which when you take into account with Road Hogs hook ability, it makes a lot of sense why he would wear that skin.

    PS. I meant to question why its unacceptable for Road Hog to be of a certain ethnicity, and Identify with that cutler, and also live in Australia, but I forgot, so I’m putting that one here.

    PSS. I Also find it problematic that you’re omitting comments and replacing them with stawmen in the form of pictures. If those people are really as foolish as you say, then it will show in there writing, other wise you’re displaying a lack of integrity, and a juvenile display of intolerance to criticism that makes me wonder if my concerns for your article will fall on deaf ears.

    • Yo David, the reason she replaces comments with pictures is because it’s her blog, and she doesn’t want her blog to look like the youtube comment section. It’s not about their comments being foolish, it’s about their comments often being ugly, aggressive, or repeating some anti-feminist things that’s been said over 9,000 times before. So, instead of having to look at insults every time she checks the comments, she instead has some fun hanging up pictures while she cleans. From my perspective, she’s made enough posts in the past where she learns from good criticism and apologies for her mistakes, as well as well as deals with a LOT more nonconstructive criticism than I’d every have the patience for, that I trust funny pictures are more worth my time than whatever vile they replaced.
      But, that’s my perspective. You of course could look back at earlier articles/comment sections to decide for yourself if you want to.
      As for your post, nothing in it seems to invalidates Wundergeek’s perspective/ problems with the game. Even if the overwatch wiki is unofficial, it has an impact on how people perceive the game, and I don’t think it’s out of the question to criticize it. The only thing unique I can offer is the fact that race is TOTALLY an issue in Brazil. While not a 1 to 1 with the US (and our extended slavery), it still had a history of white Europeans colonization that to this day has an impact on jobs and housing. In particular, the history of how Carnival parades developed from illegal political statements to neutralized nationalistic competitions is quite interesting and I highly recommend reading about.
      If you are deeply passionate about some of the issues touched on in this article, I’d recommend reading some of the other blog posts here (and some of the comment discussions) since a lot of these issues are touched on. Even if you don’t agree with everything, they might help you understand where Wundergeek is coming from, and we could always use more understanding.🙂

    • I came very, VERY close to removing your comment, because it violates the comment policy that is laid out very specifically in the sidebar, as well as duplicating material covered in the FAQ, particularly #12 – regarding why I am not obligated to give a flying fuck about freedom of speech in the comments section of my own personal blog. I’m erring on the side of not, because you were at least respectful, and because I’m tired of playing whack-a-mole with the comments on this post.

      So. In short, what Nick said.

      But also, if I – an indie games publisher who is entirely self-educated on these issues – can manage to poke huge, gaping holes in the “diversity” depicted by Overwatch, how much easier would it be for Blizzard to hire a goddamn diversity consultant? Especially when diversity is one of the selling points they keep hitting in their publicity.

      • So, I don’t read the comments sections much. I’ve actually been reading this blog for a long while but comments take time and they’re rarely informative.

        But when I made a comment earlier I agreed to sign up for receiving comments on this post, and that means I’ve seen all the things people have been posting before you replace it with pictures. And it’s crazy what kinds of bullshit you get on a regular basis. I’m sure people get up in arms faster on certain issues – like talking about a popular game. But for what it’s worth, I think when people have no respect for you and are just repeating the same tired lines over and over, your practice of replacing their crap with pictures is a great one. (Also, the idea that it’s YOUR fault that others keep doing the same thing over and over – because if you just left the comments that would have any effect whatsoever – is more inane gaslighting / victim blaming / etc.)

        All that to say: I’m impressed you’re not angrier. Your next post is quite reasonable, and having to deal with a constant stream of bullshit – not to mention the occasional targeted mega-attacks – speaks highly of your stamina and sense of self-worth.

  10. I can’t help but notice that many of the male characters wear headgear that totally hides their face, but none of the female characters do, presumably because male-by-default, therefore female-ness evidence is required in each case.

  11. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone discuss Blizzard’s handling of the two Japanese characters whose entire personalities and backstories essentially boil down to “what a white guy who collects swords thinks goes on in Japan.” We have two men from a Yakuza clan, one who talks about nothing but honor and dragons while the other recites classic ninja quotes. In their animated short, we watch them summon their spirit dragons to do battle in a shrine surrounded by cherry blossoms. If you asked me what either character was into besides martial arts and vague Asian mysticism, I wouldn’t have an answer.

    • OH MY GOD HOW DID I FORGET TO WRITE ABOUT HOW GENJI AND HANZO ARE ACTUAL FUCKING NINJAS WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

      I mean. [ahem] Yes. 100% that.😛

  12. Kiwi here: as far as I know Mako is not a Maori name, and that skin is DEFINITELY not Maori traditional clothing. Not even close. If I had to guess I’d say maybe Samoan? ‘Toa’ means the same in Samoan as Maori.

    It also doesn’t strike me as weird that a Maori or Pacifica character would live in Australia: Aus has very large populations of both.

    • sorry I should clarify: I’m Maori (Ngai Tahu – a large southern tribe). It’s possible Mako is some kinda northern name but I don’t think so: it does mean ‘shark’ in Maori, but that’s not an actual name for a person.

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