Overwatch’s latest hero, Sigma, was introduced to the world as an astrophysicist who goes mad while studying black holes. One thing that stood out to fans at the time was that Sigma was floating around with bare feet for seemingly unexplained reasons — but recent comments by a Blizzard developer reveal that the two details are actually related.
Over at ArtStation, a website where artists can display their work for fans and recruiters, Blizzard character artist Qiu Fang recently uploaded Sigma’s concept art. “I had an AMAZING time working on this,” they note in the caption for the piece.
In the comments, someone inevitably mentions that they hope Sigma’s future skins will include shoes. This may seem like a strange reaction, but Sigma’s toes have sparked confused and grossed-out reactions across the fandom, as it seems strange to be an armored fighter who happens to leave one part of his body so vulnerable.
In response, Fang says that the bare feet are included because it is a part of the character’s backstory. They explain:
Thanks for your feedbacks! We decided to keep the feet bare to sell the ‘asylum’ look a bit more; in many institutions, patients are not allowed to have shoes because they might cause harm with the laces. While Sigma isnt neccisarily in danger of that, we felt that having no shoes helped draw that connection. I also had iterations of him with shoes on, and it made him alot more generic, so in the end we decided to leave him barefeet. That’s just what the reasoning internally was though, I’m sure we’ll be making skins with shoes on him in the future!
Basically, it makes sense that folks are confused — the design choice is meant to evoke an association that, by the character designer’s own admission, Sigma “isn’t necessarily in danger” of. What’s curious about this information is that a seemingly absurd detail is actually related to a different, more controversial detail: Sigma’s mental health situation. After his reveal, some fans critiqued Blizzard for using poor mental health as a shorthand for villainy. Traditional madness tropes such as this one can help reinforce stigma around mental illness. Now it seems as if Sigma’s poor mental health situation isn’t just backstory — it’s baked into the design of the hero.
We reached out to Blizzard and will update this post if we hear back. But hey, at least we know Sigma will probably wear shoes in the future?
Update: We have updated the headline to quote the artist, as the original caused some confusion.