Mei and her personal weather modification drone, "Snowball"
|First appearance||BlizzCon 2015|
|First game||Overwatch (2016)|
|Voiced by||Elise Zhang|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Zhōu Měilíng|
Mei (Chinese: 美; pinyin: Měi), full name Mei-Ling Zhou (simplified Chinese: 周美灵; traditional Chinese: 周美靈; pinyin: Zhōu Měilíng), is a fictional, playable character appearing in the 2016 video game Overwatch, a Blizzard Entertainment-developed team-based first-person shooter video game, and its related media. She is a Chinese climatologist and adventurer from Xi'an, China.
Mei is voiced by Chinese voice actress Elise Zhang in both the English and Chinese language releases of Overwatch.
Development and design
Mei was first announced in October 2015 at BlizzCon; along with D.Va and Genji, she was one of the last heroes introduced into Overwatch prior to its official release. At the beginning, Blizzard wanted to design a hero who used frost to battle. At that moment, the nationality of this hero was not decided yet, but the designers once thought to set the hero as a Canadian. Later, being impressed by the ice and snow sculptures of Harbin in China, the design team finally decided to set the hero as Chinese. Additionally, her initial design was more oriented towards being a bounty hunter named "Frostbite", using her ice and frost powers to trap prey. However, as they developed her art style, the team found inspiration in an image of a "cute, nerdy scientist" which they loved, as it gave the idea that normal everyday people could be inspired to be a hero and be part of the Overwatch team.
One voice line of Mei's character was added into the game after being inadvertently inspired during a recording session by Zhang. Zhang had just flubbed one line and told Michael Chu, lead writer of Overwatch, and the recording engineer "sorry, sorry, sorry." Chu believed this was a great line, and used it along with other new lines to have Mei be apologetic, both sincerely and sarcastically, for her actions in-game.
Mei wields an Endothermic Blaster that can either freeze enemies in place with a short-range ice beam or shoot a long-range icicle projectile, and she can also use it to encase herself in a solid ice block to shield herself from damage and heal injuries, as well as erect walls of solid ice with many versatile uses, primarily for blocking the enemies. Her ultimate ability is Blizzard, which calls down her personal weather modification drone Snowball to freeze all enemies in a wide radius.
In Overwatch, Mei was employed by Overwatch to find the cause for the planet's changing climate, which had been variously blamed on the industry, the increasing omnic population, and increased consumption of natural resources. While deployed at the "Ecopoint" Overwatch base in Antarctica, Mei and the other scientists there were trapped by a polar storm that damaged the facility. Lacking sufficient resources to wait for a rescue, they decided to enter cryostasis. Mei was the only survivor when she was found close to a decade later; by that time, Overwatch had disbanded, and all of the bases set up to monitor the climate crisis had stopped functioning. Mei elected to carry on the work alone, accompanied by Snowball.
As the first Chinese hero in Overwatch, Mei has been the concern of many players in China. Some players in China consider that Mei's background, combined with her pet phrase "Our world is worth fighting for", shows us a positive image of a female who determines to protect this world. Meanwhile, some other Chinese players question the design of Mei, because she wears a thick jacket and this makes her look not as slim as most of the other female heroes in Overwatch. Arnold Tsang, assistant art director of the game, clarified that Mei works in the polar regions and she has to wear thick clothes to keep warm.
During Overwatch's 2016 holiday event, a new game mode centered on Mei was added, called "Mei's Snowball Offensive", with each player controlling Mei. Her ice shield and ice wall abilities were left unchanged, but her blaster was replaced with a single-shot snowball thrower that would be an instant kill if it hit an unshielded opponent. The blaster could be reloaded by finding a patch of snow that randomly appeared on the map. Mei's ultimate ability enabled her to fire the snowball blaster several times without reloading for a short period of time. In addition to this, Blizzard created a new Legendary (highest rarity) skin for Mei that could be awarded during this event, which included a reskinning of her ice block into a snowman. Players criticized this new skin for being considered as Legendary, commenting that it was only a recolor of her base skin with a hat puff, and tool. Jeff Kaplan acknowledged the complaints, stating "We just sort of make a gut call based off of what we think is cool. Coolness is very subjective, and based off of the community reaction it seems like our gauge was off on this one."
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