'Overwatch' Update: Redditors debating Bastion's gender accidentally got an Arabic lesson
The Overwatch subreddit is usually a place where players share their most triumphant in-game moments or discuss balance issues. Recently, however, someone who thought they'd uncovered a juicy piece of Bastion lore unintentionally sparked a crash course on the Arabic language instead. Yes, really.
Overwatch Reddit debates Bastion's gender, learns Arabic instead
It all started when a recent Overwatch patch update added a new voice line when the support hero Ana activates her ultimate, Nano Boost. According to Overwatch writer Michael Chu, the original voice line — which roughly translates to "show them your strength" — was only grammatically correct when Ana said it to her male targets, and that the new version in the update is grammatically correct when said to female characters.
After the alternate voice line was added, MarwanX-King_ posted to Reddit noting that Ana says the new voice line — the one recorded specifically for female characters — when she applies Nano Boost to Bastion, the robotic defense character.
This led them to speculate that Bastion was gendered female, despite not being human. To be fair, this conclusion makes a certain amount of sense. Ana says the lady-centric line, after all!
This fan theory sent the subreddit into a tizzy, sparking a number of other posts on the subject, most of which discuss Omnic lore and the nitty-gritty rules of the Arabic language.
One post, titled "Bastion is not a girl, it's just how Arabic language treats non-human nouns," argues that because Bastion is a thing, Ana refers to it using feminine language — but apparently, that's not quite right either.
"It's true that we refer to plural inhumans with a female tone, but that's not why she applies the female-referral tone to Bastion," Redditor EnderOwnsFace responded. "What determines the referral tone is the origin of the object we refer to; in this case, (A'ala/Machine). So when she says (Nami/Go to sleep) it's not because Bastion is female, it's because the phrase is short for (Nami ya a'ala/ Go to sleep, machine). Same goes for (Wareehom O'wetik ya a'ala/ Show them your strength, machine)."
"Also, Bastion wasn't in the female-characters-only brawl," another Reddit commenter noted. Yeah, that too.
Mic reached out to Alexander Elinson, associate professor of Arabic at Hunter College to settle the debate once and for all — unfortunately, he wasn't able to definitively pin down exactly why Ana would use that particular voice line for Bastion.
"I'm afraid I can't say much more about this than what you've already suggested (machine being female, or Bastion being female), although the second seems more likely to me," Elinson told Mic via email. "I don't see the grammatical gender of the word 'machine' as being relevant, but then again, I don't know much about the gaming world and the proper way to address a robot. Tangentially, it's interesting that the name Ana means 'I' in Arabic."
The debate still seems to be ongoing, but regardless, it's always great — and pretty hilarious — to see a discussion about Overwatch lore lead to a straight-faced debate about the intricacies of Arabic.
Either way, Bastion is probably not a girl after all. Bastion is just a robot. A terrible, annoying robot.
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Dec. 7, 2016, 10:30 a.m.: This story has been updated.