Famous Pixels and Virtual Celebrities

I‘m happy in the knowledge that video gaming is becoming a more widely accepted form of creative media – there’s something about having your passion become mainstream that just feels awesome. Knowing that when I was a kid I’d have been called a ‘nerd’ for preferring to stay inside and do some gaming compared to how normalised gaming is now makes me feel all kinds of happy. With gaming becoming a more validated, and celebrated media form there seems to be a trend forming of virtual icons within the gaming world much like we’ve seen with other fictional characters such as Disney princesses.

In this Lyte Byte I’m going to take a byte into this trend of virtual celebrities within gaming and use a relatively recent example of creating interesting characters to sell a game.

Kim Kardashian (left) and Snow White (right) – one of the most followed people on Instagram is easily as identifiable as a character from a Disney film.

As with Snow White, there are several characters within the gaming world that are easily as recognisable. These are instantly recognised through not only their image, but means such as catch phrases – if I were to say “Letsa gooooo!” you’d probably understand I was referencing Mario, of the Mario video game franchise – right? Even to those who’ve never picked up a controller and spent a few hours jumping, shooting and pondering why Lara’s boobs were oh-so triangular, the Tomb Raider franchise is globally known and recognised.

For this reason, I think, gaming has gained some of its popularity of late. Games have become more personalised – and that may have something to do with the fact that people like to be able to relate to the thing that they’re playing (I mean, who wants to just play a small pixel paddle board? Sorry Pong!).

I really go on about Overwatch, but I really do love it. It was released around the same time as a similar game called Battleborn but sadly for them Overwatch stole a majority of the audience (Not trying to slate Battleborn here! I swear!). This, to me, might’ve been down to the way in which Overwatch debuted it’s characters and created narratives and intrigue as to each individual characters. Blizzard releases (semi-regular) animated shorts that have attracted all kinds of praise from fans of the franchise that give snippets of the lives and backgrounds to their characters. This is “Dragons” – a short about two characters in the game, Genji and Hanzo:


Garnering a whopping 16million views (at time of this post) I think Blizzard’s commitment to creating characters that are going to be memorable and interesting is part of the reasoning for Overwatch’s massive success. Much like Kim Kardashian and Snow White use their presence to sell merchandise, or products that they are promoting – I forsee characters such as Genji and Hanzo being used in a similar vein, much like Lara Croft and Mario are being used already!


Do you agree with me here? Do you think the characters themselves sold a game like Overwatch, or was it Blizzard’s massive presence in the gaming industry that was more important?

Famous Pixels and Virtual Celebrities

2 thoughts on “Famous Pixels and Virtual Celebrities

  1. Martin says:

    I think the initial selling point for Overwatch can probably be attributed to Blizzard itself – they release so few games, but when they do, they’re basically all huges successes. But the staying power and fan community and love for Overwatch is probably the characters, and what will keep it present in gamers’ minds going forward. I think this is probably true to a lesser degree for some of the previous Blizzard games (e.g. the characters in Starcraft, which though I haven’t played in years I can still remember), but the degree to which Overwatch characters have been getting play has been much bigger, I think.

    Your position brings to mind for me Tracer, and her being revealed to be a queer woman. Do you think the character will be co-opted by the queer gaming community in an emblematic fashion, since Overwatch characters are so rich and memorable?


    1. lytebytes says:

      It’s possible that she will be – especially amongst queer women in the gaming community!

      I think that you’re spot on with the success of Blizzard games though; hadn’t really thought about that, but it’s definitely true!


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