An Autistic's View Of Symmetra's Characterization

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First of all: I want to make it clear that I am not offended. I myself am a high-functioning autistic, and I know that sometimes it takes a while for people who meet me to recognize my own psychological differentiation.

I am, however, confused.

Various online sources have suggested that Symmetra is supposedly on the autistic spectrum, and while I haven't seen the official stance myself I do recall reading that apparently some Blizzard employee tweeted affirmative. That said, none of Symmetra's characterization thus far seems to indicate her being on the spectrum--maybe being OCD, and seeing herself as a hero with high standards, but nothing that I would see as familiar in either myself or the other members of the spectrum I have met. I would describe my own experience with autism as "Body language is a foreign language;" I did take many psychology and theatre classes to learn how people emoted, but to this day there are so many things I miss and I'm honestly more comfortable when communication is limited to text or voice, rather than legit face to face. Symmetra... does not seem to have anything quite like this in her character, although there isn't anything that says she isn't autistic either.

To that end, I'm going to list a few possible ways to demonstrate her autism below. I recognize that I am not a developer, and that the developers can choose to ignore my choices, and that the implementation of any of these might have come about independently; these are to be honest reflections on my own experiences and only meant to explain what I mean.

    Being sarcasm blind is kind of a staple of autism; we are aware it exists, but a lot of the subtle tells we give and receive are lost in translation. Voice lines where Symmetra clarifies "I was being sarcastic," or awkwardly checks "That was sarcasm, right?" might be an easy way to emphasize the hard time she has reading others.

    Symmetra might react well to being called fit or graceful, as she is a dancer. However, being called beautiful or pretty would result in confusion, irritation, or just ignoring the comment; unless she is explicitly trying to look good, being told she looks good is as irrelevant as being told her dress is blue.

    Because of our lack of body language comprehension, autistic people tend to avoid eye contact as the face is a very complex and subtle thing that can overwhelm us while we try to interpret it. It would not surprise me if Symmetra constantly wore her visor so she could have a filter while she looked people 'in the eye'; any time she is without it might be a time where she refuses to meet people's gaze, although she might not realize it.

    Speaking of face contact, Symmetra might find socializing with Omnics easier because of their lack of face. In fact, she might find Bastion easier to be comfortable around then Zenyatta; the lack of words and very precise body language makes for a very clear emotional projection, so she wouldn't feel as awkward as trying to guess what others are feeling (or mentally trying to dissect Zenyatta's neck every time she looks at him).

    As to the visor, it might be neat to have another architech put it on and comment on how strangely the data feeds are organized; autistic people don't learn the 'normal' way of thinking as easily as others, because of our lack of body language comprehension leading to not realizing that this or that suggestion is considered important. It would also be amusing to see Symmetra become offended at the architech's confusion, as to her the data feeds are graceful and orderly.

    Symmetra might drop in and out of conversations without warning, as most autistic people don't quite grasp the concept of small talk; why talk when it's not relevant, and why keep silent when it is? She could also be annoyed if, for example, Billy Joe Johnson says "OH MY GOSH THE FESTIVAL IS FRIDAY!" if he had asked her to go to the festival on friday a few days ago, because she might see it as repeating something she knows.

    Many autistic people have little gestures they do, generally as a way to move their thoughts along; it wouldn't surprise me if Symmetra played with her light sculptures or did some minor dance moves while she walked (in non combat scenarios). She might awkwardly stop if she notices anyone watching her, since it's sort of exposing her mind and that's private; admittedly, that might be more artistic then autistic, the whole "don't show your work while unfinished," but I've had that experience myself.


Symmetra being called autistic while demonstrating no signs of autism that I can recognize is more... annoying then offensive to me. I don't use my autism to excuse my actions, but I have heard of plenty of people who are jerks and justify it by saying "I'm autistic!" even if they really aren't. Symmetra does not seem to do that--she doesn't let autism define her--but at the same time I would have thought it would influence her to some degree.

That said, I do like her character, both storywise and gameplaywise. She might be offended at how I play her--placing turrets in chaotically random positions instead of anything orderly--but in the end I think she's a very reasonable and remarkable part of the Overwatch cast.
Highly Rated
I think youre overthinking this a tad too much.
yea bro foreal dogg
I had a discussion like this once with someone as equally "concerned" about the benefits of using nano-technology being molecular bonded to the hull of the Starship Enterprise. Very interesting person.
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05/27/2016 10:04 AMPosted by Macross
I think youre overthinking this a tad too much.


Another thing us autistics do. Alongside correcting people's grammar--it's "you're" with an apostrophe.

In all seriousness, a number of us do tend to overthink things. It's generally easier to work things out in our own head where we can control everything being 'said' then to try to engage in conversation with people who just... have so much going on whenever they talk.
05/27/2016 10:11 AMPosted by DishonestAbe
My favorite color is donuts.


lmfao
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I think this is pretty interesting. If she had these behaviors and quirks, that would really give her good depth and many people, such as yourself, could identify with her more.

Thanks for sharing! I didn't know all of these things in relation to autism, other than failing to grasp certain social cues and sarcasm in certain situations.
05/27/2016 10:11 AMPosted by DishonestAbe
My favorite color is donuts.

I think that's synesthesia, not autisim.

05/27/2016 10:09 AMPosted by Squigibo
I had a discussion like this once with someone as equally "concerned" about the benefits of using nano-technology being molecular bonded to the hull of the Starship Enterprise. Very interesting person.

That actually sounds like a very interesting conversation.
05/27/2016 10:12 AMPosted by Masterweaver
05/27/2016 10:04 AMPosted by Macross
I think youre overthinking this a tad too much.


Another thing us autistics do.


I love the grammar game! Ought to be "we autistics".

:)
05/27/2016 10:19 AMPosted by Nitemaredan
05/27/2016 10:12 AMPosted by Masterweaver
...

Another thing us autistics do.


I love the grammar game! Ought to be "we autistics".

:)


Touché.

05/27/2016 10:17 AMPosted by Sircrackpot
I think this is pretty interesting. If she had these behaviors and quirks, that would really give her good depth and many people, such as yourself, could identify with her more.

Thanks for sharing! I didn't not know all of these thing in relation to autism, other than failing to grasp certain social cues and sarcasm in certain situations.


It's really different for all of us. While it does boil down to not having the natural understanding of other people that other people have, how we deal with that can vary quite a bit.
This game tries to make everyone feel good. Case and point: Zarya is just to appease feminists

Symmetra is not autistic. No way in hell. If they really want to make her seem like someone with autism then they need to go further than just "oh by the way she's autistic."
That's pretty spot on.

It is pretty funny though that the OP with autism is overanalyzing her autism. Then again I don't think I've known anyone even slightly on the spectrum who didn't do that(myself included), so I shouldn't be surprised. Meh. I like these ideas. It's a neat way to characterize her more.
As autistic myself, I can read body language fine, understand how compliments work, and just in general have no problems integrating with society in most cases anymore.

To become a "Hero", to achieve what she has in her business life, she's probably worked hard to overcome those "stereotypical quirks." She's very structured after all, wearing that mask is probably no different for her to wear than for anyone else to wear. It's all learned behavior.

It's still pretty apparent she has some hangups in her comic though, like not understanding why people would protest her order...
... but it's all probably just post-design pandering, they're hardly characterized in-game.
05/27/2016 10:11 AMPosted by DishonestAbe
My favorite color is donuts.

I think that's synesthesia, not autisim.


Well played. I laughed.

I find this all actually very interesting. I hadn't heard those character points made by Blizzard before about her, but it would be suitable. She does use her dance to actually use her hard light construction capacities and I'm wondering if this could be linked to a compulsive or body-defined analytical kind of mental processing. She uses her body movements to physically process a mental "equation" or to process different stimuli.

Symmetra just seems interesting. Her comic Blizzard released kinda makes a lot more sense now with how she saw the world, the little girl impacting her, her search for perfection and even her own name: Symmetra. Symmetry is synonymous with perfection to some.

Very very interesting.
05/27/2016 10:12 AMPosted by Masterweaver
In all seriousness, a number of us do tend to overthink things. It's generally easier to work things out in our own head where we can control everything being 'said' then to try to engage in conversation with people who just... have so much going on whenever they talk.


There are also personality types which are not on the autism scale that have similar tendencies. If you look at something like the Myers-Briggs temperment sorter it shows some of these types of people. While the autism scale and those personalities defined by Myers-Briggs do have overlap on a lot of tendencies, they do not necessitate a causation between the two.
05/27/2016 11:48 AMPosted by undeadfish
05/27/2016 10:12 AMPosted by Masterweaver
In all seriousness, a number of us do tend to overthink things. It's generally easier to work things out in our own head where we can control everything being 'said' then to try to engage in conversation with people who just... have so much going on whenever they talk.


There are also personality types which are not on the autism scale that have similar tendencies. If you look at something like the Myers-Briggs temperment sorter it shows some of these types of people. While the autism scale and those personalities defined by Myers-Briggs do have overlap on a lot of tendencies, they do not necessitate a causation between the two.

Fair point.

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