If you haven’t read the new Overwatch short story Stone by Stone then you are missing out on a heartwarming tale featuring Overwatch’s resident light-wielding architect Symmetra. Penned by writer Christie Golden who’s written novels for Blizzard’s Starcraft and Warcraft franchises and illustrated by the amazing Nesskain, Stone By Stone is a short, sweet but deeply moving tale about self-discovery, change, and healing.
The story follows Satya Vaswani aka Symmetra on assignment from the Vishkar Corporation to repair a statue in an omnic temple that they’ve accidentally destroyed. In doing so she crosses paths with wise omnic monk Zenyatta who teaches her a deeper meaning of healing both inward and outward.
It’s a beautifully-written tale that shows a smaller and softer moment in the Overwatch universe using Golden’s penchant for atmosphere and world-building as well as inspirational writing to deliver an effective and emotional story.
We caught up with Ms. Christie Golden to talk about Stone by Stone, the process of making it, the inspiration that went into and comes from it, and her ideal characters to write:
GG Network: Hello Ms. Golden, Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I have to say I was absolutely moved by Stone by Stone. I think it was an enlightening and inspiring tale told in such an insightful and succinct way. Can you take us through how the Stone by Stone came to be?
Golden: First, thank you so much, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! This was my first Overwatch project, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the story I was asked to write for my debut. The Overwatch team was planning an event with Symmetra, what later became formally known as “Symmetra’s Restoration Challenge.” They wanted to have a short story to tie in with the event.
Jeff Kaplan and the game team suggested an idea I promptly fell in love with: Vishkar Corporation has damaged a statue that is important to the omnic faith, and Symmetra—Satya—is sent in to determine how to repair the damage her company has caused, both to the statue and to the angry villagers. I was really pleased that the team wanted a smaller, more personal story rather than an exciting action/adventure tale. I love the quieter moments, where you can really dive into characters and allow them the room to interact.
GG Network: How much of the concept of the story came from you and how much of it was driven by the Blizzard Overwatch team?
Golden: The idea for both the core plot and involving Zenyatta came directly from the Overwatch team. They wanted him to help Symmetra (and us!) better understand what the omnics believed. I really enjoy working with mythology, different religions, folklore, and cultures, and I love more intimate stories, so this was definitely something I was eager to participate in. With that essential core, and getting good feedback from others in CDev, I was allowed free rein to tell the story in a slower-paced, but hopefully engrossing, manner. I didn’t just want Satya to learn from Zenyatta, but for him to learn from her, as well, as everyone has something to teach us.
GG Network: It felt like the description of the temple was something that was so evocative and immersive, especially with the line about the faint scent of incense absorbed by the stone. It seemed to me like these insights are coming from a place of familiarity. Were you pulling from previous visits to similar temples in real life or is this just your prowess in world-building and description at work?
Golden: I have indeed spent time at many retreats and sacred places, although not yet in India. I was in China for book signings and visited some temples there, and the wonderful scent of incense was omnipresent. There is a Hindu temple in Los Angeles which I would have loved to have visited, but COVID prevented me, unfortunately!
GG Network: The most moving parts of the story are when Zenyatta imparts wisdom. His lines like “We all start from ignorance”; “The birth of all ventures is the willingness to try”; “People do not need to understand how people think to love or respect them—or be their friend” are some of my favorites. Where does the inspiration come from for writing these lines?
Golden: I made sure to read every line of Zenyatta’s and Symmetra’s game dialogue. This really set the tone for how he spoke. One line in particular from the game, “Do not be discouraged, everyone begins in ignorance” really struck me. It’s so very true! Sometimes we feel foolish learning or trying something because there’s so much we don’t know. We like to know something, we like to be good at things; we’re not proud if we don’t or aren’t. I tried to think of some other similar lines he might say throughout the story. The line “People do not need to understand how someone thinks in order to respect or even love them. Or simply to be a friend” came out of a conversation with my manager about how those on the spectrum, like all of us, just want to be seen as people and accepted for who they are.
GG Network: The illustrations within the story are used so sparingly yet so effectively, what was the process like in working with artist Nesskain?
Golden: Aren’t they amazing pieces? I did not get to work directly with Nesskain, unfortunately. Most of the artwork was coordinated separately. I was, however, able to ask questions and offer clarifications on things as needed to make sure the story matched the art. Mainly, though, I got to see be as surprised and pleased as the general public was!
GG Network: I know from your work with Starcraft, Warcraft, and other geeky franchises that you are well-versed in writing diverse and insightful stories about characters from other worlds and times, which of these are your favorite characters to write and what draws you to them?
Golden: There are so many! It’s like being asked to name your favorite child. Thrall is very dear to me, because “Lord of the Clans” was my first book for Blizzard, and I was given a lot of leeway in his creation. Sylvanas, of course, because she’s endlessly fascinating and never quite what you think. Anduin, as I got to grow him up from a ten-year-old over many books. In StarCraft, I think it’s Valerian, and that wonderfully odd pair, Mira Han and Matt Horner. Mira’s dialogue is so much fun
GG Network: Are there any characters and worlds that you look forward to writing about within the world of Overwatch and Blizzard or beyond?
Golden: I’ve been so lucky, and I’ve been involved in a lot of the various Blizzard games. I hope I’ll always be involved with WoW in one way or another, I’d happily write any WoW character. I’ve been blessed to write so many of them, even create a few. I’ve had a great deal of fun writing Hearthstone lyrics, and I would love to do something with Tracer or Ashe, or who knows, maybe even a character yet to be!
If you haven’t read Stone by Stone yet then you should definitely check it out here:
What did you think of the story? Which Overwatch Characters deserve the Christie Golden Treatment? Let us know in the comments below. For more interviews check out our insightful interview with Philippine StarCraft prodigy EnDerr and our chat with Glen Chua who lost a ton of weight through the power of Ring Fit Adventure
And while you’re at it leave us a like on the GG Network Facebook Page so we can keep you entertained with more videogames and geek stuff! Take care and stay safe out there!
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