When you pop an ultimate in Overwatch 2, beloved support-turned-damage character Symmetra tells the player that “reality bends to my will.” Anjali Bhimani, the voice actress behind the unforgettable Indian character, just wrote an entire book that aims to teach fans how to be that confident. It’s called I Am Fun Size, And So Are YOU!: Thoughts From a Tiny Human on Living a Giant Life. Speaking to Kotaku over Zoom, Bhimani reveals that one of her biggest career obstacles so far has been wrestling with whether or not she should believe in herself at all. Maybe that’s exactly what makes her well-suited to connect with anyone who has ever doubted themselves.
You know, that festering question as to whether you’re gonna achieve your dream, or if you even have it in you to be good enough to try. Even if you have folks in your camp shooing away your self-doubt, Bhimani said if you don’t believe in yourself, you can only get so far.
“I could remember having this conversation with one of my best friends probably six or seven years ago and I was like, ‘You know, I’ve spent so many years saying, whether to myself or to other people, all these reasons why, oh, I’m probably not gonna be successful or all these reasons why this isn’t gonna work out and the universe still surprises me with all these amazing things,” Bhimani said.
With 13 voice over credits, 93 actor credits, and the 2016 Behind the Voice Actors award for best vocal ensemble in a video game under her belt, it may not seem like Bhimani has reason to be unsure about herself. If only brains were that easy. When Bhimani figured out her self-doubt, though, it was like a revelation–and one she wants to share with the world. Bending reality to her will, as it were, transformed from an unsure artist to a beloved figure both within the Overwatch community and the voice-over industry at large. Getting to that point in her personal development required a shift in her thinking.
“What would happen if I stopped arguing for my own unhappiness and just went along like, ‘Okay, you keep dropping these amazing opportunities in my lap? And when I take them good things happen. What would happen if I just say yes, please, I will have more of that?’”
The spirit behind the book is a pure one, but it’s still a curious time for a book release like this. Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch has had a tumultuous life cycle leading up to the release of its sequel, Overwatch 2. With the departing of its longtime director Jeff Kaplan, lead writer Michael Chu, and the recent departing of its lead hero designer, Geoff Goodman, Overwatch 2 appears positioned to become 2022’s free-to-play nightmare. It’s hard to recall any spark of light or hope that might once have been promised within its often-retconned lore and advertisements. However, one offshoot of the game has kept fans fed with wholesome content throughout Overwatch’s many peaks and valleys: its voice actors’ hearty YouTube videos, which collectively have over 121,000 subscribers.
“I Am Fun Size comes from a place of wanting to give to the people that I care about in the Overwatch, gaming, and artistic community, I really didn’t wanna give that up,” Bhimani said.
Arguably, if it weren’t for the YouTube content from Overwatch’s voice actors—particularly Bhimani and Sombra’s actor, Carolina Ravassa —the fandom would have struggled to survive Blizzard’s long content droughts. Many of the videos from Ravassa and Bhimani’s YouTube channels feature oodles of in-character sketches and out-of-character segments. The most popular video shows the Overwatch voice actresses doing characters’ dance emotes for the game’s first anniversary. Although their collaborative videos tend to dish out fanservice for players in the form of short IRL skits, the actors also impart career advice with their castmates to their fans, in between appearances at various video game and comic conventions.
I Am Fun Size originally started as a web series on Anjali’s YouTube channel back in 2017, as “a love letter to the community of artists, creators, and gamers.” In her web series, Bhimani offers advice to creatives that she’s learned over the course of her career as an actress. Bhimani’s book includes sections where she discusses how to get over underestimating yourself, choosing the right career path, and how to love yourself. Much like the web series, the book will include quotes and advice from fellow voice actors like Jason Ritter (Dipper from Gravity Falls) and fellow Overwatch voice actors like Jen Cohn (Pharah), Ravassa, and Josh Petersdorf (Roadhog). IAFS also features adorable illustrations by Vivian Truong, and lessons Bhimani learned from her “furry little creature,” Charley. It was through friends like these that Bhimani was encouraged to write a book in the first place. She organized her book via post-it notes and started getting to work.
“In this case, I ended up having a very small window to take some time very, very early mornings, like 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM for three weeks, and just write it all out,” Bhimani said.
Then came navigating the publishing process. Bhimani said she almost went with a publisher who wanted her to change the way she worded things that she thought were very important to the tone of the book, most notably the instances where Bhimani swears in the book. Ultimately, Bhimani had to put her foot down and ended up forming her own publishing company, Tiny Paws Publishing, named after her dog Charley, where she contracted people individually to get the book bound.
Once that started to happen, Bhimani said the relationships with her friends and work colleagues began to blossom because she wasn’t getting in her own way by being bogged down by her own self-doubt.
“Of course, we all have doubts, especially actors. There are plenty of times that you will not get a job because people decide, for whatever reason, you’re not right for it. You can’t be the person to discount yourself before everyone else does. You’ve just gotta put yourself out there. And if you’re afraid, awesome. It means you care,” Bhimani said. “Just flip that nervousness into excitement, if you can, and use it to fuel you, rather than carrying around the fear that slows you down.”
While the Overwatch community served as the inspiration for IAFS, the game is by no means is what the series is solely about. There are so many larger forces at play that influenced the work, like a global pandemic.
“[I Am Fun Size] is a much bigger mission than any one project, game, movie, or TV show that I’ve ever done. And that’s why it’s so personal because it is where my passion for storytelling meets my purpose of wanting to help people see the light and the power in themselves and be able to take that out into the world and understand that they have that agency. They have that power, no matter how small they feel.”
In the last few years, Bhimani said people have all gone through a level of difficulty, fear, loneliness, and isolation most of us haven’t experienced in our lives before. This makes now the right time for IAFS because, while we are all so connected through 9,000 different gadgets, it’s also very easy to feel alone in today’s parasocial world. To feel like because everybody’s speaking on the internet, no one can hear you.
“The most important thing for me when writing this book was letting people know you’re not alone. You may not have someone around you who has the same experiences as you, but, that doesn’t mean you’re alone,” she said. “There’s always someone there to lend a hand, to have a shoulder to cry on, to crack a joke, to lighten the load.”
Whether folks are fun size and petite or king size and huge doesn’t matter to Bhimani. Ultimately, what matters to her is that people recognize they have a “huge self” inside of them that’s gonna make life feel exciting and fulfilling, even in the darker times.
You’ll have to read the actual book to get to the crux of Bhimani’s encouragement. But without giving it all away, Bhimani said the best piece of advice she’s ever received, the knowledge that’s helped her whenever she’s felt small and alone came from her “brilliant artist and concert pianist” cousin.
‘Because you are doing the work, because you are studying, because you are pushing forward, because you’re always developing your craft, even your crashing and burning is better than your best was before,’” Bhimani said. “There is progress, no matter what the outside world is showing you, whether you’re having a lull in your career or you’re having great success.”
The phenomenon of imposter syndrome that Bhimani touches on also manifested within me in my second year as a games journalist. Hearing her cousin’s quote rang true for me because I’ve had to constantly remind myself when I’ve felt like I’ve reached a lull in my output or received more edits than usual on a particular article, to not see it as a lack of progress on my part, but as an opportunity to hit back stronger with the next article I put my byline on.
In one’s darkest time, Bhimani said the universe is creating things behind the scenes that can culminate into something “absolutely amazing.” In the past when Bhimani was scared, wanted to stop, or didn’t believe in herself, she said she kept pushing forward. To her surprise, her efforts bore fruit, most notably when she landed her role as Symmetra in Overwatch and acted in her first Broadway show.
“Success for each one of us means something different. And so not to let anyone else decide what that means for you cuz only you as an individual can decide what that means,” Bhimani said. “That was a really important part of growing up as an artist, sticking to your guns and knowing what happiness looks like for you rather than what it looks like for other people.”