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Power Member - Level 10
I have many different identities but I most often reference
my deafness when I discuss my gaming experiences because my deafness is a
factor when I boot up a new game on whether or not the game is playable for
me. The discovery of a game's accessible
features for the deaf range from a completely unexpected surprise that actual
closed captions and other visual representations of sound are provided to a
lukewarm reception as I await the discovery of what "subtitles" are to the particular
game developer to dismay that nothing is offered.
Even a future world with augmentations that makes a person "better than" has a "pay later" consequence.
In real life, I am constantly double checking my hearing aid
battery supply, cleaning and checking the aids for damage from summer weather,
switching aid modes for different settings for face to face conversations to
using the phone via voice to watching an online video and asking others to wait
while I catch up due to the lag between modes.
The constant juggling of adaptations is necessary to interact with the
hearing world and a crack in the tubing that connects my hearing aid to the in
the ear mold will result in me missing a half day of work for a $12 repair. While I am often managing the relationship
between my deafness and my gaming console I do not often see issues of
disability in the games themselves.
Choices, we have a choice even when choosing what we will say. Just like in real life.
A couple of weeks ago I played Telltale Game's The Walking
Dead: 400 Days and the game offers story snippets that range a wide list of
complicated narratives from race to sexism and more. I gasped at the appropriate story twists
wondering about the outcome if I had chosen a different path. Unexpectedly, in a routine story, a character
tentatively approached a figure lying on the road and tried to determine
whether the silhouette was human or zombie before becoming too close. Upon the playable character approaching the
groaning body, our character yelled out, "I don't know if you are deaf, dumb,
or an a******."
I paused the game and turned to my girlfriend, surprised at
my own displeased reaction, and I remarked that the "deaf and dumb" stereotype
as well as the insult, "What are you deaf?" must be largely out of use because
I do not encounter others slinging these phrases. Immediately, she said that she often hears
variations of the two insults but that no one would say such a phrase to me
directly. I continued playing but the
moment stuck with me and remains my most remembered moment in a game that is
nothing but memorable moments. I wondered about the depiction of characters
living with a disability in gaming which is different than a disability turned
Mass Effect franchise:
Nor even a future with routine intergalactic space travel has a solution for everything. Just like our current day and age.
May 4, 2013 was free comic book day. My girlfriend and I established a schedule
the night before in order to make sure we got to both of our local comic book
stores upon opening in order to nab the books that we most wanted. For myself, I wanted the Mass Effect freebie
above all others.
The comic was Joker's "origin" story evocative of the
previous Mass Effect Homeworld miniseries that featured tidbits about the lives
of Shepherd's main squad mates. The
story is short, half of a flip book with another comic on the other side of the
Joker, Normandy's pilot in the Mass Effect franchise, is one
of my most memorable video game characters in part due to the reveal of his
disability. In the original Mass Effect
during Shepherd's meet and greet with his/her crew Shepherd responds to Joker's
off the wall remarks glibly until Joker drops the surprise that he is
disabled. He explains that a brittle
bone disease results in a mobility disability.
In the video game industry Joker is one of very few disabled
characters who are simply disabled. No
super technology or supernatural powers mitigates the symptoms of his
disability. In the high technology
universe of Mass Effect with its relays and space ships Joker does not have a
exoskeleton to assist with walking nor has his frail bones been replaced with
Wolverine style titanium. He is disabled
and a pilot.
Freebies are fun and free comic book day is a stack of freebies.
Joker's free comic story is classic and simple. He was originally denied the job as pilot of
the Normandy solely due to his disability so he set out to prove that he was
the best pilot in the galaxy and more than qualified for the job. I get it but I was disappointed because we
all know this story. Not only given the
complex narrative webs weaved throughout the Mass Effect franchise but with the
Mass Effect 3 narrative regarding Joker, I expected more. In ME3, as I faced the ending's decision, I
thought of Joker and his disability.
Deus Ex: Human
Revolution, Side Stories
The future is us holding our electronic eye in our robotic hand. I can't wait.
Deus Ex: HR wrangles with many moral quandaries. The usual video game upgrade system is tied
into a narrative of the societal, moral, and financial impact of augmentations
that makes humans "better." Deus Ex: HR also
includes narrative snippets that are questions with no answer given but story
snapshots offered as thoughts to consider.
With so few games directly addressing disability as a narrative the mere
introduction of disability related stories caught my attention with issues that
I identified with. Other than the
overarching story, Deus Ex: HR asks us to consider questions such as, "Should a
couple be precluded from adoption because one member of the couple requires treatment
for chronic depression?" Additionally,
a NPC loses his will to live after suffering debilitating gunshot wounds
because all that he can think about is his inability to live his life in a
wheelchair. These moments have stayed
with me long after reloading a save to play through the game's multiple
[Game Name Redacted For Spoiler Protection]:
Guerrilla artists remade the handicap sign because of the power of perception.
In the interest of staying spoiler free as much as possible
I will be brief. In a console release
game, in the context of characters fighting for their lives a narrative reveal
was that an NPC is in a wheelchair. Without
special powers but simply living as a person in a wheelchair, the NPC remained
hidden in order to prevent all others from automatically targeting the
NPC. Story twists are common in video
games but this was an unexpected real life concern within an imaginary gaming
I want to see more stories in video games that are more
nuanced than flashbacks in an insane asylum or unknown whether the
protagonist's story is real or imaginary due to a mental health breakdown. With more and more games available for
playing I want to see issues of disability addressed in our gaming stories so
that a single reference is not such a refreshing experience as a rarely seen
Again, thanks to all readers who stop by here. I began typing these thoughts out as a fun
outlet for all of those video game themed thoughts crowding in my head. Have a great week full of gaming and making a
dent in our backlogs before the fall releases begin.
Do you know of other examples of disability in gaming?
Do you have a favorite disability themed moment in gaming?
What narratives do you want to see more in gaming?