Musings on fundamentally ableist assumptions

It isn’t a terrible thing, but a revealing thing, that when I give a short description of the game project I’m working on, and include that you can play a blind or Deaf/deaf person or wheelchair user, people tend to make several assumptions. That the game is about the experience of frustration or pain, about inaccessibility, about barriers. And, that it’s for able bodied people to develop understanding or empathy. I’ve gotten this response so many times that I’ve stopped being surprised. But, how odd!

The reason I’m writing these possible points of view in the game is so that I and other disabled/blind/deaf folks can feel some part of their own experience reflected. It’s a game with fantasy and magic and time travel, it’s about feeling connected to your local geography and history and people and having a sense of place in the world, with a bunch of goofy puzzles. It’s supposed to be fun and amusing. The wheelchair using point of view character might “notice” the bumpiness of pavement or need to use the elevator in train stations instead of the stairs. The blind character gets to use a little audio guide to the train station environs instead of looking at the murals and signs and maps. That’s about it! It’s so that we get to play a fun game without feeling jarred out of what would be our own experience, on some level, and get to feel the pleasure and validation of being represented.

It’s like assuming that a farming or spy game where you can choose your gender, is “for” men to understand women or NB people’s experience, and to show how frustrating it is to be a non-male farmer or assassin or whatever. No, it’s to play the game with a sense of identity that you want to play as, not to play a game about being constantly sexually harassed and shooting powerful lasers out of your boobs, though I’m sure that would be fun in the right context.

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