Commentary: Yes, Gender Roles in Games Need to Change…but What About Ability?
Long have we heard the cries for gender equality in the video game industry, and with good reason. Women are highly underrepresented in the gaming industry. For every 10-20 male protagonists, there is one woman. The game industry has been catering to a demographic they feel makes up the majority of gamers; cisgender, heterosexual, white, teenage males. We all know the gaming community is far more diverse than that, and game developers are shutting themselves off to potential revenue from these diverse communities. There are plenty of gay and female gamers. The gaming industry is starting to reflect this, as games like Fable have introduced gay characters. We also have some strong female protagonists like Lara Croft.
We cannot deny that the game industry needs to improve and include better diversity options for characters. However, one group goes largely ignored. Where are the gimpy video game characters? The gamers with disabilities community is huge. We are, after all, the largest minority in the world. I mean, we could have some really cool characters that just happened to have a disability. Look at how awesome Professor. X is. He is in a wheelchair, but he has some awesome powers. Game developers with a little ingenuity could truly come up with unique characters that just happened to have disabilities.
The current debate about characters that are women is in high swing, right now. This is something spurned from the lack of female protagonists displayed at E3 2014, and specifically, a Ubisoft developer’s comments implying it is harder to make women in video games, which is why many developers, supposedly, neglect to put women in games. We all know this is a load of bullshit. Women are not that much different than men when it comes to animating them. If you can animate a batmobile, you can animate a female. The developer just did not seem to know how to address the issue of a lack of women characters in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. So, he made crap up.
The sad part is people with disabilities have become caught in the crossfire. Some people have been commenting that the diversity is lacking, and that includes characters with disabilities. Further response has some gamers expressing no desire to play characters with disabilities. A few of those gamers have gone so far as to use disability slurs, like the r-word when referencing potential characters with disabilities. One gamer wrote about how nobody would want to play a retard.
In the incredibly diverse world of superheroes, people with disabilities are some of the most amazing characters. If video games were made with these kinds of characters in mind there could be some truly amazing characters that are developed. Imagine playing a character that had a wheelchair that turned into a hovercraft. The individual could use powers and weapons attached to the hover chair, to defeat an array of villains. Any character with any disability that had powers like telepathy, ice rays or even the the ability to shoot fireballs from their hands, could be a really awesome character to play.
I have a feeling that many able-bodied gamers would enjoy playing characters with disabilities that were unique and interesting. There are limitless possibilities for these characters. It would also do wonders for the disability community. Maybe, people would stop thinking that we were incapable of doing things just because of our disabilities if they saw how awesome these characters are?
I think that we need to stop pointing fingers and start encouraging game developers to make more diverse characters all around and stop judging potential characters just because they may seem different. Give gamers with disabilities a shot. If they are cool, I know they’d be fun to play!
So, if you could create a game character with a disability, who would they be, what would they do, and what powers, weaponry, or accessories would they have? Leave a comment below letting us know your their thoughts! I look forward to reading the plethora of ideas you have!