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Romance and Disability

A recent conversation with a friend about Mass Effect 2...

Me: I wish Joker were a romance option.
R: You'd break him.
Me: You can have romance without sex, you know.
R: Yes, but that would be mature. And it's only an M-rated game.

That should tecnically be MA15+ rather than M, but I decided not to misquote. Despite my issues with the maturity debate I was amused.

Joker has become one of my favourite game characters. I am coming from an able-bodied perspective, but to me he seems a great example of including disability in gaming. He doesn't feel token, and his problems seem to be just an element of the character rather than his reason for existing. He is a highly skilled pilot and valued crew member. Plus, he is voiced by Seth Green. I suspect that's been acting on me subconsciously for a while.

It is unfortunate I can't think of another good example. About the only other physically disabled character I can recall encountering recently is Oracle in Arkham Asylum... and she was just a voice on the radio.

I'm feeling quite mixed about Katawa Shoujo as a concept. Fetishising disability is a bit creepy, but at the same time I approve of the message that you can still be attractive (and sexy) with those disabilities. I'm inclined to say there are so few examples of this sort of thing -- in general, and particularly in gaming -- that it may well have value, even if they don't do everything exactly right. But I don't expect everyone to agree.

How a concept is treated is important, not just that it is included at all. In my hypothetical Joker example I'm not sure if I could really trust the writers to deal well with a developing romance and the potential issues with physical intimacy. So maybe it's for the best they are not taking requests from me. Even the romances that are actually included can feel pretty clumsy. It may also be more serious a topic than most Mass Effect players want to encounter. But I can't really say for sure.