I hear a lot of people talking about inclusivity in games – but that inclusivity is always about race or gender. I suppose that’s fair in some ways, because when we talk about diversity in real life, the disabled often aren’t included in that tally either. But the fact that we should be included should still stand.
I’m a blind gamer. You know what makes me nuts? Every time I read a character concept for a blind, deaf, or wheelchair using character, and the flaws are a mess. Every time I am interviewed for something and the questions are about how to play a blind character. Most games with flaws or character traits end up with at least one “blind”, “deaf”, or “paralyzed” trait. Not to mention the traits for being mentally ill.
To the game designers who listen to me – PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ODIN hire me, or someone else, to write your disability traits. Pay me for it.I will make your game better, more realistic, and more interesting. I SWEAR. Or don’t hire me – talk to other disabled gamers – we’re out there. Find people who game while using wheelchairs, or American Sign Language. Find people who game with chronic pain. Find people who play with braille dice – or make braille dice so more of us can play. Learn about how people with disabilities game, and cater to them as well as able bodied gamers.
I want wheelchair mechanics. I want rules for guide dogs. And I want to write these things – because I believe in a fully realized gaming world, without restrictions based on what people cannot imagine. Thing is – I can. Other disabled gamers can. And sometimes, we don’t want to play an able bodied character – we want to play a Miles Vorkosigan, or a blind archer, or a deaf mage. But the rules – and the game systems, almost never make that easy.
I also think that by playing disabled characters, able bodied gamers will perhaps gain some empathy. I’m not saying NEVER DO THIS – but if you do, do it right. Make your games accessible, not just in terms of being able to read the rules and play the game, but to be able to feel like the setting is a place that you can create the character you want to play. And yeah, that means that people with disabilities can play the heroes – and still have disabilities. They don’t have to be pitied, they can defeat the dragon, save the multiverse, and vanquish the vampire nest. They can be the hero, a role we are almost never given to play. So often we are cast as villains, having the chance to be the Good Guy would be so healing for me and many others.
But all of this is for naught if we don’t start telling stories where disabled characters can exist. In many future games, disability has been eradicated by medical advances – or we simply don’t hear about them, because in a medieval setting why would you want a blind warrior? The fictional tropes of supernatural disabled people are trotted out for flavor, yet we’re never treated to PC players who use their disabilities to their advantage.
Inclusivity. This is my Thing, not because I’m liberal, or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but simply because I want to feel welcome. I want to feel a part of the community. I want to be a gamer without limits.
So I’m writing a sourcebook to play blind warriors of Odin. There will be information about how to run a campaign for blind and partially blind characters, how to play those characters, and what adaptations to the world those characters use. They’re not useless, they’re powerful, and they have a purpose. This is a stretch goal for the Iron Edda campaign.
This is what inclusivity means to me. I get to write a game where I am able to place disability at the forefront of a game, rather than in the backseat. When we’re talking about inclusivity we aren’t just talking about race or gender, we are talking about lived experiences. We are talking about a diverse cast to choose from. This isn’t about putting anyone down, but it’s about making options open to people who no one has necessarily thought to include. My game funds at 25k, please consider donating.