Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Telltale Games' Devs Eager To Kill Disabled Character

AmTR Sarah Evening
Note: This post has spoilers for Season 2 of The Walking Dead Game.

Telltale Games have had a successful run with spinning great episodic adventure games from licensed franchises while managing to stay true to the source material, from the goofy absurdity of Homestar Runner in the "Strong Bad's Cool Game For Awesome People" to the sci-fi adventures of the Back to the Future series. The praise has continued for its adaptation of a video game based on the best-selling comic book series and cable TV show, The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead video game has also been given kudos in particular for its diverse cast. Women characters are well-represented and well written. There are a wide range of characters in a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicity and even body types.

The second season of Telltale Games' Walking Dead game introduced a new original character as part of that season's group of cabin survivors: Sarah, a Hispanic teenager girl presented as neuro-divergent and implied to have some sort of anxiety disorder, complete with disassociation and panic attacks. Her father Carlos is shown to be overbearing and over-protective.

While there were the usual complaints from gamer dudebros about women characters followed discussion of Sarah in the game, there was also a grimy patina of ableism. Players talked about Sarah being a liability or bringing the group down. Slurs used against people with disabilities were used to describe the character, and gamers took to Facebook and Telltale's official forums to talk about how they had the chance to kill Sarah, how they would be happy to get the chance.They uploaded videos to Youtube titled "I HATE SARAH" or videos about how the suggested she could die.

But this was all asshole gamer dudebros, right? Not like this gross language was being echoed by actual Telltale developers, right?

Sadly, it actually was, in a recent episode of the web series "Playing Dead" with the team behind The Walking Dead Game where they echoed all this gross language... and worse. Marissa has the details:
Greg Miller spent the entire segment on Sarah putting her down. 
(“Was it really a choice if I was gonna save Sarah? Fuck Sarah, man. I’ve been looking to get out of the Sarah business for quite some time.” “Why?” “Cause she sucks!”)He talked about how glad he was to be able to leave her behind, and how happy he was to watch her get eaten. 
(“I saw her get torn apart. I was like, ‘Yes. Excellent.’”)Now, this would be bad enough. But we know Greg Miller is an asshole to female characters. He has been since Season 1. Where this went wrong, was this part: image
(“…there’s just so many people like in the office, on the internet who were just like y’know, ‘Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, I can’t wait to get rid of her.’”) 
The two Telltale employees publicly stated that people at Telltale were excited to kill Sarah. That they were waiting for a chance to do so. And that they listened to the ableist casual fandom who hated her and used that to go forward with her eventual pointless death.  
They then go on to make a joke about the fact that, in order to save Sarah, the player has to physically assault her while she’s in the middle of a shut-down. They joke that people who hated her wanted to slap her, but that would mean saving her, something they didn't want to do. 
(“So it’s just like, ‘Oh so you wanted to slap her, but in order to do that you had to want her to be around at the same time.’ [Mark laughs]The final nail in the coffin... came from this part of the interview: 
imageimageimage image
(“We meet her for the first time in Episode, I guess at the end of Episode 1, right?” ”Yeah.” “Where [Clementine] gets to talk to her. Something’s off about her.” “Something’s off. Yeah.” “This isn’t right.”"And I thought at first it was that Carlos [Sarah’s father] was just sheltering her, right? And it was going to turn out that ‘Oh, she’s a normal child.’”"And then it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re still not normal.’”"I was like, ‘Well, I hate you even more now.’ ‘Right.’ ‘And the time has come.’”)He tells the Telltale employees how he feels about Sarah “not being normal” and that he wants her to die for it - and they agree! 
This is unacceptable. It is disgusting and unprofessional for a studio to speak openly about how much they were looking forward to killing a disabled character, and to let shitpiles like Greg Miller speak in such an ableist way about her without saying a word in her defense - even agreeing with him.  
Disabled and neurodivergent players all over the internet are hurt by this. Several have tried to contact Telltale, to try to get some sort of apology or acknowledgment out of them, to no avail. So many players, myself included, are disappointed that this company - known for diversity and well-handled diverse characters - has botched the treatment of a disabled WoC so badly.
As Anna Anthropy said on twitter:
"yeah, i'm glad we could cater to your fantasies of wanting to watch a disabled girl of color die" ~two dudes who still have jobs somehow

Seriously, "not normal"? We need to make them aware that this is unacceptable. If you agree you can send an email to feedback@telltalegames.com or tweet them @telltalegames and let them know this is unprofessional, unacceptable, and hurts actual people with disabilities too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Video game or not, it's kind of a bad sign that neediness and vulnerability bring out a lot of anger and irritability from people, in response to a story and characters that are set up in such a way as to draw genuine feelings from the players and viewers and affect them.

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