Posts Tagged ‘Katawa Shoujo’

I’m not much into the idea of dating sims in general, but this one definitely caught my attention when I learned about it from 2DT’s site. My reasons for taking a closer look at this game are probably no different from what sparked the interest of other people in the blogsphere – this title is either a horrible insult and feat of fetishism, or a daring statement giving equal opportunity to the people facing disabilities, who are often ‘invisible’ in the media.

The whole idea is something that could only come about as a fan production. What company could risk the scorn they would likely get for the mere idea? It would actually be “weird” if the game sold too well. I think many people, me included, are only giving the production a fair chance because there’s no money involved.

But that’s all preconceptions, and what’s the real deal? Well, I’ve only had time to play through the introduction, but I can say there’s a spirit of sensitivity behind the writing. It helps that the main character we’re supposed to identify with stands on equal ground with the heroines – he only stays alive as long as he keeps pumping chemicals into his arrhythmic heart. But obviously that’s not something he wants to define who he is. And everyone else at the school is exactly the same, facing various difficulties, but holding their own ambitions and dreams unrelated to any disability.

The game is sure to get some flak and, even without reading it all, I can say there will be controversy about how particular scenes are handled. But you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. I think there is nothing wicked in the creators’ intentions, and I view this as a small contribution to breaking the status quo of complete silence.

And, as 2DT remarks elsewhere, the people behind it deserve props for just completing the project, regardless of content. We live in a fascinating age when people from all over the world can come together joined by nothing but a single idea and a will to act. I can’t stop finding that inspiring and beautiful.

On a different tangent, TWWK brings up what is called people-first language, a way of speaking used to shift focus from a person’s disability to the person itself. He notes that it is a way to “show love by being kind”. While watching out for how we speak can be part of good etiquette and a way of showing we care (not only when speaking with people with disabilities!), people-first language is a controversial idea because it’s implications extend beyond and individual’s informed choice about their manners.

Imagine you’re in a dark room. You can only see the outlines of things – barely enough to walk around without tripping over something. A friend invited you over for something to drink, and indeed, there seems to be some drinkware lined up on the table inside. As you approach to take one of the containers into your hand, your friend calls out: “Grab a mug and come here!”

When the magical keyword “mug” is spoken, your expectations about the unknown container change. You can start guessing how thick and heavy it is, the material it is made from and maybe even what your friend intends to drink. Think how different the answers to those questions would be if your friend mentioned a “cup” instead.

Mugs? Cups?

There’s no big problem in drinking beer from a teacup, and nobody can tell exactly how thin a mug can be before it stops being a mug. But the human mind needs to categorize, and once it categorizes, it associates and generalizes. Calling somebody a “nigger” is different from your average insult in that it expresses the belief in the existence of a naturally inferior race of people. Rude words are an individual’s problem. The beliefs and associations hiding behind those words are society’s problem, because words can only have meaning when shared and understood by a group.

What this all boils down to is that we need not only think about the listener when choosing our words – we should also think about the effect our words have on ourselves. Words have a magic power much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Call somebody disabled long enough, and the “technically correct” term might make you forget that the person is quite “able” to perform everyday actions their own way.

To what extent do the words we use direct our thinking process? That in itself is arguable. But it is certain the influence is there, in the subconsciousness, where we tend not to notice. And that’s why the proper terms to use, be it people-first language or anything else, will forever remain a point of heated debate.

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