Disabled Heroes in Video Games event raises awareness of disabilities in the media

By Emily Morina

The Terps for Disability Justice at University of Maryland organized the Disabled Heroes in Video Games event to celebrate Disability Awareness Month Oct. 26th. 

During the event, which took place at McKeldin Library, students were given the opportunity to play video games featuring characters with disabilities, as well as to discuss the ways in which people with disabilities are portrayed in the media.

D’Arcee Neal, a first year graduate student and graduate assistant for the President’s Commission on Disability Issues (PCDI), led the discussion.

Neal, who uses a wheelchair, said he regularly contacts gaming companies and thanks them for displaying characters with disabilities.

Neal first introduced the game “Perception, where a blind woman named Cassie navigates her way through a haunted house that has plagued her dreams for years. Using echolocation, the player must explore Cassie’s environment to unravel the reason for her dreams.

While Neal showed off this game, he talked about his disappointment when seeing the way people with disabilities are typically portrayed in the media, and that he is glad to be seeing video games like these. 

“I was so sick of seeing people with disabilities just get offed,” Neal said. “It was small, but I was happy.”

Another game, “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice,” focused on a main character struggling with psychosis. Several members in attendance agreed that the game was not only visually appealing, but it also showed what life might be like dealing with this type of illness. The game is set during the medieval times, and the character is a woman who is alone in dealing with voices and visions after having abandoned her tribe.

“You don’t feel sorry for her,” said Joseph Williams, a project assistant for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “You want to see her win against her disability.”

Attendees emphasized that with an increasing number of video games with disabled characters, there is an increasing sense of empowerment within that community.

“If they are being portrayed on TV or in movies, then they should be portrayed in video games as well,” freshman finance major Erika Sowers said.

 

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