We wanted to give a little context around the changes we made to Gustav, the owl spirit’s monologues in today’s Spiritfarer patch. To those who are unaware, shortly after Spiritfarer’s initial release in August 2020, it was brought to our attention that some of the writing in Spiritfarer was ableist, especially in the case of Gustav’s description of his own wheelchair.
Our initial apology included a pledge to correct what we see as our big error in judgement: that we would write from the perspective of a disabled character without seeking the insight of disabled persons in the process. We were adamant that the spirit of ‘Nothing About Us Without Us‘ should infuse the process of reviewing the Gustav monologues, and are very grateful to AbleGamers for their guidance in this! Thanks to their help, 52 gamers with disabilities participated in the content review panel that eventually yielded the corrections we’re implementing today.
We’ll not go into the actual specifics of the changes here, as we believe they should be experienced in context. Suffice it to say that they bring a subtle yet powerful shift in Gustav’s perspective.
It’s important to note that not all respondents preferred the changes: some 20% of the voices dissented from the majority favorable opinion, and the strength of individual opinions varied a great deal – a crucial reminder that one should never assume that marginalized voices share a single, monolithic perspective.
“While I relate to [the original version] too, it just reminds me of all the stereotypes I had […] I got a rush of self-loathing from these scenes.” -K.
“Although I don’t currently share [Gustav’s] obvious disdain, there are times when I, and many others, have.” -M.
“[Wheelchairs are] not “infernal”; the disease is, society’s perception of disabled peoples is. Those are our cages, not chairs.” -E.
“I am pretty sure disability activists have been working their whole lives to undo these thoughts on disability.” -D.
“I really appreciate the [updated] version and feel like it has stronger emotional statements both for disabled and able bodied people.” -R.
“I really like that the new version hints at a more complicated but realistic view of a disabled person’s relationship with their chair.” -E.
To the panel participants: thank you for sharing your varied perspectives and helping to enrich our own. Much love! ❤️
All players are invited to dive back into Spiritfarer and to let us know if you have thoughts (about Gustav or otherwise) via email or any of our social channels.
In parallel, we’ve made a donation to The AbleGamers Charity, and we encourage you to learn more about how you can support their mission to enable play HERE.
Finally, if you would like to know more about why this conversation is important, we’re including some helpful resources below.
Thanks for your support and understanding.
– The Spiritfarer Team
Polygon: Video games and disability: Looking back at a challenging decade
Tech Talk: Mental Health and Disabilities
The New York Times: ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’: 16 Moments in the Fight for Disability Rights
Throughline: A.D.A. Now!