Deus Ex: Human Revolutions

The title could change, the paper will mutate…but this is one of the games under analysis. The claiming in the title is a reference to Linton’s book on Claiming Disability. DE:HR is about cyborgs and its about disability, impairment and technology –  the thing that leaves an impression is the themes of reluctance, consent, mixed feelings, conformity and social pressure…

This abstract was accepted for DiGRA 2013 but I have withdrawn and am not planning on going to Atlanta (pang…) mainly because the full paper version is still a work in progress.  This is the short version of the abstract. See under ‘comments’ for the long version.

Reclaimed Cyborgs: Representations of ability and disability in Deus Ex: Human Revolutions

In this presentation it will be argued that fantasies about disability are as important to Deus Ex: Human Revolutions as notions of ability and achievement. Themes of employability, autonomy, value, identity and consent run through the game. Ability is depicted as something to be highly valued, constantly measured and perpetually demonstrated. Both ability and disability are portrayed as categories that are rendered unstable by rapidly evolving technologies. These aspects of the game will be discussed in relation to narratives of passing, fantasies of augmentation, and relevant theories from disability studies. While the issue of ability within games has been explored in some detail, especially in games and education literature, the depicting of disability within games (and the potential conceptual relationship between ability and disability as representations) has been overlooked.
Deux Ex: Human Revolutions (2011, dev. Eidos Montreal, publ. Square Enix)

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One Response to “Deus Ex: Human Revolutions”

  1. playhouse Says:

    The longer version…

    Reclaimed Cyborgs: Representations of ability and disability in Deus Ex: Human Revolutions

    In this presentation it will be argued that fantasies about disability are as important to Deus Ex: Human Revolutions as notions of ability and achievement. Themes of employability, autonomy, value, identity and consent run through the game. Ability is depicted as something to be highly valued, constantly measured and perpetually demonstrated. Both ability and disability are portrayed as categories that are rendered unstable by rapidly evolving technologies. These aspects of the game will be discussed in relation to narratives of passing, fantasies of augmentation, and relevant theories from disability studies. While the issue of ability within games has been explored in some detail, especially in games and education literature, the depicting of disability within games (and the potential conceptual relationship between ability and disability as representations) has been overlooked.
    The contributions of this work to the field are as follows:
    1. Methodological.
    This paper will contribute to debates about methodology and the analysis of representations (of bodies, identities or social groups, for instance) in digital games. The study will combine textual and structural analysis, and it will be specific about the theory underpinning each of these approaches. Of particular interest will be the dynamic between the structural (the design of the game) and the textual (its connotative aspects, including imagery, characterization and aspects of narrative) during play. How, for instance, might the strategic aspects of the apparent choices offered to players (as an array of potential enhancements) relate to the game’s themes of consent, social pressure, impairment and augmentation?
    2. Theoretical.
    The paper contributes to the development of a theory of representation in games. Screen and film studies literature has examined the depiction of social groups and identities in popular media, and considered the relationship between such depictions, cultural politics and social lives. There is a body of literature within game studies on such topics that addresses, for example, the representation of gender in the Tomb Raider series, or ethnicity in the Grand Theft Auto series. The particular focus of this analysis will be the representation of disability and ability.
    3. Disciplinarity
    The existing games and disability research focuses on tools and accessibility. While such work is important, it rarely if ever incorporates reflection on the concept of disability itself. It repeats and risks naturalizing clinical and medical perspectives. It implicitly defines disability as a personal deficit that needs to be fixed, regulated or compensated for. Disability theorists, by contrast, generally distinguish between disability and impairment, and approach disability and ability as social and cultural constructions (eg Linton 1998, Davis 1995, Siebers 2008). Considerations of power and cultural politics need to be incorporated into games and disability research. Augmenting games and disability research with humanities-orientated disability theory would make this possible.

    Deux Ex: Human Revolutions (2011, dev. Eidos Montreal, publ. Square Enix)

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