Type JournalArticle
Date 2020-02
Volume 20
Number 1
Tags nonfiction, disability, game studies
Journal Game Studies

Sick, Slow, Cyborg: Crip Futurity in Mass Effect (Link)


This paper uses “cripping strategies” (Sandhal p. 149) to read game texts for disability representation, uncovering productive moments of tension and discomfort that disrupt the smooth story of hyper-able bodies performing extraordinary feats in the military science fiction (SF) trilogy Mass Effect (ME). In Disability Media Studies, Elizabeth Ellcessor and Bill Kirkpatrick call this practice “negotiation”: “how readers selectively attend to and interpret texts to form their own meanings from them” (p. 12). Following their example, I adopt “a disability perspective” which “is about decentering the physically and cognitively ‘normal’ character, the ‘normal’ viewer” (p. 140). Performing crip negotiation in my analysis of ME1-3, I explore the sick, slow, and cyborg moments that offer alternative futures for crip bodies, and interrogate the complex relationships between disability, culture, and technology. ME1-3 can be read as embodying what Alison Kafer terms “crip futurity” (2013, p. 21). Kafer explains that disabled bodies are cut out of all imagined futures or left behind as the neoliberal able-bodied pace of society rushes forward. Kafer insists that “I, we, need to imagine crip futures because disabled people are continually being written out of the future, rendered as the sign of the future no one wants” (p.46). Turning to SF as a site to do this critical imagining, I look for futures in which technology has not eradicated disability but exists in a constellation of complex relationships with crip embodiments. In these futures disabled bodies exist alongside spaceships, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and particle beam weapons. Finally, I consider the intersections of gender, race, and disability, and how these identity positions impact access to futuristic technology and treatment as imagined in ME1-3.

Keywords: disability, chronic illness, crip futurity, military science fiction, first-person shooters, Mass Effect, representation, access

Name Role
Adan Jerreat-Poole Author


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