Organized Panel Session
The field of Game Studies has expanded to consider the impact of digital games on diverse audiences, including varied racial and gender perspectives. The minority Other has been studied in terms of representation inside the gameworld, and gameplay in the real world, with games being modified in different ways for player accessibility and self-expression. Research into disability in Japan has also examined issues of accessibility and media representations of disabled persons, including the effects of these representations on the viewing/reading audience. This panel examines the representation of disability in Japanese videogames, showing how autism, social anxiety, hikikomori syndrome and blindness have been represented in popular titles from major studios.
The first two papers examine vicarious disability, through role-playing as a disabled main character. Kathryn Hemmann analyzes the well-known silence of Link, the protagonist of Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017). Ben Whaley examines the hikikomori narrative of The World Ends With You (Square, 2007). Both papers show how in-game representations are complicated by real-world fan interpretations and player interactions, providing self-reflection, self-expression and healing through play. Mimi Okabe analyzes autism in digital depictions of Sherlock Holmes, specifically in the Meitantei Konan franchise (Bandai Namco, 1996-2014). Rachael Hutchinson examines the representation of blindness in Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix, 2016), with an initially sensitive and realistic treatment of the disability giving way to a happy denouement. These two papers explore the boundary between the ‘strange’ and the ‘norm,’ and how these boundaries are ultimately more solid than permeable.