The other day I started playing a point and click adventure called The Silent Age. About ten minutes into the game I ran into a scene that upset me so much I had to stop playing. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided to write this article on something that, to some people, might seem minor.
The Scene in Question..
Very early into The Silent Age, the protagonist, Joe, is working as a janitor in a large office building in the 1970s. While cleaning up the research labs, Joe finds a trail of blood leading to a large pool of blood in front of a locked door.
Joe reports the bloody mess to the building’s secretary. Naturally he’s a bit jumbled by the disturbing sight, and says, “The blood is full of basement.” Whoops. The secretary assumes Joe has hurt himself, and gives him a bandage.
After that scene, if the player then chooses to use the “Look At” option on the secretary, Joe thinks to himself, “…she probably thinks you’re retarded or something.”
This is unacceptable.
Why Are You So Upset? It’s just slang!
Well you see, writing about indie games is only a hobby of mine. My day job consists of working with people who live with developmental or intellectual disabilities. One of the roles I perform is going to day programs and training the general public on how to recognize and respond to abuse. When we cover the types of abuse, we show a little video example of each general kind: physical, sexual, neglect, financial, and verbal. A lot of the time, the strongest reaction to the videos we show is in the verbal abuse segment. Seeing someone being so mean to a person with this type of disability by using the term “retard” triggers a lot of hurtful memories and emotions.
The problem in The Silent Age isn’t just that the word was used, but the way it was casually mentioned makes it all that much worse. While I understand that the protagonist is a cookie-cutter 1970s dude, that’s no excuse. Since the usage of the term did not further the plot or character development, this comes off as the developers themselves being ignorant.
Using that word is a hurtful way to make someone with an intellectual disability feel different in the worst way possible. Spreading the misconception that the word retard (when in reference to a learning disability) is acceptable just isn’t cool.