TW: visible vs invisible illness, privilege
SPOILERS for Final Fantasy XV
You might remember a while ago, before the computer incident, I said I wanted to talk about how Final Fantasy XV treated disability.
I (apparently stupidly) mentioned this a few other places, and showed a few people a rough draft of the key points I wanted to cover.
This draft was rough, really. It was a paragraph for each point; there were meant to be three, but I described point three under point two; I didn’t go and play the game again, check the videos I had saved of my playthrough, It was <i> a draft</i>.
This revealed a few points about how gamers see disability and games that felt, to me, more important than pointing out that the game treats invisible disabilities much more cavalierly than visible ones. (Sure, now that the dust has settled, there are a lot of people who feel like it was ‘unfair’ and ‘could have been better explained’. That wasn’t my point. My point was that the game showed this as okay, and as an AAA title with a worldwide audience, which took into account significant player feedback during development, it should have made an effort to portray the invisible disability just as compassionately as the visible one. (On the same place where this discussion took place, there were arguments about Scarlett Johanssen’s casting in Ghost in the Shell, Riverdale erasing asexuality, and Black visibility in American media. I would have thought I wouldn’t have to spell this out.)
My conclusion out of all this was that it was useless trying to continue talking there, because the counter arguments were “but they are privileged and in character so it’s okay” and “but you need a doctor to diagnose mental illness because it’s really hard so we shouldn’t expect people to know anything is wrong” and “we have more information than they do so we can’t expect too much from them”. I didn’t have it in me to try to explain that in-universe privilege doesn’t excuse anyone not noticing their best friend is in crisis, or that even doctors don’t always understand or correctly diagnose/treat mental illness, or dismiss it completely (as happens in-game). It shouldn’t be shown as okay or in-character for someone living in close quarters with someone else to bully and put down that person explicitly for having a crisis, while being solicitous of someone with a visible disability. This normalises treating mental illness as an other, as a thing that people can’t see or understand, and that filters onwards.
“But they’re young and don’t have experience with it, so they don’t know what to do,” was another thing. Nobody ever asked, either.
I didn’t want to keep on trying to explain how in-game signals and the very change in personality they pointed out were exactly what should have clued them in to Something Being Wrong, and that a character not knowing what to do shouldn’t mean that ignoring the entire thing was okay. I was told I was disregarding character in favour of wanting a “Correct” approach, like a “How To Deal With Disability Handbook checklist”.
And then, when I left the conversation, the person who silenced me was told that they won.
I don’t know how to explain that none of this is okay. I don’t know how to say that dismissing something because you can’t put a name on something isn’t okay. I don’t know how to say that lowering expectations of portrayals of disability because illness is hard is not okay. Apparently, I’m not able to do that. But that was their argument, which they supposedly won with, as if it was a competition, as if the whole aim was to shut me down.
“You need a doctor to diagnose mental illness because it can be so many things and it’s really hard, so we can’t expect normal people to notice what up and not tell people off for having something wrong,” is not okay as an argument or a position in real life. If we switched ‘mental illness’ there for ‘physical injury’, it would sound stupid.
“You need a doctor to tell you your leg is broken because it could be so many things and it’s really hard so we can’t expect a normal person to notice that you can’t walk and not tell you off for not walking. ” Sure. A normal person couldn’t easily diagnose or treat a compound tibial fracture, but it’s pretty likely that your normal person is going to be able to tell that you can’t take weight on that leg (even if it appears totally normal, isn’t swelling, doesn’t have a bone sticking out or foot pointed the wrong way) and that you’re in pain, and is socially expected to help to the best of their ability – calling an ambulance, bringing water, blanket, making the area safe. If someone with medical training is present, most law areas have provisions allowing them to provide first aid with the expectation of not being held liable for doing so.
“You need a doctor to tell you have acute adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressive mood because it could be so many things and it’s really hard so we can’t expect a normal person to notice that suddenly you’re withdrawing from your friends, having emotional outbursts, and having trouble coping with your job.” Sure. A normal person wouldn’t even know the term, but they could pretty easily tell that your entire personality changed, or that you’re not doing things you used to, or that something that society deems easy is suddenly really hard and making you cry. They can check on you more often, ask what you need, offer you time off, call an ambulance (which can be humiliating, so I recommend only doing this if there’s actual, you know, risk in play, not just someone crying in a corner for a few seconds; use discretion and judgment), offer to include you in a social thing and not tell you off if you don’t participate at a certain level. The point here, is that even though you can’t <i>see</i> the injury because it’s inside, you can see the <i>effects</i> of it. You can see that frequent panic attacks may not allow someone to work full time.
Except, when someone can’t do the thing society expects that you should, and you’re not visibly unable to do it, then society puts you on the outside. You have to fight to get the same treatment as someone with a visible injury. In many cases, even people with a visible injury and a proper name for it and an army of doctors who agree have to fight for things like compensation, welfare, and/or accommodations. Normalising that because it’s something we can’t see and diagnose, treating it differently to a visible illness is okay, IS NOT OKAY.
I will now refer specifically to the in-game situation, so if you haven’t played and don’t want to be spoiled, thank you for reading and I hope I made sense.
Continue reading FFXV and Disability… maybe