Gotham Knights Developer Responds To Disability Criticism

Gotham Knights Developer Responds To Disability Criticism
Warner Bros. Montreal | DC Comics

Written by 

Tom Chapman


27th May 2022 14:53

While the colourful and spandex-clad world of comic books likes to think of itself as a pretty inclusive affair, there have been plenty of problems when trying to bring the likes of DC and Marvel to life in other mediums. Even though Marvel and DC have welcomed a black Captain America and a gay Hulkling, Batwoman having a girlfriend, and the diverse roster of the Teen Titans, it doesn't always translate so well.

Video games have always struggled to strike a balance between appealing to the mass market and diversifying. We only have to look at the unfortunate state of some communities after 2022's Horizon Forbidden West was review bombed over Aloy having a "hairy" face. Now it's Gotham Knights' turn to land itself in a whole load of hot water. 

What Is The Gotham Knights Disability Controversy?

Away from accusations that The Sims has been whitewashing characters and aged stereotypes against the transgender community in GTA VGotham Knights is being called to its task for its representation of disability. And you thought Red Hood's magic was a faux pas. When Gotham Knights gave Batgirl her description, some were annoyed about a line that reads, "Her father's death has spurred her to train and recover from her wounds." 

In DC comics, one of its most iconic moments comes in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Batman: The Killing Joke. The 1988 graphic novel featured the Joker launching an attack on the Dark Knight's closest allies - shooting and paralysing Barbara Gordon. Hanging up her mantle as Batgirl, it led to her being confined to a wheelchair and taking on her Oracle persona as Batman's eyes in the sky. Gotham Knights confirmed that while Babs was Oracle in this world, she's back to being Batgirl.

A typically convoluted storyline of comic continuity means The New 52 relaunch saw Barbara undergo spinal surgery and regain her ability to walk before stepping back up as Batgirl. Still, her Gotham Knights description leans into the "Super Crip" disability trope where heroes can overcome their injuries simply by training. In reality, it would be physically impossible for some people to do this, meaning the trope undermines real-life people with disabilities. 


What Has WB Montreal Said About Gotham Knights Disability Criticism?

Gotham Knights Batgirl
Click to enlarge
Warner Bros. Montreal

When the Batgirl description went viral, it caught the attention of the Twitterverse for all the wrong reasons. "So I am clear, the lesson we should get here is, 'If you're paraplegic, just train and you'll get better, and if you aren't, you aren't trying hard enough,' or is that not right?" said one, while another fumed, "Like they could've made her an icon for physically disabled ppl. But instead just made her walk again after some *dirt n grit training*".

WB Montreal has taken note of the controversy and discussed it in a recent Gotham Knights Q&A. Creative Director Patrick Redding confirmed the team has worked with AbleGamers to educate the writers about spinal injuries and the potential to regain mobility. "As with many of our characters and plot elements, the circumstances around Barbara's injuries differ in some important ways from how it's been portrayed in the comics," said Redding.

"Barbara has been through multiple surgeries followed by a lot of physical therapy and pain management [in Gotham Knights]." Batgirl's description has been changed to reflect this, and with her rehabilitation reportedly part of the game's narrative, we're hopeful the team has learned from the Gotham Knights disability controversy. 


Tom Chapman
About the author
Tom Chapman
Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.
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