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Jeremy Morgan

Written by Jeremy Morgan, tabletop games editor, gamer, and software developer.
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Identity

3 February 2015

For background, read this post first.

That article went up yesterday, and it’s prompted some discussions online. Some positive, some less so. It provoked some thoughts for me, and I decided to blog about it. The question of whether game designers should be thinking about gamers with disabilities is an easy one for me. Yes, they (we) should.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about identity. Ms. Henry has been disabled all her life. It is a part of her identity that people without a disability may have a hard time understanding. For many people, gender and attraction are part of their identity in a way that many of us don’t understand (for societal reasons, because we don’t think—or have to think—about it, etc.).

I’ll use an example that I’ve used before (I think) but is germane to the discussion.

I’m an engineer. I don’t mean my profession is that of an engineer (although that’s true). I don’t mean that I’m a licensed engineer (taken the P.E.). I mean engineer is part of my identity. It’s the way I think; it’s the way I approach situations. It’s the way I solve problems. You can’t pare that out of me without me ceasing to be me.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. I consider this thing that you may not understand part of my identity. Don’t misunderstand me: it’s NOT the same as someone’s disability, gender, or attraction. It’s just an example that I hope is useful. Assuming you get that, it shouldn’t be hard to see that some people might not want to “fix” something that’s fundamentally not broken.

Another thing that you should keep in mind: a group of people with a thing in common are not always identical in their thoughts on a topic. We see this all the time for any number of communities or groups: not all Christians agree on a thing, not all feminists agree on a thing, not all women agree on a thing, not all people of color agree on a thing, not all atheists agree on a thing. Do I need to go on?

One final point. Be very careful when ascribing motives to a person. Don’t assume that you know why they feel a certain way. Don’t assume that you know everything that they consider part of their identity. When they say that something is a part of their identity, listen to what they say, even if you don’t understand it.

Try and keep this in mind as you interact with people on a daily basis. Be kind to each other. If you’ve got questions, you know where to find me.

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