Spiritfarer Developer Apologises for Ableist Language In Writing

Ben Bayliss2 minute read

Today, developer Thunder Lotus Games —that is known for its adorable-looking Spiritfarer— has issued a public apology for using ableist language in the game that launched last month. The apology comes in the form of an open letter posted to Twitter and focuses specifically on the writing of the game.

“It has been brought to our attention that some of the writing in Spiritfarer is ableist, especially in the case of one character’s description of their own wheelchair.” the apology reads. “We, the developers of Spiritfarer would like to offer a sincere and heartfelt apology, and pledge to correct the lack of sensitivity and good judgment we demonstrated.”

“We understand that we unwittingly perpetuated ideas and language that have traditionally been used to exclude and discriminate against people with disabilities while reinforcing ableist views of what they should find empowering.” it continues, “This directly undermines the empathetic spirit that we wished to induce into every aspect of the game, and we regret this failure.”

The apology details that the studio will be taking this as a “necessary opportunity to grow our collective perspectives, and to use that wisdom to correct the mistake.” The narrative team has also pledged that it will be reexamining their work.

The apology ends, “To any and all that may have felt judged or unwelcome while playing our game, we’re sorry. We’ll fix it, and strive to do better from now on.”

Can I Play That? has reached out to Thunder Lotus Games to find out more regarding specifics, and the studio did reply to clarify some information. As already explained, one of the characters in-game expressed negative sentiment towards their wheelchair. Thunder Lotus explained that this came, “with the authorial intent being that the character comes to understand that that negativity comes from without, from how they were seen post-disability by others, rather than seeing the chair itself or the disability as the problem.”

The developer elaborates that “We’re not convinced the words as written effectively communicate that intent.” The developer adds. “In short, it reads as ableist perspective expressed by a non-disabled/differently-abled writing team. We believe we can do better.”

Spiritfarer is a title that follows the story of Stella, a ferry master to the deceased. You’re tasked to build a boat and given the chance to explore the world as well as meeting and caring for other spirits. You get to farm, mine, fish, harvest, and more before sending the deceased to the afterlife.

If it sounds like your cup of brew, the game is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC, and Xbox One.

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Ben is the one in charge of keeping the content cogs at Can I Play That? turning. Deafness means that he has a focus on discussing captions, but with experience in consultancy and advocacy, he covers what bases he can. Having written about accessibility in video games at DualShockers, GamesRadar+, GamesIndustry.biz, Wireframe, and more he continues his advocacy at CIPT. He was actually awarded a Good Games Writing award for an article he wrote here! He enjoys a range of games, but anything that’s open-world and with a photo mode will probably be his cup of tea. You can get in touch with him at: ben@caniplaythat.com

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