"Anybody that gets offended because of one little word is a retard anyways." —An anonymous commenter on "Ubisoft pulls MindQuiz for offensive language" at Joystiq

I've never liked political correctness. It's clunky and vapid, and robs me of the freedom to call myself whatever I want. For instance, being disabled is as much a part of who I am as being female or Nebraskan or a gamer. Thinking of myself exclusively as a person with it is really awkward; my disability sounds like something I should distance myself from, be ashamed of. Watching everything you say because it could offend someone completely misunderstands what civil- and human rights activists are fighting for. In short, political correctness tells us, "Shh! Don't offend the people-with-minoritiness!" without effecting real change.

That said, I do believe that people should think about the words they're using, and why they're using them. People use words like "retarded" or "gay" or "girly" as insults all the time, often without thinking about it. Indeed, when the localization department at Ubisoft put the phrase "Super Spastic" into the Nintendo DS game MindQuiz, I don't think they meant any harm at all. Still, when MindQuiz was released in the UK—where the word "spastic" has historically referred to cerebral palsy—somebody complained about it, and the publisher pulled the game. What Ubisoft did isn't particularly shocking. They made a mistake—one especially easy to make when you're a French publisher releasing a game to an English-speaking market—and they fixed it. But I'm amazed at how angry some gamers are about it:

"I can't stand stupid people. Apparently, not even the game could save [the woman who complained about the word 'spastic'] from her stupid. I hate you lady." [Source]

"Defective-pants-crapper is [sic] may be hyphenated, but it really isn't one word." [Source]

Some people are worried that this incident opens the floodgates for censorship in games, and stifles provocativeness in the industry. However, Ubisoft decided to pull the game of their own accord: there was no lawsuit involved, and nobody forced them to do anything. If "spastic" is such a little word, why are some people so hell-bent on defending it? As autistic advocate Joel Smith writes about "little" prejudices and people's sometimes-vehement defense of them:

"If I ask someone to do something and they consider it trivial, I expect them to do it. It’s no big deal after all…When I complain about discrimination, even 'small' things, this isn’t trivial. It’s very important. And, often, underlying prejudice comes out—does the other person see me as a person worthy of respect, worthy of tiny modifications in their routine? Or is it important to maintain power – to be able to make the racist joke, to be able to call the waitress 'dear' or 'honey', or to make every employee do things exactly the same?" [Source]

Someone complained (informally) about the use of a word in a videogame. The game's publisher responded to the complaint. What's the big deal? It's just a little word.

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk grew up in a small Nebraska town called Papillion. Although she has a nonverbal learning disability that affects her visual-spatial skills (among other things), she's always loved video games. Her first game system was a Commodore Vic-20, which her mom bought at a garage sale for $20. With this little computer Tera learned to write Mad Libs in BASIC, to play chess and to steal gold from Fort Knox.

But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).

Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.
Tera Kirk

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