The Gifted and Graceless (WiP)


#1

Long lost dreams of heroes plague your mind, all but ash under your burned feet. What once was is forever gone, your childhood curiosity just another body to lay to rest. There will be no one to save you this time. Heroes…do not exist.

You hold onto that thought, bitter, bending, but not broken. And move on. Until, years later, a job catches your interest - as caretaker for a young, disabled girl. Wanting to right what once went wrong you apply for the job…and stumble into the world of the Gifted and Graceless.

~*~

They are the heroes we need, not those we want.

A world in which supernatural abilities have just been discovered is a dangerous one. To keep those powers under control only disabled people are equipped with them, chosen to become more independent while also serving as a shell with reduced amounts of power. But is it nothing more than charity, or does something more sinister lurk in the shadows?

Where the blind see through seeing-eye dogs and the deaf learn to read thoughts everything seems possible. And everything might just be enough to turn the term ‘hero’ upside down.

~*~

Caretaker, you go by many names.

Choose your gender, sexuality and personality. In this conflict of (in)dependance, where will your opinions lay? With which ease do you approach your newfound patchwork family? Is there a Gift that you see, or has society fallen from Grace?

~*~

Hey! Cirrocumulus here, longtime lurker of three years. I finally decided to make an account of my own, pitch an idea that has been on my mind for a while and actively interact with the CoG community.

My plan is to create a game that focuses on character interaction, the fine line between dependence and independence. And also superhero shenanigans. I am looking for a way to push people into the limelight that normally do not get the chance to shine. Your MC is not a disabled person, though most of the characters they will interact with are. I love grey and want to stay away from a black and white perspective. As such, each character will have their own opinions and those may differ drastically. (Even when it comes to how they handle their disabilities and powers.) I hope I can carefully craft characters that you can care about. =)


#2

Sounds interesting anyway can’t wait to try it


#3

Yes! I’ve been yearning for something like this! I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this one, it sounds awesome. Best of luck.


#4

This can be very interesting and I’m interested in supporting it - on the other hand, there are some very real pitfalls lurking in undertaking such an ambitious project.

By “Disabled Person” are you limiting the class of characters here to physical disabilities or are you going to include mental as well?

Welcome to the aspiring author club.


#5

Thank you for taking interest in my project! I do plan to touch this topic with a lot of sensitivity and sensibility. There is a fine line to walk here between letting disabilities separate people while also trying to show that they should not be separated because of their disabilities. It’s difficult to approach for sure, which is why I want to tackle said topic in a mature way and include a variety of different opinions, both from non-disabled as well as disabled characters in the story. A person who is at fault for their own disability will most likely think very differently about certain topics than someone who was born with them. Someone with a disabled family member will think differently than someone who has never had close ties to people with disabilities.

I happen to have a huge interest in psychology, which is perhaps one of the driving factors why I read so much about the diversity of us humans. Part of my interest also happens to be how people deal with the curves that life throws at them. It’s such a fascinating subject and I really want to speak about it while including a lot of diversity.

Both mental as well as physical disabilities will be present throughout the story, though the core team is mostly made up of physically disabled people - it is easier to develop powers for those people as a counter measure to their respective disabilities. (Whether that is the right thing to do, to give these characters powers that in some way get rid of their disability, that is something characters will disagree on.) The girl, named Amber, that you will become the caretaker of is autistic, though.


#6

Sounds really cool! I’m always done for more superpower themed stories, especially ones with an unique spin.


#7

Do you mean, like someone who crashed a car and was left paralyzed, as opposed to someone who had no control over whether they were disabled?

So all powers will somehow compensate for the disabilities? It’s an interesting idea… I’m more familiar with mental disorders than physical disabilities. Are you thinking of including any of those, or are the mentally disabled people more along the line of autistic or mentally handicapped?

Astral projection might be great for someone with agoraphobia. :slight_smile:


#8

Yes, that’s what I meant. Someone who drove while drunk and crashed their car is obviously at fault for what happened to them. Not that I’d ever wish lasting injuries on anyone.

Most of the mentally disabled are mentally handicapped, though aside from autism it’s not something that I delve in too deeply - you will mostly see side characters on this spectrum of disabilities.

One of the main characters does suffer from a disorder, rather than being physically or mentally disabled, though. He has very extreme OCD. The idea of including agoraphobia is a nice one, I could totally see a side character having it. =)


#9

Why doesn’t the protagonist have a disability? I think it would be far more interesting if you did. Rather than othering disabled people, bundling them all up into the one category.

I dislike the idea of this. I’d be more interested if it’s the disabled people that are picked are actually more motivated to make full use of the powers granted to them. And also more likely to feel indebted to those sinister forces. And there’s far more blackmail of “if you don’t do what we say we’ll remove your powers” sort of thing.

Heh! Weirdly I don’t think it’d help me at all. Unless I had an astral projecting cheerleader with me, encouraging me to venture forth. But due to the nature of my anxieties I think astrally projecting would just not assist at all. It would be all the horrors of going out without actually being able to get anything done whilst outside. Invisibility might though, or being able to project a huge field of “don’t pay attention to me but keep out of my way” or the ability to manipulate time. Because then, if I missed my bus I could rewind time to catch it. I could speed up time through the bus journey so I’d only need to experience it in one short burst. I could stop time while I walked through crowds and no one would see me. But I’d also probably be far too anxious and worried about abusing the power and messing something up and getting old too fast to actually do so. And I’d be worried about other invisible people abusing their abilities and needing to be forced to do something about it if I saw them.

But everyone’s different.


#10

It would be very difficult to write a protagonist with a disability and have them interact with all the others and their disabilities - if I gave the readers the chance to pick out of…let’s say five disabilities, then I would have to write essentially five different stories altogether, as you get partially cut off from interacting with certain characters if you are, say, deaf. Or blind.

I want to explore the variety of different opinions that disabled and non-disabled people have. I think it is a lot easier for a bigger audience to experience the story of a partial outsider being thrown into this new evironment. Not everyone has experience with disabilities and as great as the thought of a disabled MC would be, I think it could potentially alienate those that have no experience with it whatsoever.

There is always the chance of the MC becoming disabled during the course of the story, but I haven’t explored that trail of thought yet. I do, however, not want to let them start out disabled. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, I think it is a good one, but it does not quite fit the story that I want to tell.

In terms of ‘independence and having reduced amounts of power’ - that refers more to why disabled people are picked out in the first place. It makes for a seemingly great charity project while also ‘ensuring’ that the people that grant those powers have a way to make sure the powered are indebted to them. Of course there will be those that want to maximise their powers. And there is potential for abusing your powers or the people that granted them to breathe down your neck, ready to take them away at any moment. Though I do not want to give away too much yet.

Thank you for your comment! =)


#11

Excuse me for asking, but do you have a disability? Are you writing from personal experience?

I understand that it’s not the story you want to tell. It just feels really voyeuristic to me to create a main character who is not disabled, and then have them gawping at and interacting with all these people who seem to be defined by their disabilities. Like some sort of modern day freak show.

You don’t need to give them a choice of disability. We don’t get a choice of disability in our lives after all. Or give them the choice of power, and then completely take that choice away from them, ignoring it. Because that emphasises what it’s like

But I can’t see why a blind character, or a deaf character, should be prevented from interacting with people. We’ve got some blind forum members.

It feels very othering the way you’re describing things. I understand that you have a lot of good intentions, and I don’t want to discourage you. But it’s like creating a game about racism, with the protagonist being a white, or about sexuality, with the protagonist being a straight white cis male.

You don’t need to advertise it as a game where you play “someone with a disability”. It should just be about someone with a super-power.

I think it risks being preachy in the ways that people disliked the Hero Project otherwise.

I think not everyone having an experience of a disability, would be the perfect reason to tell a story showing them an experience they don’t have. Experiencing the difficulties in the story, as opposed to being told about them by other characters.


#12

My plan isn’t to make the MC someone who looks at disabled people as if they are part of a freak show. That is the furthest from what I plan to do. Caretakers who care for disabled people surely do not look at them as though they are freaky monstrosities - the MC is a caretaker, not a random person pointing their finger at people that live outside of the box that society allows to exist.

Just because it is a touchy subject does not mean that it isn’t something that we should be able to write about. While I personally do not have a disability I have interacted with disabled people in my life, not that that makes me any sort of special. I do not claim that all of my opinions are right, but that is why I want to include a lot of varied opinions in this story, from all characters that will be a part of it.

The plan isn’t to set up disabled people, point a finger at them and let the MC go “Look at those freaks.” - the point is to create a story with unlikely heroes that people can hopefully empathise with.

The comparison to stories about racism or sexuality with the main characters being stereotypes that probably cannot emphasise as well sounds a bit sloppy, though I can see the slippery slope that you speak of. But why can’t we write stories about sexuality issues starring a white straight male who realises that while he has it easier in life, other people do not and he decides, in his own way, to do something about said inequality? Sure it is a different set-up than him being queer himself, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a story worth telling.

This MC is an MC who has lost their faith in heroes and gets proven wrong by people they didn’t think could be true heroes. As such they are less of an active and more of a passive protagonist. I see no wrong in that.

Edit: If my plan was to focus more on the MC’s place in society, then I would have probably went the route with an MC with a fixed disability. I want to focus more on character interaction, though. It’s still something on my mind, something to take into consideration, though I see no wrong with the MC NOT having a disability.


#13

I think Caregivers are vital. And a story about someone who’s a Caregiver, and all of the difficulties that come with that, interacting with other Caregivers, that’s also an interesting story to tell. It’s probably not the sort of story for me.

And I think it’s a different story, the story of a caregiver, from the story of someone who’s disabled.

I think there’s just so much of a risk of falling into “look at those freaks” even when you don’t intend to.

It’s because that’s usually the sort of story being told. Those sorts of stories are so prevalent they drown out the other type. That the minority person is there to serve as an education tool, and an object lesson, something to be pitied, who’ll probably then tragically die after serving their purpose in the story, to spur the protagonist on. Or they’ll be the best friend, there as comic relief and to be laughed at, or always with a witty comeback, but never actually the protagonist.

The idea of us being a caregiver for an autistic girl does concern me. I think because so often the stories of those with autism are told by people who don’t have autism, and they’re almost always placed in the role of being a burden, and not characterised beyond their autism. I’m assuming you’ve chosen that because you’ve someone close to you who has autism?

So the MC is confronting their own prejudices? Would the same be the case if one of the disabled was a villain? What if they weren’t a good disabled person, but instead extremely angry at the world? What if they were fed up of answering people’s questions and being nice to everyone? What if sometimes they were just so tired and frustrated with it all? What if they weren’t happy and nice and accepting all of the time. What if they were resentful?


#14

I don’t see anything wrong with the MC not having a disability either. It seems like a good call for a story revolving around a caregiver. I like the idea that the MC won’t be the one with the powers for once, making the disabled characters in some ways more powerful, more “able” than the MC. That’s actually really beautiful imo.

I strongly disagree with you on this one. You can’t just exclude a group of people when speaking about topics such as racism or sexuality based on their race or sexuality - that would be racist and sexist. White cis hetero males have just as much to say about those topics as anyone else, and a story starring such a person as the protagonist wouldn’t be any less valid or insightful.

This doesn’t matter. Just because you didn’t experience something specific doesn’t mean you can’t empathize, and write successfully and accurately about it. From what I’ve read in this post, it looks like @Cirrocumulus has thought long and hard about it, done quite a lot of research and feels confident they can convey several different nuanced points of view on the topic through the characters.

Just because you have a disability doesn’t make you an expert on the topic, people are different, and one disabled person won’t think the same or have the same opinions about it as another. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to play a game made by a disabled person about the topic, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that because they are not disabled, @Cirrocumulus can’t do a fair job of depicting the realities of being disabled… They might even be able to do a better job precisely because they are not disabled and thus have an external perspective that a disabled person might not. What I mean by this is that a disabled person experiences their disability in their own way, and might have a much harder time relating to and portraying another person with the same disability reacting to the disability in a way completely opposite to their own (i.e. one that is very depressed about being paraplegic trying to relate to one that thinks they are lucky). A non-disabled person might have an easier time understanding both attitudes because they are not in that situation themselves.

Anyway, there are so few games about disability that I don’t want to discourage someone, whoever they might be, from creating one. We have not seen the demo for this yet, so there is nothing to criticize. Until we can try the game out ourselves, it’s unfair to assume that @Cirrocumulus will fall into the cliches and the slippery slopes surrounding the topic. It seems obvious from the posts here that @Cirrocumulus is already well aware of the sensitive nature of the topic, and intends to treat it with fairness and nuance. I don’t think we can ask for anything more at this stage. Stay true to your vision, and good luck - I do have high hopes for this one!


#15

I’m not actually saying that anyone should be excluded. I’m just saying that writing from an outsider perspective, while tackling certain issues, is something that I, personally have trouble with. That there’s a lot of pitfalls that should be avoided. I’ve touched upon a few of those.

I was asking the question non-judgmentally. I did not say that the story should not be written. I did not say that @Cirrocumulus should not write it.

Personal experience does matter. Wanting to tell a story about first hand experiences, and second hand experiences, and things you’ve read a lot about, are all different things. I’m not saying that this story shouldn’t be written.

I didn’t say that I was an expert on the topic. I think my own disabilities give me a certain view point, yes. And my own experiences with others who’ve disabilities offers another insight. The reading, and listening, I’ve done again adds to that.

That’s actually a huge problem, the idea that someone who isn’t disabled, is able to tell a better story about being disabled than someone who is. It’s too often that disabled people are silenced, or others speak for them, and don’t listen to what they have to say. It’s a big problem. Able-bodied actors play physically disabled people in movies and on tv, thus denying the jobs to people with those disabilities. Stories about disability either end in tragedy, or are told through the eyes of someone else.

It’s not a neutral viewpoint. It’s one that also has its own biases.


#16

It matters only to an extent imo. I guess it depends on how empathetic the author is. Human emotions are just that, human. It’s not like disabled people have a particular emotion that most of us can’t even begin to relate to, or a train of logical thought alien to non-disabled people.

The specifics of an experience might be different, but the underlying emotions and reactions can be easily understood and we can relate. Take the cliche of a disabled kid getting bullied, is that so different to describe than a gay kid getting the same treatment, or a black kid? The reactions and emotions might differ slightly, but that depends on personality and situation, not really the reason they are bullied. If you can describe anger, frustration, powerlessness, self-loathing, desire for revenge maybe, you can describe the scene regardless of the superficial characteristics of the character. See what I mean? I’ve never been bullied myself, but I can empathize and accurately describe the feelings of the bullied character thanks to other very bad situations I’ve been in.

As for mental disabilities, that’s a little trickier, but again, not entirely unrelatable. A person with autism for example isn’t that hard to relate to, if you do your research, speak to autistic people about their experiences and find similar moments in your own experience and amplify them. An autistic friend explained to me the other day that he had to be careful putting his shoes on to make sure his socks won’t get pulled on too tight because it hurts his toenails. I’m not autistic, but I do the exact same thing. Difference is, he gets excruciating physical pain from it, I’m just uncomfortable. I can easily amplify the experience in my mind until it hurts like hell. It’s easy to see how someone might need to feel in control of the little things when their senses are often overwhelmed. Again, the perceptions differ but the emotions and reasoning underlying all that are the same.

I’m not claiming to know exactly what it’s like to have a certain disability, just like I doubt anyone knows what it’s like to be a medieval princess, fight a dragon or have superpowers. But we can empathize enough and draw on our own experiences to depict all those things as realistically as possible. This is fiction at the end of the day.

What I’m saying isn’t meant to lessen the struggles of other people, different perspectives and first-hand accounts are valuable no doubt about that. We just can’t discount how powerful empathy can be, and how people don’t have to share the exact experience to relate, and be able to do a topic justice.

Sorry, I didn’t mean you specifically, I meant the impersonal “you” that time. Could have probably phrased that better.

I didn’t say someone without a disability is better able to tell a story about disability. I’m just saying that it’s not inconceivable they might. I have no doubt a disabled person can write a beautiful story on the topic (and I would really love to see a game like that), I just think that having a disability doesn’t automatically mean they can, just as not all non-disabled people can do it justice, but some can.

And I certainly didn’t say that should be used as an argument to silence or speak on behalf of disabled people as a result. There is enough room for everyone’s stories, or I should hope so.

All I’m saying is that a work should be judged on its own merit, regardless of the author’s personal characteristics. And since the work in question here isn’t up for demo yet, there’s no reason to worry that @Cirrocumulus won’t do it justice, that the characters might be only characterized by their disability, that they will there to be laughed at or pitied, or that it’ll turn into a “look at those freaks”. Everything OP has said about it so far points to the contrary.

(And correct me if I’m wrong, but I have the feeling you wouldn’t be so concerned about it if @Cirrocumulus had said they were writing from first-hand experience with disability.)


#17

Of course there’s a risk of falling into a trope. But the same can be said by having a disabled MC. “Look at the freak that you are.” But just because there is a risk of that happening, just as there is a risk of letting a gay character fall into stereotypes, doesn’t mean no one should give it a try. If we can’t talk about topics that have a chance of coming across as foul and wrong if not handled with a lot of care, then we shouldn’t try at all.

I know that minorities are often underrepresented in any kind of media. As an asexual I experience at least one of the ways of not being represented. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot enjoy a story about someone who is straight but tries to broaden their horizon. Is the overall feel different from that perspective? Of course it is. But if the author wants to tell such a story, they should go for it. My approach might be a different one compared to your opinion, I guess, since I don’t mind lgbtq+ characters that aren’t the protagonists as long as they are represented in a mature way.

Just because the MC here isn’t disabled doesn’t mean that the characters in my story will be cardboard cutouts. They are still main characters. With their own backstory, opinions and personality.

The fact that the girl is autistic does have to do with that, yes. My former best friend was/is autistic (at least on the spectrum), the friendship broke for other reasons than that though. I am also a huge psychology nerd and read about mental disabilities, disorders and more in my free time. Psychology was also one of my subjects in school, which started my fascination with the human mind and body in general.

You can play the MC as someone who faces their prejudices, if you so choose. Which will result in backlash from certain characters if the MC happens to say something that happens to be entirely prejudiced.

In terms of grey areas - those are there. Disabled people can be buttfaces as much as the next person and should not get a free ticket just because they happen to have a disability. Naturally, not all of the people the MC interacts with will be all nice and kind. I have characters who don’t want powers, characters who are ‘at fault’ for being disabled in the first place but still aren’t necessarily nice people, characters who want to maximise their powers now that they have them, characters who question whether or not it is the right thing to give people powers that counter-act their disability in the first place. And the MC and thus the reader should have the chance to form their own opinion based on that.

It’s completely fine if this isn’t your type of game. But I do plan to touch this subject with a lot of sensitivity and sensibility. If I succeed, that shall be seen. I will always be open to criticism and correct mistakes, should people find that I fall into the mud along the way.

(I am sorry for my late response, as a new user I had to wait 4 hours to post again.)


#18

Fixed that for you.

Now that to me is interesting! Your former best friend being on the spectrum, you wanting to write a story that draws from your own experiences of that, that makes sense to me. Because I would be interested in a story that explores that friendship. Which just doesn’t have us cast in the role of caregiver, but as friend.


#19

I was thinking of astral projection more like “I’m safe at home while a glowing avatar runs my errands for me.” Maybe that wasn’t the right word? You’re right, if spirit-me couldn’t interact with things it’d be pretty useless.

@Cirrocumulus My friends and I have been thinking about powers for disorders since I read this thread, so you definitely have something compelling here. What abilities will Amber and the guy with OCD have?

By the way, would you be interested in hearing the ones we came up with, or do you have your whole cast planned out?


#20

[quote=“FairyGodfeather, post:18, topic:21152, full:true”]Now that to me is interesting! Your former best friend being on the spectrum, you wanting to write a story that draws from your own experiences of that, that makes sense to me. Because I would be interested in a story that explores that friendship. Which just doesn’t have us cast in the role of caregiver, but as friend.
[/quote]

Yes, you certainly end up as more than just a caregiver. I will give the MC a reason to care for Amber, which has to do with the backstory of the MC, though there will be variation whether or not the two of you see eye to eye. The MC doesn’t have to be a fan of children, though they will have a deep connection with Amber no matter what.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! It’s always interesting to see what other people come up with. I have a cast already set up, though am still looking for one or two more people, so new ideas are definitely welcome.

Amber herself has the ability to sense and alter the emotions of other people - while she still has difficulties recognising nuanced emotions, she is very much able to sense them. And since she is a child, she definitely toys around with her ability to manipulate how people feel.

The guy with OCD does not have a fixed ability just yet, actually. I was thinking of an ability that shelters him like a safe space bubble, but am not quite sure yet.

Another character that I can talk a bit more about is Armin Kühn, a blind goofball of a man with a german shepard named Phoenix. Armin has the ability to see through the eyes of every other living being, which makes Phoenix his seeing-eye dog in the literal sense of the word. He’s very much a positive person who finds his new powers all sorts of fun, but he strictly sticks to only using Phoenix unless he’s in a dire situation. Armin has a deep fondness for music, but never bothered to learn an instrument. Instead, he spends most of his free time training Phoenix or learning about space. He’s very much the sort of person to put a meaning behind all sorts of things, and so sees himself as a hero who must do what others cannot, even though he’s normally way too shy to interact much with other people.

There is also William Foe, who, while not being an antagonist in the literal sense, still acts like an asshole despite being bound to a wheelchair and paralysed up to the shoulders. He is a businessman through and through, very rich and the only one to blame for the situation that he is in. He can possess other people’s bodies for limited amounts of time, though never actually uses his powers; since he never wanted them in the first place. So while he is a very polarising sort of person, he sticks to his ideals of “If you make a mistake, you better live with it.” - which is definitely easier when you can get the best that money can buy. He also has no problems with calling people out on what he thinks are wrong opinions. He makes up for this, at least a tiny bit, by having a fondness for terrible puns. If someone is going to use a meme, it’s him.

I’d like to keep the other characters secret for now; you’ll meet one of them in the demo, as well as Amber and Armin.