On Telltale Games’ Ableist Treatment of Sarah

edited August 2014 in The Walking Dead

SOURCE - TUMBLR

For those who aren’t a fan of this once-amazing series, The Walking Dead Game has always been lauded for its character diversity (with a wide range of different nationalities and racial backgrounds represented, well-written female characters and characters of all ages and body types featured prominently throughout the game).
In Season 2 we encountered Sarah, a Hispanic 15-year-old girl who is neurodivergent and has trouble coping with the horrors of the new world around her.

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Now of course, being a female character and being disabled, she was immediately despised by the majority of the fandom. Slurs were tossed around, people frequently referred to her as “a liability”, and there were frequent posts made on Telltale’s forums, Facebook, Youtube, and elsewhere wishing her dead and hoping for a chance to kill her. This was nothing new - we had seen much of this before, with other female characters in the franchise. However, the ableism was rampant, and people would write essays about how she was “bringing the group down” and why her death would be a “good” thing for the other characters.

(spoilers) Her death came after the player was told several times by a pragmatic character that Sarah was dragging the group down, that she was a weakness, and that she “clearly” didn’t want to live (despite the fact that she screams and cries for help the entire time she’s being eaten). Instead of subverting that character’s pragmatism and showing that people with disabilities can still survive an apocalypse, she is killed even if the player chooses to save her (in a horrible manner, where she is partially crushed under a fallen balcony and then devoured alive by walkers as she screams for help). Her death served to further the already-prevalent fandom belief that disabled people are unnecessary weights holding survivors back, and makes total apocalyptic pragmatism look like a justified belief.
Of course, that made us (Sarah fans) angry and upset, especially considering many of us are ourselves neurodivergent (and several autistic teenage fans headcanoned her as being autistic) and the belief that characters like us are just liabilities is extremely hurtful. But that’s not what’s spurring me to make this post today.
Yesterday, Greg Miller of IGN released an episode of 'Playing Dead', a web series where he interviews employees of Telltale Games (the studio that makes TWDG) about various choices and events from the previous episode. This is where things went from bad to absolutely atrocious.
Greg Miller spent the entire segment on Sarah putting her down.

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("Was it really a choice if I was gonna save Sarah? Fuck Sarah, man. I’ve been looking to get out of the Sarah business for quite some time." "Why?" "Cause she sucks!")

He talked about how glad he was to be able to leave her behind, and how happy he was to watch her get eaten.

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("I saw her get torn apart. I was like, 'Yes. Excellent.'")

Now, this would be bad enough. But we know Greg Miller is an asshole to female characters. He has been since Season 1. Where this went wrong, was this part:

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("…there’s just so many people like in the office, on the internet who were just like y'know, 'Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, I can’t wait to get rid of her'")

The two Telltale employees publicly stated that people at Telltale were excited to kill Sarah. That they were waiting for a chance to do so. And that they listened to the ableist casual fandom who hated her and used that to go forward with her eventual pointless death.
They then go on to make a joke about the fact that, in order to save Sarah, the player has to physically assault her while she’s in the middle of a shut-down. They joke that people who hated her wanted to slap her, but that would mean saving her, something they didn’t want to do.

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("So it's just like, 'Oh so you wanted to slap her, but in order to do that you had to want her to be around at the same time.' [Mark laughs]"

The final nail in the coffin for the fandom’s tolerance of this bullshit came from this part of the interview:

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("We meet her for the first time in Episode, I guess at the end of Episode 1, right?" "Yeah." "Where [Clementine] gets to talk to her. Something's off about her." "Something’s off. Yeah." "This isn’t right."

"And I thought at first it was that Carlos [Sarah’s father] was just sheltering her, right? And it was going to turn out that 'Oh, she’s a normal child.'"
"And then it’s like, 'Oh, you're still not normal.'"
"I was like, 'Well, I hate you even more now.' 'Right.' 'And the time has come.'")

He tells the Telltale employees how he feels about Sarah “not being normal” and that he wants her to die for it - and they agree!
This is unacceptable. It is disgusting and unprofessional for a studio to speak openly about how much they were looking forward to killing a disabled character, and to let shitpiles like Greg Miller speak in such an ableist way about her without saying a word in her defense - even agreeing with him. Telltale just posted this interview to their official tumblr an hour ago, meaning they obviously have no remorse and see nothing wrong with how it went.
Disabled and neurodivergent players all over the internet are hurt by this. Several have tried to contact Telltale, to try to get some sort of apology or acknowledgment out of them, to no avail. So many players, myself included, are disappointed that this company - known for diversity and well-handled diverse characters - has botched the treatment of a disabled WoC so badly.

We need to make them aware that this is unacceptable. If anyone could take a few minutes of their time to send Telltale an ask here on tumblr, or better yet, email them (feedback@telltalegames.com) calmly explaining why this is unacceptable and how it harms actual, real disabled people, it would be so greatly appreciated.

The Sarah fandom has been put through so much already. The last thing we need is the creator of the game spewing ableist bullshit that propagates the belief that disabled people are “burdens” and “liabilities”. It has real-world implications, it harms real people, and it needs to be acknowledged.

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Comments

  • This is on the forum now? Good lord. :/

  • Yes it is, because it's important.

    Echopapa posted: »

    This is on the forum now? Good lord.

  • this should be on the forum

  • It's not though. What is this meant to accomplish? So what if Telltale apologise for fans not liking the treatment of her? She's still dead at the end of the day.

    theonys posted: »

    Yes it is, because it's important.

  • edited August 2014

    Tumblr is populated by feminists, and I reckon the article's author is no exception.

    Piggs posted: »

    But we know Greg Miller is an asshole to female characters. Stopped reading it there. While I don't agree with Greg at all, he isn't sexist. That's absurd. This just looks like whiny tumblr bullshit.

  • edited August 2014

    But we know Greg Miller is an asshole to female characters.

    Stopped reading it there. While I don't agree with Greg at all, he isn't sexist. That's absurd. This just looks like whiny tumblr bullshit.

  • Not getting into the debate, but I really don't think whether this topic is important or not is the issue. There are plenty of inane, useless threads on this forum, and no one complains about them. Sure, there might be other reasons you object to this thread, but "importance" shouldn't be one of them.

    Echopapa posted: »

    It's not though. What is this meant to accomplish? So what if Telltale apologise for fans not liking the treatment of her? She's still dead at the end of the day.

  • He tells the Telltale employees how he feels about Sarah “not being normal” and that he wants her to die for it - and they agree! This is unacceptable.

    I know she's dead. And I myself not a big part of Sarah, but I still think that killing off characters like that should stop.

    Echopapa posted: »

    It's not though. What is this meant to accomplish? So what if Telltale apologise for fans not liking the treatment of her? She's still dead at the end of the day.

  • I'm just curious what this thread is trying to achieve. Even if Telltale acknowledge it... then what?

    Not getting into the debate, but I really don't think whether this topic is important or not is the issue. There are plenty of ina

  • You've hit the nail on the head there.

    Lingvort posted: »

    Tumblr is populated by feminists, and I reckon the article's author is no exception.

  • She's their character, they can do whatever the hell they want with her. The nodding and agreeing is called being polite and civil - they're being interviewed and acknowledging his choices! It's bad PR to argue with his choices "WELL HOW COULD YOU DO OR SAY SUCH A THING!"

    It's the walking dead dude, people die all the time in unfair ways.

    theonys posted: »

    He tells the Telltale employees how he feels about Sarah “not being normal” and that he wants her to die for it - and they agree!

  • If it takes effort and reduces the probability of everyone else's survival, it's a burden. Period. That's Sarah in a nutshell. Physically paralyzed people didn't do all that well in the zombie apocalypse, either. It's not ableist bullshit to acknowledge that, it's the post-apocalyptic reality when there's an ever-present menace waiting to rip everyone apart that it can get its hands on.

  • does it really matter? what matters is the content of what Greg and Telltale said. it's not as if every female on the planet are bugging Telltale because of what was said,it's the issues it raises,very delicate emotional issues NOBODY should joke about

    Lingvort posted: »

    Tumblr is populated by feminists, and I reckon the article's author is no exception.

  • "OMG YOU THINK PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES SHOULD DIE?! YOU ABLEIST SCUMBAG."

    I don't know how some people jump to that conclusion, but somehow they achieve it. I think it takes a decent amount of effort for some of the people on the forum to twist words the way they do.

    If it takes effort and reduces the probability of everyone else's survival, it's a burden. Period. That's Sarah in a nutshell. Phy

  • Yes, it does. I agree with the notion that what Greg said and how Telltale agreed with him was bad, I, however, disagree with the fact that Greg suddenly hates female characters. Feminists simply can't write articles like that without accusing the supposed offender of misogyny. So, yeah, it does matter.

    Clemmy1 posted: »

    does it really matter? what matters is the content of what Greg and Telltale said. it's not as if every female on the planet are b

  • So we can't say jokes anymore? What happened to Freedom of Speech?

    Clemmy1 posted: »

    does it really matter? what matters is the content of what Greg and Telltale said. it's not as if every female on the planet are b

  • Agreed. I'm more angry at how Greg Miller talk about her.

    If it takes effort and reduces the probability of everyone else's survival, it's a burden. Period. That's Sarah in a nutshell. Phy

  • Feminist radicals happened.

    So we can't say jokes anymore? What happened to Freedom of Speech?

  • edited August 2014

    Though there is a difference between recognizing and eliminating a liability out of necessity, and deriving intense glee from watching a kid getting brutally killed, Mr. Miller.

    If it takes effort and reduces the probability of everyone else's survival, it's a burden. Period. That's Sarah in a nutshell. Phy

  • True dat.

    Echopapa posted: »

    Feminist radicals happened.

  • the hating of female characters vs the pathetic comments of hating the character because of a disability pale in comparison

    Lingvort posted: »

    Yes, it does. I agree with the notion that what Greg said and how Telltale agreed with him was bad, I, however, disagree with the

  • If so, why bring it up at all? There's enough besides "Greg is known for being an asshole to female characters" to talk about, and yet it is brought up as if it is somehow relevant.

    Clemmy1 posted: »

    the hating of female characters vs the pathetic comments of hating the character because of a disability pale in comparison

  • sure you can :)

    So we can't say jokes anymore? What happened to Freedom of Speech?

  • It was not like that. He didn't mean that 'people with disabilities should die' BUT he was actually happy this one in particular did. That's what is wrong.

    Echopapa posted: »

    "OMG YOU THINK PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES SHOULD DIE?! YOU ABLEIST SCUMBAG." I don't know how some people jump to that conclusion

  • She openly identifies as such in her profile, so yes.

    That doesn't make her automatically wrong. Greg Miller may very well be an asshole to female characters. I don't follow him, so I don't know.

    Yet when someone who loudly proclaims themselves a feminist starts playing the misogyny card, I do need to see the evidence before I put a lot of stock in it. It's very easy to find any kind of prejudice, whether it's actually there or not, if you spend a good portion of your time looking for it.

    Lingvort posted: »

    Tumblr is populated by feminists, and I reckon the article's author is no exception.

  • That's true, I hated every second of it. I wish we could have at least had the option to put her out of her misery before she was eaten.

    Though there is a difference between recognizing and eliminating a liability out of necessity, and deriving intense glee from watching a kid getting brutally killed, Mr. Miller.

  • Exactly my point.

    Clemmy1 posted: »

    i don't know i didn't write the post,they should probably have left that part out of it,it means nothing next to disability issue.

  • Can't disagree there.

    She openly identifies as such in her profile, so yes. That doesn't make her automatically wrong. Greg Miller may very well be a

  • i don't know i didn't write the post,they should probably have left that part out of it,it means nothing next to disability issue.

    Lingvort posted: »

    If so, why bring it up at all? There's enough besides "Greg is known for being an asshole to female characters" to talk about, and yet it is brought up as if it is somehow relevant.

  • Exactly. It IS wrong to enjoy a characters death. But somehow people seem to think that people who didn't like Sarah (I was pretty happy with her tagging along, she could have been my apprentice in apocalypse survival!) HATE people with disabilities and believe they deserve to die, when that's clearly not the case.

    theonys posted: »

    It was not like that. He didn't mean that 'people with disabilities should die' BUT he was actually happy this one in particular did. That's what is wrong.

  • edited August 2014

    guys i think your missing the bigger picture here... this isn't about femininity

    She openly identifies as such in her profile, so yes. That doesn't make her automatically wrong. Greg Miller may very well be a

  • edited August 2014

    I think that for some, it comes off that Sarah haters have low tolerance for people like her. Which is, quite frankly, sad. It was the same way with Duck in season 1, who was also speculated to have a mental disability. Even if they didn't, though, it's disgusting to see people get so happy over their deaths.

    Echopapa posted: »

    Exactly. It IS wrong to enjoy a characters death. But somehow people seem to think that people who didn't like Sarah (I was pretty

  • This has been taken too far as I said in my thread. Greg Miller's a fucking asshat, we all know that without a doubt... But Jason and Mark never really agreed with him; they compared his opinion to the rest of the playerbase and hinted at how they found it interesting. They then mentioned that even their own office was split in terms of what was morally right.

    Also, the notion that disabled people would be a burden in a zombie apocalypse situation is completely right. I'm dyspraxic and I'm not afraid to admit this. Of course someone who struggles to cope both physically and mentally is going to be hugely stunted when it comes to surviving in such a harsh world.

  • No, and she's absolutely right that Greg Miller's reaction to Sarah's death was tasteless and disgusting, as was the spineless reaction of the Telltale reps who were so quick to agree with him. I would very much like to see Telltale apologize, though Telltale is so awful at PR and keeping in touch with their fans that I'm dubious we'll ever see it.

    Just sayin', flinging out random accusations of misogyny, without presenting a speck of evidence, weakens her other accusations. If she actually has a case on that front, she'd have been better off just leaving the issue for some other time.

    Clemmy1 posted: »

    guys i think your missing the bigger picture here... this isn't about femininity

  • To be honest I loved Duck, annoying as he was :P

    Lahkesis posted: »

    I think that for some, it comes off that Sarah haters have low tolerance for people like her. Which is, quite frankly, sad. It was

  • Me too. I seem to like all the characters that get the most hate. XD

    Echopapa posted: »

    To be honest I loved Duck, annoying as he was :P

  • You can't help who you like, just don't be ashamed of it :)

    Lahkesis posted: »

    Me too. I seem to like all the characters that get the most hate. XD

  • edited August 2014

    I think the bigger issue concerning disabled people and Sarah is that you shouldn't react to their deaths with vindictive glee. It's one thing to realize that someone is being a burden and finding it necessary to eliminate them to ensure everyone else's safety. But acting like it's Christmas morning upon watching this supposed burden suffer one of the most painful and brutal deaths in the series thus far is... pretty disturbing.

    Hazzer posted: »

    This has been taken too far as I said in my thread. Greg Miller's a fucking asshat, we all know that without a doubt... But Jason

  • Yeah, of course, and that's my big issue with Greg Miller. Fortunately I honestly don't think Telltale share the same view... Writers such as themselves who have the role of creating stories heavily involving ethics are surely aware that that's... Well, fucked up. They nodded their heads and awkwardly chuckled with Greg because it was the easiest way of making him shut up and move on.

    I think the bigger issue concerning disabled people and Sarah is that you shouldn't react to their deaths with vindictive glee. It

  • ElliasEllias Banned
    edited August 2014

    [removed]

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