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In Session: Representing Disability in Japanese Videogames
3: Method in Madness: Detecting Disability in Japanese Detective Videogames
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Tsugumi (Mimi) Okabe
University of Alberta, Canada
The representation of disability in the genre of detective fiction has been thematically explored by several scholars (Mintz 2019; Cheyne 2017; Berger 2005; Frith 2003). The extent to which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes can be read as an “autistic” detective hero has been critically addressed in the wake of popular TV adaptations such as BBC’s Sherlock (Broyles 2016; Loftis 2015). According to Loftis, “Today, he [Holmes] is the literary character most commonly associated with autism in the popular imagination” (23). However, little critical attention has been paid to such depictions of the British detective in the medium of videogames in North America and abroad. In this presentation, I will take up how Holmes’s so-called “cognitive disability” is represented in Japanese videogames that feature detectives modelled after or are inspired by Conan Doyle’s stories such as the Meitantei Konan franchise created by Bandai Namco for the Nintendo DS. Specifically, this paper seeks to answer the following questions: In what ways do detectives in videogames negotiate the boundaries between the “strange” and “norm,” and between the detective and criminal? And what might this reveal about Japanese cultural expressions, or constructions of “shôgai”? Situating my work in relation to studies that intersect topics of disability and Japanese video games (Hutchinson 2019; Whaley 2016; Stevens 2013), I will investigate how representations of disability in mystery adventure games are either erased or utilized as a means to construct an image of the (foreign) other, and that its depiction(s) exist on this continuum.