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Semantic Saturation

Much as our spiritual predecessor was dubbed a 'cripple porn game', from the outset our game has received the pejorative of a 'retard porn game' (to paraphrase and collate the general reaction, which generally ranges from hesitant to hostile). I do think that maintaining a healthy level of skepticism is good to keep around you, and I honestly don't expect anyone to have good feelings about the project till we have at least a sample of work out in the public eye. Still, I would say that our acquisition of our particular label is, to an extent, a fault of our initial titling and billing of the project.

As many of you will probably remember, our working title was Mentaru Shoujo (a title we had never intended to keep), and it was described as a game based around the concept of mental disabilities. There are obviously a lot of problems here, and I'll try to go a bit in depth with them.

Obviously, the original title, apart from being a bit derivative, does evoke the word 'mental'. This, academically, only means things of or pertaining to the mind. Of course the connotation, especially in this context, would roughly equate to 'loony', 'crazy', or 'insane'. While tropes of beautiful, mad women do persist in popular culture, the idea of it being taken to and, possibly fetishized, to such an extreme would be off putting, and the title would only reinforce that further.

Second is our use of the word disability. There was a post on the forums that got me particularly thinking about this:

The phrases "mental disorder" and "mental disability" show up quite frequently in posts here, even though said phrases are considerably outdated (i.e., ambiguous and potentially offensive) and refer to distinct sets of conditions.
- Emotional disturbance
- Personality disorder
- Intellectual disability
These are the terms used in standard language among modern psychologists and medical professionals (i.e., NIH and APA policy) and I was wondering if the devs would chime in on the vocabulary, and maybe shed some light on the parameters of the stories they'd be telling?
I think a lot of the immediate outrage people sometimes exhibit upon hearing the premise of this project could be succinctly addressed with responses to this particular question!
For a while now I had been switching over from using disability to disorder in common parlance. While both are technically correct, though the former being much less politically correct, the meanings they imply are wildly different. Disability obviously suggests an impairment, and while it was fine to use for Katawa Shoujo because that's what it was, paired with 'mental' it suddenly seems a lot more insidious. An eroge about mental disabilities suddenly raises a lot of issues about informed consent. Since a disability is an impairment, a disability of the mind means someone's brain functioning in a way that impairs some aspect of their thinking, and the first place our brain leaps to is in the cognitive areas. For its connotations, it's basically interchangeable with handicapped.

Disorder, which is still broad enough to encompass the different conditions of our heroines, does not bring to mind the same picture as disability. What it simply refers to is something working not as it should, or in a manner different from the way it should. So, in this case, it would simply mean that the character's brains works differently, not worse. Big difference there. And of course, all the conditions of our characters are disorders. A quick look at that list should tell you the sort of thing we're dealing with.

Also note that cannibalism is not listed.

The distinction between the two terms isn't always apparent, and it can still be hard to grasp. Of course someone with a disorder is still [arguably] disadvantaged to someone who doesn't have one, but the two words somehow imply two very different things in our mind. 

Anyway, you've been very good for putting up with my musings on this subject, so I'll reward you with an image. It seems that Annaliese lacks an image displaying anything below her shoulders, so here you are:

image by Mike Inel


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