One Fallout 76 player who uses a wheelchair asked for representation in her favorite game, and Bethesda obliged in the recent Steel Dawn expansion.
In what is both a heartwarming story and a great PR move, Fallout 76 has added a wheelchair to camp building sites following a fan request. The visibility of differently-abled characters in video games is rather low, even in an age where diversity has become a priority for many studios around the world. While there may be an older gentleman threatening a hero or bouncing off moon men with a cane every once in a while, depictions of devices like wheelchairs rarely appear in mainstream releases. Those that do feature such characters include Life is Strange, and the Sly Cooper series.
This lack of representation is all the more disappointing in an atmosphere where gamers who have disabilities are getting the chance to play all sorts of releases that they never could before. In-game options like difficulty modifiers and color blindness modes assist players who need an extra boost. For those with physical ailments, Microsoft introduced the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This is a white box controller with touchpads that syncs up with and hooks into many existing interaction devices in order to provide everyone with the same opportunity to play the latest and greatest gaming experiences.
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One wheelchair-using Fallout 76 fan named Kelly asked Bethesda via Reddit post to add her mobility aid to the game in some way, and the game’s community got behind her in a big way. A month after the initial request, the prop was added to the game in the Steel Dawn expansion as a furniture item in camps that players can sit in. It’s not a full representation of Kelly’s disability, but she seemed happy with the results of her request in an interview with Kotaku.
“Seeing one of my favourite games actually listen to me, and include something like that in the game… absolutely no words. I genuinely shed a tear today when I opened the workshop menu and saw the chair.”
Alongside the lovely addition of a usable wheelchair, the Steel Dawn update continues Bethesda’s work in making Fallout 76 the best online RPG it can be. Having already added NPCs to the wasteland, Steel Dawn brings the return of the Brotherhood of Steel and a new questline that concerns them. Bethesda has also rebalanced the hunger and thirst systems, removing the negative effects of neglecting them. Instead Fallout 76 now simply rewards players for keeping their in-game avatar full and hydrated. It’s a system that’s worked in Fallout games in the past, and something that many players will be happy to start utilizing when they next log in.
Frivolities and patch notes aside, the story of Kelly and her Fallout 76 wheelchair is truly a great one that should be duplicated across the industry. While covering the entire range of disabilities in many styles of games could prove to be a difficult task, developers and publishers should always look for a way to improve representation and let even those who feel the most socially isolated feel welcome in the virtual worlds that only gaming can provide.
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