Adeline Loh

This paper takes Yakuza 0, a retrospective prequel and standalone entry to the Yakuza digital game franchise from Japan, as a case study for disabled feminine bodies vis-à-vis their male counterparts in game narratives. Of note is Makimura Makoto, a downtrodden Chinese-Japanese woman experiencing post-traumatic psychogenic blindness, who serves as the unwitting kingpin of the yakuza’s schemes. This paper posits that a reading of the game’s narrative (as supplemented by its gameplay mechanics) through the critical lens of disability studies offers a more affective and recuperative understanding of the game’s treatment of its marginalised characters. This paper first seeks to intervene in the game’s embodied and gendered power dynamics by attending to the body politics of its fictitious criminal underworld. Correspondingly, this paper troubles the game’s presentation of disability as a gendered performance, wherein feminine bodies disproportionately experience the material consequences and trauma of their disabilities, framed as pivotal narrative movements that spur the game’s male protagonists forward. Ultimately, this paper works towards a more empathetic reading of Yakuza 0 as a roadmap for how the franchise and digital games at large can address disability as a compounding, ever-evolving relational condition in addition to its physical and/or mental dimensions.

body politics, digital games, disability studies, game studies, gender, narrative, Yakuza 0.


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