The development team of the upcoming Batman spinoff game Gotham Knights have changed Batgirl, AKA Barbara Gordon's biographical description after criticism that its depiction of her disability was ableist.
Eurogamer reported that during a Discord Q&A, fans asked about Batgirl's development in Gotham Knights after backlash to her character's biography on the game's website, which described her as training to "recover from her wounds" so that she could "return to active duty as Batgirl".
In the 1988 original comic The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon was shot in the spine by Joker, leading to her using a wheelchair. Her paralysis was intended to be permanent and she became Oracle until the editorial decision was made in 2011 to give her the ability to walk again so that she could be Batgirl again. While she may not have the exact same backstory in Gotham Knights, Warner Bros. previously stated Barbara was in a wheelchair following a "face-off" just to hedge its bets.
Some fans criticized Warner Bros. for this description, saying it was a misused trope to have a character 'overcome' their disability through heroic training and gritty determination. Gotham Knights creative director Patrick Redding has since revealed the team has "worked with the awesome folks at AbleGamers to learn about different types of spinal injuries and the potential for someone to regain mobility." Redding said the team had now changed some of its wording in her description in response to the feedback.
"As with many of our characters and plot elements, the circumstances around Barbara's injuries differ in some important ways from how it's been portrayed in the comics," he stated. "Barbara has been through multiple surgeries followed by a lot of physical therapy and pain management [in Gotham Knights]."
Barbara's ongoing rehabilitation will be witnessed throughout the game, and players will see Barbara doing various exercises and stretches in the Belfry. Her clothes, both her normal attire and the Batgirl suit, will have "back bracing integrated" into it. In the comics, Barbara's miraculous recovery was achieved through a Science Fictional spinal implant that doesn't exist in real life, since it's easier to handwave a real handicap away in comics with something completely made-up.
Gotham Knights is due to release on October 25th for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.