Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Virtual Reality, Disability, and Futurity Cripping Technologies in Half-Life: Alyx

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2022), 16, (1), 59–75.

Abstract

The article takes up Valve’s 2020 science fiction virtual reality (VR) game Half-Life: Alyx as a site through which to explore the complex relationship between bodies, technology, and disability. It discusses the way that VR inadvertently challenges both the fantasy of hyperable-bodiedness found in action-adventure, first-person shooter, and science fiction video games, and the myth of digital disembodiment—the idea that we can (and perhaps should desire to) transcend the physical body through digital avatars. Technology has an intimate relationship with pain, discomfort, and physicality, and this analysis of VR and Alyx foregrounds the messiness of embodied bionic encounters. Within the science fiction alternate reality of the game, technology plays a key role, often explicitly enhancing or augmenting the body. In an imaginative turn, the article takes up drones, gravity gloves, and the telephone headset as objects through which to fashion a more feminist and ethical future. Engaging in imaginative “criptastic hacking” (Yergeau in Hamraie and Fritsch 4), the article discusses potential ways of using technology as access aids, enacting a “cripped cyborg politics” (Kafer 106) and exploring the intimate relationships between organic and inorganic bodies.

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Author details

Jerreat-Poole, Adan