As a wheelchair user I applaud Crystal Dynamics for going out of its way to include a wheelchair-using character in Marvel’s Avengers. It’s heartening to see someone with a disability taking part in the grand battle between good and evil. I just wish Cerise had more to do than just scoot back and forth in place.
Minor Marvel’s Avengers story spoilers below.
Cerise and her twin brother Theo are a pair of blue-skinned Inhumans who show up midway through Avengers’ campaign story. Cerise is first mentioned by Theo, who tells the player they’ll run into his sister rolling around the Inhuman resistance’s base. Initially I expected a character with some sort of rolling power, maybe morphing into a ball Metroid-style, but no, Cerise is one of my people.
Cerise is French for Cherry, named after Cherry Thompson, an accessibility expert Crystal Dynamics brought in for feedback on the game. The developers went as far as doing basic motion capture of Cherry in her wheelchair. When Cerise’s hands move, those are Cherry’s hands moving. The wheelchair’s wheels don’t rotate, but it’s a neat effect and much cooler than just dropping a static character model into a mobility device.
That said, it’s not a very mobile mobility device. I was expecting more from Cerise, given how Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics hyped her inclusion back in May. Instead she sits in one place, next to a desk that’s too high for her, endlessly rolling back and forth. I want to know more about this intriguing character. I want to see her tooling about the base. I would love to see her powers in action.
Did I not mention her powers? Cerise, like her brother Theo, is a teleporter. She can open portals to just about anywhere. Considering there is only one ramp in the Inhuman resistance camp, which Cerise is sitting atop, I’m guessing she teleported herself there in the first place.
Wheelchair-using characters can and should be doing a lot more in video games. I’m not talking about B.J. from Wolfenstein going on an implausible rolling murder spree through a German U-boat. I’m talking about Bentley from Sly Cooper rolling about in his chair, leaping through the air propelled by rocket boosters.
Seeing a character in a wheelchair gives me the warm fuzzies. Playing as a character in a wheelchair is so much better. It doesn’t need to be complex. Apple Arcade launch game Cardpocalypse from developer Gambrinous features a main character named Jess who rolls from card battle to card battle in her chair. The chair doesn’t change the dynamic of the game. It’s not a huge deal. It’s just something used to get from point A to point B. Such a small thing, yet it means so much.
Cerise is not a playable character. That’s okay. She could still have a lot more to do. Remember Joker from Mass Effect? Aside from a brief playable stint in Mass Effect 2, Normandy’s pilot is a non-player character who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta. He’s a wheelchair user, but he’s also a central figure in the story. Some might even call the Seth Green-voiced spaceman adorable. He’s certainly memorable.
It’s not like Marvel shies away from sending disabled heroes into action. X-Men mentor Professor X has an on again, off again relationship with walking, and that’s never slowed him down. Takeshi Matsuya, also known as Wiz Kid, used his technoforming ability to reconfigure his wheelchair into all sorts of imaginative weapons.
Maybe Cerise will do more in Marvel’s Avengers as the game’s roster expands, adding new adventures and expanding the game’s already expansive narrative. Heck, it’s a pretty big game, maybe she’s featured in a side mission I just haven’t gotten to yet. Her brother Theo has multiple scenes in the campaign. Perhaps she’s only waiting for the right moment to pop in and save the day. Sure, she is in a wheelchair in a facility filled with stairs, but she can teleport. That’s such an outstanding power. If I could teleport, I’d be at the Lego Store at the mall right now, sipping an Orange Julius. I would certainly be more active in the fight against A.I.M. over the fate of the Inhuman race.