Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers’ benchmark is available to download now, with character creation

Following the 51st Final Fantasy 14 Letter from the Producer, the benchmark for the upcoming expansion, Shadowbringers, was released.

Using the benchmark tool, players can test out how their systems will handle the game, as well as get a first peek at its new features, including fancy job skills, the two new races, and the upcoming artifact gear for level 80 characters.

Similar to previous benchmarks, players will be able to use the character creator to make a special level 80 FF14 character. From there, you’ll be able to test out new abilities and wear the latest gear. You can even save the character’s design so that it will immediately load in the normal game when the full expansion officially releases. Note that this means you’ll be loading in the character you made, but it won’t be the same high level it is in the benchmark.

The Letter from the Producer stream also revealed a ton of details about upcoming job changes, upgrades to the user-interface, and general changes to the battle system. The video should be available in full on the game’s YouTube channel in the coming hours.

Shadowbringers releases on June 28 in early access for players who pre-order the expansion and on July 2 for everyone else. Final Fantasy 14 and its expansions are playable on Windows, Mac, and PlayStation 4.


Report: Knights of the Old Republic movie in the works

A report in Buzzfeed News says that a Star Wars movie based on classic LucasArts role-playing game Knights of the Old Republic is currently in development.

No release date is known, and the movie has not been confirmed by Lucasfilm. But according to the report, the script is being written by Laeta Kalogridis, who is known for her script work on Alexander and Shutter Island, among other projects.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was developed by BioWare and published by LucasArts in 2003. The highly regarded game was set thousands of years before the events of the core movie series.

Last month, MTV News interviewed Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and asked her about a KOTOR movie. “We talk about that all the time,” she said. “Yes, we are developing something to look at. Right now I have no idea where things might fall.”

You can follow Lucasfilm’s various Star Wars plans here.


Anti-loot box bill could radically change how video games are sold

Democratic and Republican senators can hardly agree on what to order for lunch, but as of Thursday they seem to agree that the video game industry requires additional government oversight. Proposed legislation could ban loot boxes and other kinds of microtransactions, and its co-sponsors include members from both major parties. The devil is in the details, of course, and the bill itself could have far reaching implications for the game industry.

The full text of the proposed bill is available online. Its intention is to “regulate certain pay-to-win microtransactions and sales of loot boxes.” In order to do so, it first has to define what those things are.

According to the proposed bill, a pay-to-win microtransaction means:

An add-on transaction to a interactive digital entertainment product that […] eases a user’s progression through content otherwise available within the game without the purchase of such transaction; assists a user in accomplishing an achievement within the game that can otherwise be accomplished without the purchase of such transaction; assists a user in receiving an award associated with the game that is otherwise available in association with the game without the purchase of such transaction; or permits a user to continue to access content of the game that had previously been accessible to the user but has been made inaccessible after the expiration of a timer or a number of gameplay attempts; or with respect to an interactive digital entertainment product that, from the perspective of a reasonable user of the product, is a game featuring competition with other users, provides a user with a competitive advantage with respect to the game’s competitive aspects over users who do not make such a transaction.

The only exclusions listed in the bill are additional difficulty modes, cosmetic items, and downloadable expansions. So, if a company wanted to charge for a new game plus mode, they could do that. Also, the sale of skins in Fortnite and new content expansions for The Elder Scrolls Online would be perfectly acceptable.

But, these guidelines as written leave a lot open to interpretation. Would it call into question selling experience point boosters in games like Anthem, Destiny 2, and World of Tanks? What about the practice of selling access to characters in Mortal Kombat 11 and Apex Legends, and even new Champions in League of Legends? Do we get to the point where, somewhere in the future, senators are arguing whether or not a particular weapon or perk is overpowered and should not be for sale?

Loot boxes are somewhat more narrowly defined:

An add-on transaction […] that in a randomized or partially randomized fashion unlocks a feature of the product; adds to or enhances the entertainment value of the product; or allows the user to make 1 or more additional add-on transactions that the user could not have made without making the first add-on transaction; and the content of which is unknown to the user until after the user has made the first add-on transaction.

So the loot boxes from Star Wars Battlefront 2, the ones which were so controversial that Electronic Arts voluntarily removed them from the game, would be straight out. But that language also calls into question the practice of selling randomized packs of cards in games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering — Arena.

The wrinkle is that these prohibitions don’t apply to everyone, necessarily. The bill pokes at a soft spot in the industry’s underbelly: how it targets children.

The bill would specifically prohibit pay-to-win microtransactions and loot boxes “in minor-oriented games,” meaning games that are geared toward children under 18. That seems fair enough. But the proposed bill would go even further than that. It would also prohibit pay-to-win microtransactions and loot boxes in games “where the publisher or distributor has constructive knowledge that any users are under age 18.”

Constructive knowledge, as it turns out, is very different from actual knowledge, according to Georgetown Law professor Angela Campbell.

“Actual knowledge is a subjective test,” Campbell tells Polygon via email. “It asks whether the company in fact knew that minors were using the service. Constructive knowledge is an objective standard. It asks whether the operator knew or should have known that minors were using the service.”

Essentially, if children can get access and play a video game, then there is a real risk that this bill would force developers, publishers, and distributors to grapple with the fact that children are playing that video game. And it would allow the Federal Trade Commission, who would be chartered with enforcement on this bill, to force those companies to do the grappling on the public stage.

The FAQ document that was released alongside the proposed bill puts it quite plainly: “The onus should be on developers to deter child consumption of products that foster gambling and similarly compulsive purchasing behavior,” it says, “just as is true in other industries that restrict access to certain kinds of products and forms of entertainment to adult consumers.”

Applying the constructive knowledge test to video games has the real potential to throw up barriers between consumers and the games they want to play. But those barriers may need to be strengthened in order to verifiably keep children out.

“Constructive knowledge requires the operator to make reasonable inferences and at least in some cases, investigate,” Campbell continues. “For example, the operator of a social media service that says in its terms of service that it is only for use by persons over age 13, and yet anyone who uses the service can see that many young children use it to post videos of themselves, would have constructive knowledge that children were on the service. It probably would have actual knowledge as well, but actual knowledge is harder to prove.”

The Electronic Software Association is understandably up in arms over this. When Polygon specifically asked about the concept of constructive knowledge, the ESA offered a previously prepared statement, attributed to CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis.

This legislation is flawed and riddled with inaccuracies. It does not reflect how video games work nor how our industry strives to deliver innovative and compelling entertainment experiences to our audiences. The impact of this bill would be far-reaching and ultimately prove harmful to the player experience, not to mention the more than 220,000 Americans employed by the video game industry. We encourage the bill’s co-sponsors to work with us to raise awareness about the tools and information in place that keep the control of video game play and in-game spending in parents’ hands rather than in the government’s.

The bill right now is just a proposal, but bipartisan support gives it momentum that few things in Washington, D.C. have at the moment. It casts a spotlight on the industry, and even discussing the details of the bill could have implications for how video game makers earn their money in the future. The industry may need to consider more strict age verification, which could potentially limit the audience for its games. Otherwise, both pay-to-win microtransactions and loot boxes may need to go.


Cresselia, Kyogre, and Groudon return to Pokémon Go raids for June and July

Niantic has announced the Legendary Pokémon that will be in Pokémon Go raids for the next two months: Cresselia, Kyogre, and Groudon.

Cresselia will grace raids from May 27 at 4 p.m. ET until June 18 at 4 p.m. ET.

Kyogre will be around from June 18 at 4 p.m. ET until June 27 at 4 p.m. ET.

Groudon will take its place on June 27 at 4 p.m. ET until July 10 at 4 p.m. ET.

All three of these Legendaries have been featured in tier five raids in the past, but they’re making a return for a couple weeks each during the summer. All three of the Pokémon will have a chance to appear Shiny. The Shiny rate for these Legendaries should be about one in 19.

Kyogre and Groudon are very good water- and ground-type attackers, respectively. Unfortunately, Cresselia is more of a Pokédex filler and doesn’t fair super well as an attacker. Nonetheless, if you missed these ‘mons before, or if you just want to try and grab their Shiny versions, now is your chance.


Mortal Kombat 11, One Month Later

It’s been one month since the release of Mortal Kombat 11. One month of arguing over microtransactions. One month of nightmare-inducing violence. One month of cringing every time Sonya Blade opens her mouth. The first month of what’s sure to be years of very good fighting. Here’s what happened in that month.

  • On April 20, three days before Mortal Kombat 11‘s launch, a post on the Test Your Might fan forums detailed some early issues with the game. Problems cited included poor difficulty tuning in the game’s Towers of Time challenges and poor rewards for completing said challenges. There was also a punishing gear system requiring that players spend substantial time and in-game gold to augment equipment and randomized loot drops in the game’s Krypt, making earning character-specific skins, fatalities, and equipment more difficult.
  • The Test Your Might post was aggregated on Reddit shortly after it was posted, becoming a warning to players about Mortal Kombat 11‘s “draconian” grind walls. The post suggested the random Krypt rewards and difficult challenges were purposefully designed to steer players towards real-money microtransactions. In reality, the game’s microtransactions turned out to be pretty reasonable.
The game’s premium shop features five rotating items for sale every 24 hours.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 launched for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch on April 23. Gaming sites, including this one, praised the game for its accessibility, phenomenal tutorial, and emotionally-charged story mode. Review site Metacritic was swamped with negative user reviews, many citing rampant monetization and microtransactions that, once again, do not exist. Other subjects touched on in negative user reviews include the desexualization of the game’s female characters and a perceived “SJW” agenda, illustrated by an arcade story ending in which the character Jax goes back in time to prevent slavery.
  • The Nintendo Switch and PC versions of Mortal Kombat 11 aren’t quite in sync with the Xbox One’s and PlayStation 4’s. While developer Netherrealm Studios focused on the PS4 and Xbox One, QLOC created the PC version and Shiver Entertainment handled the Switch port. This lead to inconsistencies between the versions at launch. Some moves worked differently in the PC version, and the Nintendo game launched without character-specific tutorials. Subsequent updates have brought all versions of the game more in line with one another.
  • On the day of the game’s launch, Netherrealm promised a patch to reduce the difficulty of the Towers of Time challenges and increase rewards for completing in-game goals, making unlocking new items in the Krypt easier. On April 26, publisher Warner Bros. released a road map covering upcoming patches and updates for all four versions of the game. The updates also rewarded early players for their patience, giving them a pile of in-game currency to help unlock items in the Krypt. Patches rolled out over the next couple of weeks, first to Xbox One and PS4, with Switch and PC straggling behind. The PC version got its most recent patch on May 14, reducing the requirements for completing character towers.

While it got off to a bumpy start, Mortal Kombat 11 seems to be doing just fine.


The fight between Fortnite star Tfue and Faze is only getting messier

Over the last few days, the video game world has been rocked by a controversy involving a top Fortnite player and an influential lifestyle brand, FaZe Clan. While on the surface the debacle seems like a fight over one player’s contract, the quarrel has huge implications for video game influencers and esports as a whole.

Turner “Tfue” Tenney is a 21-year-old video game athlete who is widely considered one of the best Fornite players around. Not only has Tenney won many Fortnite tournaments and accrued hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, he is currently also the most-watched Fortnite streamer on Twitch. Recent Fortnite World Cup qualifier broadcasts have Tenney reaching over 230,000 viewers, beating out stars like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Turner’s YouTube channel, meanwhile, garners millions of views with each upload. Tfue may be the most famous video game player on the planet right now.

FaZe Clan, meanwhile, is an organization that represents various esports players across multiple video game franchises, though in many ways, FaZe represents much more than competitive video games. Players brought onto FaZe Clan function personalities in addition to athletes, and much of FaZe’s presence and impact in video games can be seen on YouTube vlogs, not just well as high-level gameplay. This wrinkle in FaZe’s approach to esports is exactly what underpins the problems going on with Turner Tenney right now.

A selection of FaZe Clan’s recent YouTube videos
FaZe Clan

Tenney signed a contract with FaZe Clan in 2018, and subsequently blew up — not just as a competitive player, but as a brand. In 2019, it seems that Tenney has outgrown an organization like FaZe Clan, as he is by far the most famous person on the roster. The problem, however, is that Tenney signed a three-year deal with FaZe Clan, only to later realize that he had signed a terrible deal. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Turner can only keep 20 percent of revenue from branded videos, and 50 percent of his touring and appearance fees. FaZe Clan can also claim up to 80 percent of a finder’s fee for deals it brings to the table, and can keep Tenney from pursuing promotions that are deemed a conflict of interest with the brand. This, Tenney’s lawyer claims, makes for an “oppressive” contract that breaks the law. As FaZe Clan is not licensed through the California Labor Commissioner, it cannot dictate employment opportunities for an artist.

Tenney is therefore pursuing a lawsuit — which is notable, because we don’t typically think of esports athletes as “artists.” But given that Tenney livestreams and vlogs his life, much of his brand is tied up in entertainment, not competition. To wit, Tenney has even stated that he may not continue participating in tournaments after the Fornite World Cup this summer. More importantly, however, this lawsuit could set precedent for many other influencers who are not currently protected under the Talent Agency Act, allowing organizations to exploit them under unfair and unlawful conditions.

As this news broke out, the situation between Turner and FaZe got messy. Ricky Banks, who owns FaZe Clan, took to Twitter and YouTube to dispute Tenney’s allegations. Banks maintains that FaZe Clan has only collected $60,000 in earnings from Tenney, despite the stipulations that say that the organization could collect more. The implication was that while the contract says one thing, the friendship between Banks and Tenney ensured that FaZe Clan wouldn’t profiteer off of Tenney. The problem, of course, is that someone’s word can only go so far when a contract has been signed. And with a $30 million Fortnite tournament around the corner, which Tenney has qualified for, there’s no telling if or when Faze Clan might decide to take the percentage of earnings that it is owed.

Banks, for his part, has taken the lawsuit extremely personally, and in a YouTube vlog, took twenty minutes to explain how much he had personally done to invest time and energy into making Tenney into a star. He says that he discovered Turner when he was only getting 100 viewers on Twitch, and nonetheless pushed for him to get high-profile opportunities with parties who were skeptical of his talent. He also took issue with the lawsuit’s initial description of how FaZe Clan allegedly pressured Tenney into drinking and gambling, which he notes are attempts to “destroy my brand.”

As Banks tells it, Turner owes him for all he did, stating on Twitter that “I [fucking] helped him blow up and changed that kid’s entire life. The very least I could ask for in return is he stay loyal to me and the brand that gave him his first real shot.” Regardless of those tensions, Banks and the lawsuit both say that FaZe Clan and Turner attempted to renegotiate the contract. On Twitter, Banks said Turner was offered $1 million per year, “with 0% splits across the board. The only deliverable [for Turner] was to represent FaZe Clan.” No agreement was reached, however, hence the lawsuit.

Tenney’s response to the blow-up came two days later, in a short video where he explains that he signed the contract when he didn’t know any better. “This contract basically allows FaZe at any point in three years, to just fucking take all my hard earnings, all my hard work, and just strip it.” Tenney says that in a way, his lawsuit isn’t just about him, but also about standing up for other players who may be in similar situations. Much of esports involves young kids who don’t always have the means or knowledge to know when organizations are taking advantage of them. One of the most common news headlines in this space involves esports organizations not paying their players, or competitors under extreme contracts.

“What I’m trying to do here is just serve justice to the esports community, the esports industry,” Tenney says. “These kids are getting ripped off, they’re getting taken advantage of … there’s tons of people in contracts this bad, just like me. And I’m the first person to stand up and say this is not okay.”

Tenney urged FaZe Clan to release the contract that he’s under, so that fans can see what’s at stake. So began the hashtag #releasethecontract, which has been trending on social media platforms, where even NFL stars are taking up the cause. Bank’s response was to say that FaZe did indeed plan on showing the contract to onlookers, as he has “nothing to hide” and is now admitting that the original document was “trash.” Before Banks could do so, however, a contract has started circulating on social media that allegedly shows the revenue splits. This document, while unverified, seems to align with the percentages stated by Tenney in the first place.

Right now, the two parties still seem to be at a standstill. Turner seems to want out of the contract regardless of revenue split, and FaZe Clan seems adamant about keeping Turner at all costs. Banks is still urging Turner to sit down with him and talk things through, but if screenshots shared by YouTube reporter Keemstar are legitimate, then it appears that Turner wants to start his own organization. If that’s the case, then there’s nothing that FaZe Clan could offer Turner that would be an adequate compromise.

Wherever this lawsuit ends up, it will be a landmark case for gaming as a whole. While esports continues to grow and become mainstream, the infrastructure that makes it possible has not progressed to accommodate the fact it is now a multimillion dollar business. Bank’s attitude in this context makes sense — a lot of the the industry operates under the guise of good faith and friendships which supposedly override the ugly reality of business. But, at its worst, this attitude acts as a veneer, and masks the fact that players are vulnerable when all they have to defend themselves is someone’s else’s word.


DC Universe Online is coming to Nintendo Switch

Superman, the Joker, Wonder Woman, and more than 300 comic book characters are coming to Nintendo Switch in DC Universe Online this summer, publisher Daybreak Games announced today.

The Switch will make the fourth current platform for the eight-year-old superhero adventure, joining PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. DC Universe Online launched in 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Though the game has changed substantially over the years, it has always been about players creating a hero — or villain — from a deep set of costume and super-power options, and then sending them on adventures in DC Comics’ Gotham City, Metropolis, and elsewhere, interacting with the publisher’s greatest and most familiar super-characters. More than 300 from DC’s stable appear in the game.

“As soon as the Nintendo Switch released, the development team couldn’t help but wonder, what if …?” creative director S.J. Mueller said in a statement. “Long story short, we are so excited for players to take their DC experience wherever they go.”

The most recent updates to DCUO include the Justice League Dark episode, which launched in March; Atlantis, which launched in November; and Teen Titans: Judas Contract last July. DC Universe Online is a free-to-play game, with expansions, certain power sets and other optional content and features sold at a premium. Monthly memberships entitling buyers to everything start at $14.99 a month.


X-Men get some love in the new Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 trailer

Marvel’s mutants, the X-Men, their rival Magneto, and his Brotherhood of Mutants, will play a prominent role in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, based on a new trailer for the Nintendo Switch-exclusive game.

While a handful of X-Men were already confirmed for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 — Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Storm — new gameplay footage from the game also shows Professor X students Psylocke and Beast in action against teams of Sentinels. Cyclops and Colossus also appear, but not in playable form (yet). It seems Magneto will join the fight against Thanos’ Black Order, but it’s not clear if he, Mystique, and Juggernaut will also be playable characters.

The inclusion of X-Men is positive news for Marvel fans who like mutants in their video games. Mutant heroes and villains have taken a back seat to characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man) in many recent Marvel games. Notably, 2017 fighting game Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite excluded X-Men entirely, despite their history with the franchise.

Now that the film rights to X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Marvel characters are back in the hands of Marvel owner Disney, Marvel video game fans will get to see all (well, almost all) of their favorite superheroes duking it out in future games.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is coming to Switch on July 19.


Gearbox takes a step back in legal fight with former exec

Gearbox Software’s legal fight with its former general counsel Wade Callender has taken a curious turn. The company recently filed a new petition against Callender, minus several claims from its previous petition. Additionally, Gearbox appears not to have followed through on a threat to file an official grievance against Callender.

Gearbox is best known for the Borderlands series, including the forthcoming Borderlands 3. The company is headed up by co-founder and CEO Randy Pitchford, a controversial figure who has been in the news of late, for outbursts on Twitter and for an alleged assault on former employee and Claptrap voice actor David Eddings.

Back in January, Callender filed a lawsuit against his former employer, alleging that Pitchford improperly siphoned $12 million from that company for personal gain. Callender — the former general counsel and vice president of legal affairs at Gearbox — additionally alleged that Pitchford left a USB drive containing “‘underage’ pornography” behind at a company event. Pitchford denies these allegations, and Gearbox called Callender’s suit “meritless.”

Callender’s suit came a month after Gearbox filed a lawsuit against him, alleging that he had failed to repay a loan made to him by the company, and that he had made improper use of company credit cards. In January, Gearbox filed an amended petition that include an extra section in which the company claimed that Callender had revealed company secrets in a “breach of fiduciary duty.”

In a new filing made a week ago in a District Court in Texas, Gearbox dropped that section, which alleged that Callender had breached an “ongoing obligation to preserve confidential information” about the company’s activities. In essence, the section claimed that Callender broke trust with the company by filing a lawsuit, in which company secrets were revealed.

A Gearbox spokesperson declined to comment on the decision. Gearbox’s lawyer did not reply to Polygon’s attempt to contact him.

So far as we can tell, the company has also yet to file a promised grievance against Callender with the State Bar of Texas. A grievance is filed by a client against a lawyer it feels has committed professional misconduct, echoing some of the points made in the lawsuit’s dropped section. According to online legal guide Avvo: “Filing a complaint against an attorney is a serious matter, and should be limited to significant problems.”

In January, Gearbox stated that Callender’s lawsuit was “lies,” and that a “lawyer’s rules of professional conduct expressly prohibit the filing of documents that are knowingly false.” The company declined to confirm whether or not it has filed a grievance. Callender’s page at the State Bar of Texas website shows no indication of ongoing disciplinary action or inquiry.

A spokesperson for the State Bar of Texas told Polygon that it was prohibited by statute from “disclosing disciplinary information unless it results in a public sanction.”

The spokesperson said that a grievance filing would entail holding an initial investigatory hearing and talking to witnesses. It would then entail discovery, depositions, and pre-trial motions.

We’ll keep you updated as these lawsuits work their way through the system.


The groundbreaking disability representation in DC Universe’s Doom Patrol

Comics have long portrayed disabled people and other disenfranchised groups as mutants, mortals, and meta-humans. Some of these characters aren’t the most accurate representation of real-world disabled issues, and some of them can potentially be harmful. But while us real-life disabled folks might not have the power of a telepath or empath — not for a lack of trying — we can relate to a disabled superhero’s story, all the same.

DC Universe’s Doom Patrol TV series has taken the concept of a group of tragically ostracized superheroes further than ever before, and in the process, it’s created some of the strongest representation of disabled people and our issues on television today.

From superhero therapy to defeating internalized ableism, evergreen disability metaphors thrive on Doom Patrol. Rita Farr exhibits internalized ableism, in her belief that her powers — uncontrollable elasticity — are a punishment; an adverse connotation of disability. Larry Trainor assiduously hides his disfigurement; responding to the stigma that disability should be visibly hidden. But in more subtle ways, the show explores extremely topical aspects of modern disabled life as well.

From navigating online dating while disabled to fighting government agencies that want to cut off our resources and support (in the form of the oppressive Bureau of Normalcy), the series shows how stressful it is for its disabled characters to live in a world that doesn’t accommodate their basic needs. Doom Patrol tackles truly complex themes of disability when the show illustrates the modern stress of disabled parenting, from the point of view of both parents and children.

As Cliff Steele, Robotman, struggles to adjust to his new, unwanted robot body, his internalized ableist belief in his own freakishness strains his relationship with his daughter, Clara. Clara doesn’t know that he’s still alive, and Cliff worries that she’s better off with no father than with a father who is just a brain in a metal body.

He doesn’t think he deserves to have a relationship with her — or even a family to begin with. As disabled people, our self-worth is often a direct reflection of how society views and treats us. It can be an inescapable feeling, when laws and bills favor abled people, such as bills designed to prevent disabled people from having kids, and Cliff’s on-screen counterpart helps channel those feelings.

Doom Patrol - three characters sitting around Jace Downs/Warner Bros. Entertainment

But the series also parallels Cliff’s desire to become a parent again with Cyborg — another DC character whose body was augmented with cybernetic parts without his consent. Victor Stone struggles with his overprotective, abled father. Silas Stone gave Vic his enhancements in the first place, and clearly thinks he knows what’s best for his disabled son. Cliff and Cyborg are given an almost sibling-like dynamic, to better show the mirror between Cliff’s arc as a disabled parent and Silas Stone’s well-meaning intentions that inevitably hurt his son, Victor.

Victor’s relationship with his father is complicated by the memory-altering powers of the manipulative villain Mr. Nobody, but it’s still an easy parallel to the way helicopter parenting can affect a disabled child. That is, when a parent becomes even more overprotective of their kid just because they’re disabled — or worse, they try to govern their entire life or speak for their desires. Silas tries to prevent Vic from being his own kind of hero, and even prevented him from dating. And when Vic does get around his dad’s digital walls to access his dating app, his experience of rejection is equally relatable to anyone who has tried dating while disabled — because navigating online dating is difficult enough without dealing with ableism.

Instead of listening to what Vic wanted in life or why he loves being a hero, Silas integrated overtly protective parameters into his digital interface, and instead of protecting Vic from the world, it just secluded him. The whole premise of this arc shows how these parental tactics actively make disabled kids feel less normal, not because of the actions of their peers or the outside world, but because their parent excludes them from these activities. When Vic refuses to allow his father to alter his cybernetics until he can prove he can be trusted, it shows that disabled kids deserve to have autonomy of their life decisions.

Doom Patrol - two characters arguing Warner Bros. Entertainment

The final father figure in Doom Patrol is the often absent Niles Caulder, whose fear of being tracked down by Mr. Nobody could be said to drive his desire to seclude the Doom Patrol from society. Experience with isolation is a running theme that brings the whole team closer together, but for Crazy Jane, her self-imposed isolation was a survival mechanism in an inaccessible world. Her path to becoming a Doom Patrol member allows her to find a family — to recognize Niles as a father figure — and to reclaim her self, in all its fractures, for her and nobody else.

Not every disabled person is fond of the term “crazy,” especially in proximity to mental health and characters with psychological disabilities, but the term is implicitly a part of Jane’s reclamation arc. Beyond stopping the apocalypse and killing fascists, Jane has a resounding agency over her mental health — she’s reclaimed her control from her abuser. Like Jane, the entirety of the team has redistributed their internalized-ableism-related anger toward their disabilities to dismantling agencies that actively harm disabled superheroes.

Like real-life disabled lawmakers, representatives, and activists, Doom Patrol uses its eponymous team as an exaggerated metaphor to show how disabled activists are continuously fighting to support and protect disability rights when it brings the Doom Patrol up against the Bureau of Normalcy. As an evergreen villain, the series uses the Bureau to critique more recent issues with how legislature threatens disabled livelihoods. Adapting Morrison’s Doom Patrol run and other classic arcs for a more mainstream audience creates exceptionally positive imagery of disabled superheroes taking down a government organization that threatens the freedom, existence, and autonomy of marginalized people.

Doom Patrol - Niles Caulder Warner Bros. Entertainment

Doom Patrol channels its heroes’ rage toward bullies — including a Nazi scientist and his followers, Mr. Nobody, and the Bureau of Normalcy — who try to make them question their self-worth as disabled heroes. Disabled characters wielding their justified anger to destroy infrastructures that hinder their fellow implicitly disabled heroes is a triumphant message.

One of the only places that Doom Patrol falls into a regressive trope of disabled characters is with the mysterious Niles Caulder. Niles is a character who’s notorious for being in and out of his wheelchair — and not because he’s an ambulatory wheelchair user. Rather, he tends to periodically become disabled, find a miracle cure, and then become disabled again, both in the comics and in DC Universe’s series

Niles’ recent heinous confession also hints at an adjacent comic arc where he faked his disability for a period of time. While our fan theories will have to wait until season 2 before Doom Patrol clarifies everything about Niles’ past, his emergence as the villainous wheelchair user trope has some hefty implications. Given the evergreen and dangerous myth that real disabled people fake their disabilities to receive government benefits — which, in many jurisdictions, barely cover rent and utilities, let alone our necessary medical procedures — Niles’ fluctuating, potentially fraudulent, disability contributes to an already prevalent stigma that disability is an excuse or a scheme. When the Trump administration is currently proposing a system to monitor disabled people based on stereotypical concepts of what disabled people look and act like, Niles’ current characterization warrants some clarification.

Overall, the portrayals of disabilities on Doom Patrol do accurately represent disabled people and our modern-day issues. More importantly, many of the metaphors radiate positive messages about what disenfranchised groups of people can accomplish together.

Set in today’s landscape, the Doom Patrol series takes a clever approach to intertwine disability discourse in the dialogue, characterization, and plot; a reflection of our real-world society. Reforming disabled superheroes for a modern audience, the show even changes some of the less than favorable portrayals of comics past, with Cliff’s longing for connection with his daughter. In other instances, as with Niles, the value of the representation is still subject to interpretation.

Doom Patrol’s TV adaptation gives us a chance to re-admire our favorite team of disabled superheroes — because, beyond all the horror, comedy, and weirdness, we just love that we can see realistic representations of disabilities beyond the powers.

Chelsea Jackson is a disabled critic and freelance pop culture writer who spends too much time reading comics.