WB Montreal Changes Batgirl Backstory After Backlash

The developer consulted with Ablegamers to make some slight changes.

Gotham Knights, the upcoming co-op action title from Arkham Origins developer WB Montreal, has been having a rough go of it lately. The game was delayed from its original release last year and a recent gameplay demonstration, while looking polished, seemed not to garner a lot of genuine excitement from fans of Rocksteady’s Arkham games. This apathy was compounded by befuddlement when Barbara Gordon’s biography from the game made it online on social media and got hit with a lot of questions.

The background, which is mostly taken from comic sources, explains that Barbara Gordon went from being the paralyzed Oracle — the woman-in-the-chair role, to borrow a phrase from Marvel’s most-recent Spider-Man movies — to becoming Batgirl, superhero crime fighter. The description implies that she overcame her paralysis through training, a thing that kind of comes off as implying that people could simply get out of their wheelchairs if they tried hard enough.

We talked about how absurd that assertion is on its face in a recent episode of 99 Potions, regardless of whether or not it’s accurate to the source material.

WB Montreal has seemingly recognized that this phrasing is a little problematic and has been working with AbleGamers, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. In a Discord Q&A, Creative Director Patrick Redding said they consulted AbleGamers following the backlash to learn about the different types of spinal injuries and “the potential for someone to regain mobility.”

“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,” Redding said in the Discord chat reported by Eurogamer. “Barbara has been through multiple surgeries followed by a lot of physical therapy and pain management.” Redding added that Barbara’s rehabilitation will be referenced in the game and that she will be performing exercises and stretches in the Belfry between missions. Her outfits, both as Batgirl and as Barbara Gordon, will also have “back bracing integrated” into them.

The wording in the biography has also been changed, emphasizing “the extensive training and rehabilitation” Barbara went through to recover. It’s a minor change that likely had to work around the existing dialogue and animations already in the game.

Barbara Gordon is not always the paralyzed Oracle in her origin stories, so WB Montreal did not need to go this route with her character. She is, however, Oracle in Rocksteady’s Arkham games, which Gotham Knights is explicitly not a sequel to despite matching the story and character states to the end of Arkham Knight. It’s puzzling, but that’s the story they’re sticking with.

Gotham Knights releases on PlayStation 5, PC, and Xbox Series S|X on October 25.