Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Playing disabled

I mentioned yesterday that I've still been able to play games despite my elbow injury. My hand is free and works just fine. The only real problem with an Xbox or PlayStation controller is that, because my elbow is immobilized, I have to sort of twist in my seat in order to bring my hands close enough to hold the controller. But it doesn't impact my ability to play the games, as far as I can tell.

Oddly, the only system I'm struggling with is the one allegedly for non-gamers, the Nintendo Wii. The Wiimote-nunchuk setup has one big advantage -- the cord that attaches them is long enough that I don't have to contort myself in order to hold everything. But it also has one big disadvantage, and that's motion control.

I've been playing No More Heroes 2, which controls like an ordinary third-person action-adventure in most respects: move with the analog stick, attack with the A button, target with the Z button. But because it's a Wii game, there are of course mandatory motion-controlled moves, and I'm finding them impossible to do. Specifically, Travis Touchdown can do pro-wrestling-style finishing moves to his opponents, which are both devastating and hilarious to watch. To do so requires quick movement of both the remote and the nunchuk -- move them both upward, say, or move them apart quickly.

Well, this is out of the question for me. I've always found the motion sensitivity of the nunchuk to be a little hinky anyway, and without the ability to really whip it in the right direction, it's all but useless. This has resulted, sadly, in Travis diving at his opponents, missing, and ending up sprawled on the ground. I can at least perform the more common, remote-only motion controls with my right hand.

I will eventually recover, but this has made me think about the plight of disabled gamers. Game inputs can be either complex and intricate, as on modern-gen game pads, or they might require strong, gross movements, as with the Wii or with peripheral-based games like Rock Band. Imagine being physically unable to play a game, or a whole genre, because the controllers don't account for your existence.

Has anybody out there had to cope with a physical disability in order to play games? I'd love to hear about it.


Quinn said...

I injured my right wrist about three years ago and it still hasn't healed completely, to the point that I've had to learn to play a lot of games one-handed. Most recently I was able to get through Assassin's Creed 2 almost entirely with my left hand, although it made the combat pretty punishing.

It's made me appreciate the 360 controller, because I can angle it against my left thigh and push down on the right trigger that way. The shape of the PS3 controller makes that scheme pretty much impossible.

It occurred to me that if I could somehow hook up foot pedals to act as the shoulder triggers, I could probably play most games with one hand, even shooters. But I definitely don't have the technical skill to attempt a mod like that.

Anonymous said...


Sinan Kubba said...

Re: the post and Anonymous, we actually had Mark Barlet, the EiC of AbleGamers on the last BRP podcast we did, talking about gamers with disabilities, where the responsibility lies for implementing disabled-friendly features, how motion control will affect gamers with disabilities, etc. Like I said on the show, considering how to play video games with a disabilitiy is something that's only come to me recently to. But yes, in short, AbleGamers is a great site for gamers with disabilities and to provide some insight for those who'd like to know more.

Glad you are back and well, Mitch, hope the recovery is swift.

Pete said...

Never had to deal with this...but i do remember reading a post a while back about Ben Heck modding a controller for someone who could only use one hand...

PS love the blog...get well soon!

Matthew Gallant said...

I've read that you can play NMH2 with a GameCube or Classic controller.

RASS said...

The only thing I can think of, is recovering from eyes cirgury. I was blind for a couple of days, it really got into my nerves thinking I wouldn't be able to see again. Blindness seems to me like the biggest barrier between someone and videogames... besides the control scheme of Killzone 2.

Jay said...

Surprised nobody's really mentioned this yet, although its status as a 'disability' is sort of questionable -- but colorblindness is a huge issue for a ton of gamers and is routinely ignored by the makers of puzzle games. I have severe red/green color issues, so a lot of games like Bejeweled and Bust a Move are basically unplayable due to the juxtaposition of similar shades like purple and blue, or light green and yellow.

It's obviously not on par with something as serious as a physical disability that prevents free motion, but I feel that it's something that needs to be addressed and rarely is. I'm glad to see a lot of indie developers making 'colorblind' modes for puzzle games recently, but a lot of big-budget games like MW2 still hinge a ton of their multiplayer UI on the discrepancy between colors, like red and green. It would be great to see somebody lead the charge on these sort of issues -- It's always a huge disappointment to read about a game and then realize halfway through that I could never play it due to a slight defect in my genetic makeup.

Thaddeus Venture said...

@Matthew Gallant - The classic controller is on the back of the box, and indeed, it can be used for the entire game. I haven't tried the gamecube controller yet though, but I have a feeling it doesn't work.

The way that the CC works is that you simply push both joysticks in the appropriate direction for moves that would normally require two hand movement. Its kind of awkward, but works.

Actually, the classic controller is pretty sweet for the old school jobs as well. I really appreciate the huge D-pad.

@Jay - its funny you mention color blindness. I noticed a menu option for that in Team Fortress 2 the other day, haven't had a chance to see what it does though.

I'm sorry I can't relate with a story, up until the advent of the Wii, there isn't much that could have kept me from pressing a few buttons.

Paul Afello Bierhaus said...

The latest Big Red Potion podcast made me start thinking about this issue the last couple of days. It is a really strong podcast (as usual) so I would suggest you start listening to it, right about... now! :)

I work at a company that makes serious/educational games and I for one never really thought about gamers with disabilities... while I should have! We make games for schools par example and although the percentage of disabled students within one school is probably not that high, I think most of them are just not able to play our games without any help. So I started talking to one of my bosses about this issue. Because my bosses are very intelligent people they ofcours have beaten me to this subject years ago. Biggest problem is the lack of willingness to pay for implementations that would drastically improve the accesibility for disabled gamers.

On a more personal note I for one have only broken my foot... luckily I wasn't that much into Wii Fit! But as Mark Barlet said on the BRP podcast: "You're just one bad day away from being disabled yourself". So maybe we, as an industry, should start thinking about accesibility of the game we make. Not because of pity but because I would be very upset if I should give up one of my favorite hobbies, just because game companies assume all gamers are "perfectly operating" human beings. On the matter of colour blindness, I hear a lot about the hamburger mini game in No More Heroes 2?

Mitch Krpata said...

I remember that episoode of the BRP podcast coming across Google reader, and not listening to it because I'm not disabled! Well that was silly. I'll give it a listen today.

The issue of designing for disabled gamers is such a tricky one, because the market is necessarily limited -- especially because, as people have mentioned, there are so many different disabilities to deal with. The economics are not good.

I will look into playing NMH2 with the 'Cube controller (don't have a classic controller). But my splint is off now, so I might be okay.

Sinan Kubba said...

Someone mentioned Ben Heck's controllers earlier - they're really something, well worth checking out just to see how they work and the thought and design that goes into them.

Just wanted to briefly thank Paul for the lovely recommendation, glad you enjoyed the episode and like what we do. And thanks Mitch for your comment on our site too, very kind :)

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