- SPONSORED -
As much as I like to say that games are for everyone, the unfortunate truth is that the medium is nowhere near as accessible as it should be. It isn’t about subject matter or anything to do with a game’s artistic intentions; rather, it is a matter that most people wouldn’t even give a single thought to.
How can you play video games if holding a controller is nearly impossible?
Think about it: how would you hold a controller? Presumably you grip it with both hands and hold it in front of your torso with your elbows at your side. That’s the way most controllers have been designed since the early days of console gaming. Unfortunately, most controllers are only designed with able-bodied players in mind, meaning that if you have a disability or other condition that affects your fine motor skills, the controller is (rather ironically) your biggest barrier to being able to play most games.
Until very recently, the only real solution for mainstream games was to use unofficial alternative controllers. Some of these are amazing feats of engineering, such as the QuadStick, a mouth-operated controller designed for quadriplegics, and a number designed for use in one hand. As incredible and thoughtful as they are, most of these solutions are expensive and are not officially supported by console manufacturers or most games; the QuadStick only exists thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and it will set you back at least US$399. Gaming may be an expensive hobby, and I’m certain most people with physical disabilities will do anything to feel comfortable, but you’d have to be really dedicated to fork over that amount of cash.
Thankfully it seems that the big gaming companies are listening to this part of their consumer base and are taking accessibility into consideration more and more. For instance, the Nintendo Switch is probably the most accessible console for disabled gamers ever released, thanks to the system’s Joy-Con controllers. Having two separate controllers that work in tandem with one another allows for all sorts of configurations, whether it’s having one controller in each hand, or one in your hand and another at your feet, or whatever works for you! The very nature of the system means that you can play in a way that feels most comfortable, even if you don’t have a disability. Despite this, some of the Joy-Con features such as motion control go in the opposite direction, and as of writing there is no button remapping available.
That ability to remap is the key idea behind a recent update to the Xbox One called Co-pilot Mode. This mode allows you to map controls for one player over two controllers, allowing for functionality similar to that built into the Joy-Cons. Remapping is already built into the Xbox One and PS4, so a mode like this should really be a no-brainer; as it is, it’s still kind of clever. Yes, it requires picking up an extra controller, but compared to the likes of the QuadStick it really won’t cost that much.
If we want games to truly be for everyone then we need to think of those for whom the traditions of gaming are a barrier. It may be great to see more accessibility options being put out there, but true change needs to be put into systems from the ground-up, not just with system updates and unofficial accessories. If you want to find out more about accessibility options for disabled gamers, check out the AbleGamers Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of those with disabilities through gaming, at ablegamers.org.