Feature: Is Enough Being Done For “Disabled” Gamers?

able gamingThere’s no such thing as a “disabled gamer”

Christmas day, I was sat in front of the TV. Glass of eighteen-year scotch in one hand, controller in the other.

“Surely this is a piece of cake” I thought to myself as I settled down on a bean bag in front of the TV and prepared myself to have a go at Ridge Racer 6, which my nephew had received for Christmas. (Please note, I only drink-drive with my games, never try it in real life, it’s silly and dangerous, and I in no way condone it.

I know what you’re thinking – why are you telling us about what sounds like a boring Christmas day?

Well, it got me thinking. How the hell do you play with one hand?! I tried, and to be fair, I didn’t do that bad, but that was just playing Ridge Racer, which only really needs two buttons and one stick to play. If you hold the controller in a slightly awkward position, it’s doable. Then, after feeling pleased with myself for coming 3rd (I rarely come any higher, even with two hands and no intoxicants) I thought I would have a go at some other games and see how hard it is to play with one hand.

Let me tell you now, it’s difficult. For the vast majority of games, you really do need two hands. I tried Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Red Dead Redemption and inFamous, all of which were astoundingly difficult to play using just one hand with the occasional push of a button with a nose, tongue or other body part, excluding my other hand of course.

It really got me thinking, what would I do if I lost one of my hands? Obviously it would affect day-to-day tasks which take precedent over playing games, but it’s my favourite past-time (that’s why I created this site) and I don’t think I could just go without. That’s when I decided to take my thoughts online and see what’s available for people who have a physical disability that want to enjoy computer games.

What I found in my research, all done while the Queen was banging on about something on the telly, is that people with a physical impediment are being left out in the cold when it comes to console gaming, with little to absolutely no support from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo. Obviously, gaming is a little easier with the Wii, you can play a lot of games with just the nun-chuck, but it’s hardly the best experience, and that’s what gamers want at the end of the day.

What I did find however, is that a lot of people with a physical disadvantage have found joy in PC gaming, due in large part to the ability in most games to map the controls to your preference. Then there’s also the abundance of games that you can just play with a mouse e.g Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic, Command & Conquer series, along with numerous other titles, the most popular being point and click adventures. Though, not just happy with accepting that these games are easier to play, the resilient players on ablegamers.com have found ingenious ways to be able to play the games they want, in the way they want. Everything from mapping all controls to what I would call a “super-mouse” to using feet to tap away at the keyboard. I have total admiration for these people, they’ve not let their physical condition get in the way of having fun and over on the forums, there’s no “gamer trash talking”, it’s all quite friendly and they couldn’t do enough for you. Honestly, go on Steam forums and ask about using a controller instead of a Keyboard and Mouse, I can guarantee you will receive multiple insults and a thorough essay on why a controller is inferior. It’s not a big deal what you use to play, as long as you’re having fun, and that’s what ablegamers.com is all about.

That’s PC gaming, gaming on a Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or Wii U is a whole different game. In the vast majority of games for each of the above mentioned consoles, control optimisation is extremely limited. Gamers are having to shell out for controllers that are pretty expensive, some are at least 50% more than what a “regular” controller would cost. Of course, these have been manufactured to tailor for those with only one able hand, but why should it mean they cost more? Ok, it’s a speciality, but it’s also, in my eyes at least, penalising those who have a physical disadvantage. Discrimination? I think so, to penalise one group of people because of the way they are, that fit’s in as discrimination to me.

What needs to be done is the big money companies, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, need to pull their finger out and stop ignoring the fact that people who are not able to use a controller at its full capacity, still want to play their games and play on these consoles. Until the console holders acknowledge this, gamers who aren’t able to use a “regular” controller are being forced to pay higher prices for custom contoller’s, or stick to the PC and miss out on some of the finest console exclusives that get released on consoles.

Basically, what I’m saying is, if anybody from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo happen to come across this, consider it a challenge to prove me wrong. Go on, I dare you.

In the mean time, why not visit www.ablegamers.com and make a small donation to help the AbleGamers Foundation.

Are you a gamers who struggles to use a console controller? Please comment below and share your gaming experiences below.

  1. Hi Chris, nice article but you didn’t explain “there’s no such thing as a disabled gamer” subtitle.

    There is absolutely such a thing as a disabled gamer. A disability occurs when a medical condition comes up against a barrier that prevents someone from going about their day to day lives. These barriers are usually man-made, things that someone has designed that way.. like a flight of stairs, a high shelf or a fixed control scheme. So by not including remapping options, developers & designers are creating those barriers, they’re actually making many people disabled.

    Quite simply, game studios are directly responsible for causing gamers to be disabled.

    So a disabled gamer is something very real indeed, but equally something that can be easy to prevent the existence of.

    There’s less chance of success with the hardware manufacturers as their publishing requirements are already pretty hefty, so they’re understandably reluctant to add to them, even though many people have suggested it to them. Publishers on the other hand are exactly who should be introducing these requirements from their studios. Some have already started to, Ubisoft require subtitles and epilepsy friendly visuals from every single game they publish.

    You’re absolutely correct about the cost issue, especially when so many people with disabilities are on a low income, but for whom gaming can be, and this is no exaggeration at all, an absolute lifeline.

    Gaming is a huge part of culture, and means socialising, recreation, independence, pain relief and so on, it’s a pretty serious thing to be excluded from.. especially if other means of recreation are unavailable to you. For some people gaming can be one of the very few things that they’re able to do independently.

    Every game has to exclude some people or it wouldn’t be a game, but it’s the unnecessary stuff that’s the problem, the things that could have been avoided so easily.

    The reason those unnecessary things happen is often just because of a lack of awareness.

    Articles like yours help to raise awareness, and over the next few years we’ll see more and more games adopt accessibility considerations as standard good practice. Not just for motor impairments such as only having the use of one hand, but also the other groups too – cognitive, hearing, visual and speech.

    1. Hi Ian,

      What I mean by “There’s no such thing as a disabled gamer” is that, and I probably could have been a little clearer, people with disabilities shouldn’t be automatically excluded from everyday activities. Of course there are some obvious things that a person with a physical disadvantage could never do, but for the most part, and the thing I was able to try out first hand, was playing with one hand. I personally found it difficult, and even after while it never felt as comfortable as it could be. I found myself looking at the controller and imagining it made to fit for one hand, something that could reasonably be done.

      As for other disabilities, I couldn’t give a fair view of them in the article for the main reason that I can’t judge it for myself, only imagine. That’s part of the thinking with the article, hopefully others will tell of their gaming experiences whilst having physcial and/or cognitive impairments. I just think it would be a bit mis-guided for me to give an opinion on something I wouldn’t know a great deal about, but as I said, playing with one hand is something I could try for myself and get a glimpse into what it’s like.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. That’s what I was going for, there shouldn’t be barriers sort of thing. Thanks for the links, I’ll definitely be checking them out!

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