Need a Helping Hand: Accessability

Gaming with newborn makes me wish more developers emulated Dragon Quest VIII. Not because it’s a very well done turn based RPG, although it is that. Not for its adorable art direction, which it has. But for its control system.

One sleepy baby (12lbs of deadweight) who seems to only sleep on Mom, means I am somewhat sleep deprived and confined to a chair. And I like gaming. But I also like (need?) sips of coffee and you know, holding onto that newborn thingie. Dragon’s Quest VIII allowed me the option of playing the regular way, or one handed.

One handed. I could drink a cuppa and game. At the same time. Brilliant. I suppose you could say I was indulging both “addictions” at the same time.

My reason for loving an accessible game is, granted, a bit silly. There are others who for whatever reason, lack mobility in their hands or fingers making gaming itself a difficult task. Yet, a company found a way to make a turn based RPG a bit more accessible for more gamers.

So if it is so easy, why don’t more people create accessible games?

Accessibility Means Different Things For Different People

My daughter was sick last week, and so I decided to get her something that would lend itself to hours on the couch resting. Nintendogs. I looked up how to play the game: stylus and voice commands. OK should be good for a kid who doesn’t game using a controller. Perfect, right?


Little did I realize that in order to get past the tutorial “level” you had to teach the dog his name by saying his name into the mic many times over in the exact same way at the correct time. Impossible for a) a three year old and b) a SICK three year old. I did it for her (WAGS! WAGS! WAGS! over and over again) then I had to do the same thing with the “sit” command. And this is how you teach your new dog old tricks; a pretty big part of the game was locked for my daughter.

So for a person with limited mobility, this is perfect. For someone with difficulties with speech this is horrible. And that’s the difficulty… accessibility means different things for different people.

Why Should I Care?

When I was chatting about this idea with my husband, he said to watch it. People’s eye glaze over when you talk accessibility, no matter how noble the cause. As I mentioned, accessibility can mean so many different things, and there seems to be a limited pay back for the amount of effort required. I really do pity developers sometimes. They need to make a game that is awesome in so many different ways, produce it on time and on budget and then we throw something like this at them. It’s no fair.

 So rather than talking about how it’s the right thing to do, or how choice in how we play is good for gaming, I will give people a really good reason to care.

You are getting old.

If it hasn’t happened yet, it soon will. You will hurt yourself sleeping. You will get up from a chair going “ARGggg!” You will get arthritis, and need bifocals. The whole bit.

And you may also suffer injury in your time. It may not be a life changing event, but it could happen. My Mother can’t console game. She cut herself on a sharp tin can lid and sliced through tendons in her thumb. Cant move her thumb well, therefore can’t console game. Could happen to you and right now you have no options other than moving to PC gaming.

The Good News

The good news it I am not that smart.

You better believe that there are people who are thinking of this stuff; how the changing demographic will change everything, including gaming. They will create it and make grand amounts of money off of it. It’s already starting to happen, we have already seen Nintendo bring out the Nintendo DS XL which has a much bigger screen for us decrepit old bats. Everyone is doing motion control which is good for those with limited fine motor skills. Kinect has a voice control option. So it’s starting.

Now if someone could come pour me a cup of coffee, that would be awesome.

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  • Dawn Logan  On October 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    This just isn’t an issue with gaming. I work in the world of software development. There is always the concern of making your website or application available for all. In the end it comes down to money. It’s cheaper and easier to make a product that most people can use than to try and cater to everyone.

    • yellingatpixels  On October 15, 2010 at 7:45 pm

      exactly. My point is that more of us are going to need accessible tech… cause we are getting old! You kids! Get off my lawn!

  • 2Belts  On October 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I think part of the problem is the control Microsoft and Sony want over peripherals for their consoles. I can buy any number of controllers for my PC some very specific to the type of game being played whereas for the 360 or PS3 there very few types of controller made available. Considering that everything plugs into USB ports really all you should need are a few drivers to get going. It would be nice to see MS and Sony be more open to specialized controllers.

    PS. in Japan there was a one handed controller for the NES specifically geared towards RPG players so you could game and eat/drink, draw a map, check your log, etc. Back in the days of sitting in the basement with the Nintendo Power Final Fantasy guide in your lap while playing.

  • Rebecca Jones  On October 20, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I would love to see an accessibility rating for game previews. Something that gives people a little synopsis of some of the difficulties that may be encountered. And please, please, please developers, find a way to make bigger font available on your games! Not everyone has a friggen 52 inch screen to play on and look at how many players in your market are over 40.

    BTW my son had the Nintendogs game also and him repeating those commands over and over and over drove ME nuts. I read a really interesting article on speech recognition development a while back and although they have made progress, there is still a lot of work left to do. I found this out when I purchased a Wal-Mart pre-paid debit card and had to activate it over the phone via a voice recognition program. It took me 8 phone calls and many times per call to try to get the software to understand my basic information. I could understand something as complex as a street address but a simple yes? I was ready to strangle someone. In addition these programs cause security problems:

  • Falelorn  On October 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    If you want to look for it, there are ways to make your gaming completely accessible for any situation. But console gaming is… difficult because developers are limited to a single controller or offering the option of a peripheral.

    In PC gaming, which I spend 1/2 my gaming life doing, I 2-box and 5-box (play multiple computers at the same time in the same MMORPG) with a simple key press on a small gaming keyboard which is off to the side I can tell my group to follow me, assist or even in combat… attack the monster with spells, begin to debuff/slow the monster, and heal my main warrior/tank when needed.

    I learned how to do this when I broke my hand and was limited to one hand and a couple of fingers on the other. But its possible to do it with just one…

    PC Game devs could teach a thing or two to console hardware developers on how not to think in such a closed manner. Such as I wonder how many game developers are using Kinect (Xbox 360 motion system which uses no controller) and allows the gamer to also use a controller. In games like Rainbow 6 or Ghost Recon the player could use hand signals, open doors slowly, use a camera under a door with hand motions, then use the controller.

    Wii and Sony Move are just limited by the need to have specific controllers in their hands at all times IMO. Plus the games announced for Move have been copies of Wii games which is sad. At least developers are jumping on board with core games for Kinect in a big way.

    But I lost my thought…

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