I’m going to preface this article by saying that I will not mention any games (or developers) by name that I have contacted and either gotten no response or a negative response. That wouldn’t be fair to them. Any game I mention is one that I never even reached out to.
I am disabled. I know I’ve mentioned my autism before, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. About three years ago, I lost 70% of the use of my right hand and wrist. I’ll probably never get it back. This makes life a lot harder for me, and I have to ask for help and accommodations in all areas of my life. For example, I can’t turn a round door knob, so my apartment has nothing but the flat handle kind. I can’t steer my car with my right hand, so I have a knob attached to it so I can easily turn with just my left hand. I can’t write, so I’m allowed to use a computer for everything in my classes at College. Most of my life has been easy to restructure around these issues, but gaming has been another story.
XBox gaming is mostly out of the question now. I cannot work a thumb-stick with my right hand at all. 90% of modern games require that use. I have trouble with the weight of my 3DS, but I can usually play most games (unless they are stylus heavy titles). When it comes to iOS, I have many issues since the controls can be so varied. I cannot shake my iPhone, I cannot play games with dual stick controls, I cannot slide around the screen with my right thumb, and I cannot rotate or tilt the device to control something. I’m limited to games with normal virtual controls (buttons and a D-pad) or single touch style controls that can be done with one hand.
This presents a big problem for me on iOS, for unlike other platforms, I can’t rent a game to see how it controls before I buy it. Granted, most games are cheap, but the price adds up when you buy ones that you have absolutely no way of playing. Currently, I own 1344 iPhone apps and 374 for the iPad. Of these, I can use about half. I don’t think I can even estimate how much money that amounts to.
For an example, I loved Infinity Blade. I had no problem controlling it by doing all the sword work with my left hand, then dodging by tapping with either thumb. It was set up perfectly for me. When Monster Hunter was released, it was compared heavily to Infinity Blade. I had to assume this also meant controls, so I spent the $5 on it only to find out the controls are nothing like it and I couldn’t play the game at all. Thankfully, an email to iTunes about my problem got me a refund, but that’s rarely the case.
I’ve heard so much praise for games like Tilt to Live, which uses tilt controls exclusively (there’s no other way the game can work). Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that when I bought it, and have never been able to play it for more than 30 seconds or so before I have to turn it off. There’s absolutely no way for me to play it.
Some games have been awesome about being accessible right from their initial release, like Street Fighter IV (and Volt). Not only are the controls beautifully set up, there are ways to adjust them in many, many ways, including putting all the buttons exactly where I want them on the screen. This is an example of doing things right. Another perfect example is FASTAR! which has several completely different control options by default.
Other games have come out and had only tilt controls, but an email to the developer got optional button controls added in the next update. This has been wonderful, but only happened three times, in my experience. Most of the time, I’m told that offering another control option (key word: OPTION) would not be with the flavor of the game or that it was cost prohibitive. Essentially, I’m being told that they’re happy to have sold me a copy, but they don’t want to make it so I (and others like me) can play it. Worse than those are the ones that never even reply to my emails.
Developers cannot account for every disability, and I’m not saying they should. What I am saying is that they should be more willing to work with a disabled person who reaches out to them. We are your customers too. You don’t even have to give us several control options, but at least include in your iTunes description a brief summary of game controls so we can know if it’s right for us before we pay for it.