Tag Archives: Nintendo Switch

Gaming With A Disability: Too Fast, Too Furious

The games industry contains a broad spectrum of games that will appeal to a wide range of people, if you like puzzles that’s fine, shooters? More choice than you’ll ever need, narrative games? Taken some major steps forward and there are some gems out there. But for some people the games they can play are limited by factors outside their control.

I, like many gamers out there have a disability, whilst it predominately effects my mobility it has knock on effects with regards to my dexterity and coordination. Thus I’ve faced some games that have pushed me very close to the limits of what I can physically do (more on that later) but I’ve always overcome it, so what’s making me write this now?

Staring Into The Horizon

I have recently been playing the eagerly awaited, open world RPG set in a futuristic setting, Horizon Zero Dawn. At the time of writing I’ve spent about 10 hours in the game, and to be honest I can’t decide how I feel about it. The setting visuals and main story are all pretty interesting, however it falls down in other areas. It suffers terribly from the problem RPGs have in the early hours of your character being too weak, I have other problems with it too, which I may write about at a future date. So what does this all have to do with disability? Well the thing I dislike most about Horizon Zero Dawn is its combat, to explain why I need to tell a bit of a story.

To me, perhaps my greatest gaming achievement is completing the story mode of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This is because it is a game that tested my gaming ability to its maximum. The Witcher is probably the closest I’ll come to playing a Dark Souls game. Before fans of both series point on the differences between the two games, let me explain. Both games have a combat system where the point is that you can’t just charge in and defeat bosses and tough enemies, you have to manage stamina, dodges and numerous other systems. Thus it requires a great deal of coordination, timing and spatial awareness. I feel the reason I was eventually able to overcome the later stages of The Witcher is that the majority of enemies are quite slow, with predictable attack patterns that you defeat by learning these patterns, long story short, speed is key. However my feeling with Horizon is that enemies are just a little bit too fast for me, I don’t have the reactions to defeat major enemies. This is further exacerbated by the fact that in the combat you’re having to use normally 3 buttons to fire a weapon. This can often require complex positioning of your fingers that I struggle with not so much because of a lack of skill, but because my fingers physically struggle to do that. I am hopeful that my skills will adapt as was the case with The Witcher, but I have a slight worry that my enjoyment of what could be a great game could be hampered by my condition.

The State of the Industry

This raises other questions about what can the games industry to do to better improve experiences for disabled games. Thus it becomes useful to look at some of the things games have done to aid or in some cases to the detriment of disabled gamers

Just Cause 2

Without spoiling the story (though there frankly isn’t much of one) the final fight of that game at one point requires you to input a sequence of 6-7 of the face buttons on your controller in order to progress and defeat the boss. This is perhaps one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. Simply because the stress of a boss fight is likely to make anyone slightly panicked and more prone to mistakes. However that is somewhat amplified in my case, furthermore my limited dexterity would often lead to my fingers slipping onto the wrong button causing me to fail. If this was slightly slowed down this wouldn’t be a major issue. Basically due consideration should be made to as broad a range of gamers as possible.

Peggle

Peggle contains a very minor tool to aid players that might require it in a game of this type, at the very least it shows that some developers do consider a broad spectrum of gamers. Peggle requires you to hit blue and orange pegs with a ball to score points. Interestingly if you look in the game’s settings you’ll find a setting dubbed ‘colourblind mode’. This will change the games colours to more high contrast version allowing those who struggle to differentiate colours to better tell the different colours apart. I am actually partially colourblind, I was able to play Peggle in its normal mode with no real issue. Yet upon discovering this setting, I’ve kept it activated ever since as I found a very useful addition to my experience. Tools such as this mirror the ‘accessibility’ tools that have been built into computers for a number of years to aid people with disabilities, tools for high contrast colours or reading out text as well as the PC gamer’s bane Sticky keys.

So could games developers mirror this? I think in theory yes, tools could be created that would limit certain features that some gamers may struggle with i.e. remove some QTEs that require rapid button mashing that some people can struggle with. The key thing with this however would be how it’s presented, the worst option would be dubbing such tool ‘easy mode’ or similar. Doing this would likely make gamers such as myself feel rather inferior being forced to play the game on ‘easy’ because they physically cannot do it normally. The way around this would likely be to add such tools into the settings pages that in the majority of games contain options such as inversion of the y axis. So as to not draw unnecessary presence to their inclusion that could dishearten some gamers.

Switching It Up

Looking forward, I find the idea of the Nintendo Switch and disabled gamers an interesting prospect. I owned a Nintendo Wii, but immensely struggled with games that required the Wii Remote and Nunchuk such as Super Mario Galaxy. When a game requires me to use both hands in such a regard I often want to move my hands independently to find a comfortable position. However the fact the two Wii controllers were still tethered by a cable, meant that the amount of independent movement possible is limited. However the two Joy Con controllers of the Nintendo Switch are completely wireless and can be used one in each hand, allowing for a greater freedom of movement. Furthermore whilst their small size has concerned many, as I have quite small hands the Joy Cons would likely fit comfortably in my hand. Hopefully this would allow me to play games in a style that works for me, not hampered by my condition in any way. This is a possible application of the Nintendo Switch that very few people have commented on, quite simply because few people consider it as it doesn’t affect them directly. I have yet to play on a Switch but I have hopeful that its inherent flexibility in play styles will have a tangible benefit for gamers like myself.           

If you enjoyed this you can follow me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog I’m also the host of the Gamers Without Borders podcast (@GWBPod) which is available on iTunes

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The Nintendo Switch, 3DS and Me

After an unexpectedly long hiatus (more on that at the end), I am back to writing, this time around my thoughts on the recently announced Nintendo Switch and how it has unexpectedly led me to rediscover just how good my 3DS can be.

I think it is safe to say that for anyone who considers gaming a hobby of theirs a new console launch is a very special time. The weeks and months of speculation building up to the announcement tends to get people excited even if they have little intention of buying the console. None encapsulates this better than the Nintendo Switch. Everyone knew the Wii U had not really met expectations and Nintendo was beginning work on a rumoured console-handheld hybrid dubbed simply ‘NX’. The rumours went on for months, when rather unexpectedly the console was announced as the Nintendo Switch in a brief event last October promising more information and the ability to try the console in January. I am likely not the first person to suggest this, however I would not be surprised if Nintendo had never planned to make the announcement they did in October. Instead their hand was forced by a surprising number of leaks from the normally pretty water tight Nintendo which meant it was better to publically announce the console early than risk a full blown leak.

So January 13th came and with it the big presentation, I personally did not watch it live owing to it being on at a soul crushingly early 4am. But I awoke the next morning eager to find out what the most innovative of the three big console makers was doing next. First and foremost the rumours were true, the Nintendo Switch was a hybrid console, the ‘Switch’ itself is a large tablet screen with controllers which can be attached to the sides or used separately allowing for ‘portability’. The console also comes with a dock that you plug into your TV, slot the Switch into its dock to see whatever game you were playing on the tablet appear up-resed on the TV. To many people it appeared to be the true culmination of what the Wii U began with its somewhat limited off TV play feature. So first impressions were good, the general concept was intriguing and Nintendo was doing its best to make its marketing as clear as possible (more on that later though). Furthermore as people from outside Nintendo got their hands on one for the first time, many people’s concerns were laid to rest, the screen was crisp and vibrant despite 720p resolution and crucially the transition from dock to tablet and vice versa was near enough seamless.

But for the sake of some sense of balance I will now touch on a few on the ‘missteps’ I feel Nintendo made with the Switch. First and foremost the launch line-up. Now do not get me wrong the games announced for this first year are extensive and varied. However if you buy a Switch on day 1 you only have around 5 games to choose from, with the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild likely being most people’s choice. Whilst I am no businessman it would seem to make a lot more sense to wait and release the Switch during the Christmas period, with better sales and a broader selection of games. Speaking of games (again) the decision to not bundle the game 1-2 Switch with the console baffled many, myself included as it is a mini-game collection basically playing the Wii Sports role for the Switch. Furthermore the pricing structure for the games seems questionable in places, I am looking at you ARMS. Next we have something of the elephant in the room, online service. As many will know Nintendo has always been a little behind in terms of online infrastructure compared to Sony and Microsoft. Though when Nintendo announced an online subscription service similar to PlayStation Network and Xbox Live people wondered if they had turned a corner. But as with many things Nintendo, the idea was there, but they were let down by the execution. For example it has been announced that the Switch will allow voice chat and the ability to have group chats, friends lists etc, kind of expected nowadays but we will take it. Oh but wait this is done via a mobile app and not by the Switch itself… Yet more bafflingly if rumours are to be believed while Nintendo will offer a free NES/SNES game to subscribers each month like PS Plus or Games With Gold, you only get to play the game for a month then it is removed. So close yet so far eh Nintendo? Lastly I want to touch on the aspect that caused perhaps the most controversy, the price. The Switch was announced at £280/$300, this is without a game included. As many were quick to point out you can buy a PS4 bundled with games for less than this, so why buy a less powerful alternative? On this point, I would direct you all to read an article by Chris Scullion about how Nintendo should be marketing the Switch as a handheld not a home console. https://tiredoldhack.com/2017/01/19/lets-not-piss-around-the-switch-is-a-handheld/(warning strong language). As for my views I will not dispute it is a lot of money, especially when you factor in the cost of the additional hardware. But if the price really bothers you that much, firstly no one is forcing you to buy one and secondly just wait. If you aren’t desperate for one at launch, wait and it will likely go down in price and begin to be bundled with a game, thus limiting the financial impact slightly.  

Overall, once the dust had settled, my feelings on the Switch could be summed up as: “That’s a really interesting concept, taking your games anywhere, I might not buy one straight away but it’s a consideration for the future” Following this thought however, that little rational voice in my head made two very important points:

  1. You don’t do much long distancing traveling, you are never far from your PS4, what’s the point of a more portable console?
  2. YOU OWN A 3DS THAT IS SITTING IN A DRAWER WHICH YOU NEVER USE!

This realisation coupled with the fact that I had hit a bit of a wall in my current console games, caused me to brush off my 3DS for the first time in a while. The only real use it had over the past year or so was acting as a controller to allow me to play Super Smash Bros for Wii U. But now it was time to use it as a console in anger once again. I attempted to carry on playing Ocarina of Time 3D, then remembered why I stopped playing. (Look the game might be utterly amazing, but I just can’t get into it, the gyro controls especially) I’ve had slightly better luck at replaying A Link Between Worlds, though it’s taken some adjustment to get back into a Zelda and handheld mind-set, but I’m enjoying that a great deal. More interestingly however is that I have recently purchased Terraria for the 3DS. Now I owned this game on PS3 and enjoyed it immensely, it was the perfect time sink, great for listening to podcasts and such. I am hopeful that provided the controls work effectively the 3DS could be the perfect platform to play Terraria. Long story short, if I do end up going through some sort of 3DS resurgence I would not be surprised if the next Nintendo console I got was not a Switch but actually a New 3DS, but time will tell.

Now on to the last aspect of this article: ‘me’. Firstly an apology for not having written anything for this site in over 7 months. It was my intent to write more regularly, however I got caught in a situation whereby when I had more time to write I was lacking inspiration, whereas now I have a few ideas for articles but struggle to find the free time to write them. In short, life gets in the way. My podcast Gamers Without Borders has continued though, although in more recent times has had to move away from weekly episodes once again owing to my schedule, but I intend to continue with both that and this site, it will just occur on a more ‘as and when’ basis.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this piece and I hope to be back soon!