Tech Talk: The Game Industry and Button Remapping

You are a player and you’re sitting at home with your friends about to play your favorite game. The game you’re going to be playing is on a console, and that console you own has a controller with about 16 different button inputs attached to it. Everything from the start button the trigger bumpers, which almost come standard now in new controllers, are all present for your available hand’s desires. Now imagine though that you’re a gamer, who has no use of their hands, or no use of one hand – how does this now limit your enjoyment of your favorite game? You can no longer do actions you’re used to – do you preserver and try to overcome? – or do you RAGEQUIT and storm out of the room, ashamed that you no longer can do an activity you enjoyed to your fullest potential?

On today’s Tech Talk we dive head first into the deep underbelly of the game industry and we come up with a rather interesting image. Disabled gamers aren’t able to enjoy console games like most players’ can, and this is a sad, unfortunate truth. In a video provided by’s Youtube channel, they give a visual perspective on just how large a scope disabled gamers must deal with in the console market. These individuals are precious and important, because their lives matter, and because they matter we should aim to making their lives as enjoyable as possible. Button remapping could change the game on the way disabled gamers are able to interact with video games, as well as possible one-touch input controllers for one handed gamers, and that will all be discussed here.



Button remapping, for those who are not aware, is a function where a player is allowed to assign an input value to a given button on a controller. PC games are notorious for using them, and are commonly referred to as Macro keys, or hot keys, on most MMO’s or online games.  The problem is, the PC market is only one market. You are then excluding all players who wish to play console games, but can’t due to a physical impairment that they have no control over. The opposition would claim that most console games do eventually come out to PC. True, but not all PC games have Macro settings either, and lots of them require multiple keys, and inputs to perform one task.

I have trolled Youtube forums, and been to many game discussion boards about button remapping and it sickens me when I see comments from people who say that if given button remapping that may “give any player an edge, if it’s presented openly.” So the opinion is, that if designers gave players the open free will to map their own unique layouts to their controllers that somehow – there’d be an uprising of hackers who would learn to dominate the games systems?

Are you kidding me? Disabled gamers are already impaired and all they want is a fair and balanced shot at playing any game just like you. Does that mean the skill of competition may rise up in a Call of Duty game if you give a man with one hand the option to customize his outputs? Possibly – but what does that say about you as a player if you’re the man who gets owned by said player? It doesn’t mean he, or she, cheated the system, it means that given a fair playing field, disabled gamers can be just as good, if not better than able gamers. Now I’m not trying to turn this into a rant, and we’re here to talk tech – not controversy – so I’ll move on. Button remapping is important, and should be thought of as a viable addition to new games.

Most games now come with a pre-determined output setting, or give you an option of a few multiple presets, assuming that these outputs are the norm for folks. I personally have function of both of my hands just fine, but can you imagine the percentage of gamers in America that deal with loss of limbs, malfunctioning digits, muscle movements, and other physical aliments that don’t allow them the luxury to use these presets?  That’s why button remapping is important, because despite the naysayers and the apparent expense behind it to add the functionality, the ends would justify the means. Developers would be helping to serve their fellow man, or woman, gamer in ways we never assumed possible.

Here’s another video on a product that was designed by Evil Controllers [ link in the sidebar.] called the Adroite Switchblade. Granted the one presented here is a prototype and the number he announces in the video would make any morphine strapped gamer vomit in his bedpan at the estimate – but that’s the thing. It’s a prototype. It’s there for an example of what could be a great option in the development of games and hardware. I hope that it makes it to a mainstream market, because it’s very much needed for disabled gamers to feel a part of something very special. Developers have focused so much on the need for motion control that I often wonder if they’ve even considered how many gamers lack that very key principle to the products they devote games to? Easily optimizable controls, HUD display changes for the vision impaired, and well – basically giving a gamer customizable outputs changes the accessibility of a game tremendously overall.



So what are your thoughts? I want to hear from others; if possible, do you feel that button remapping is an unfair advantage to the already disadvantaged? – And if you agree that button remapping should be implemented into consoles – how do you think companies should go about doing something like that to provide an equal playing field for their games? Feel free to watch the videos, comment, and visit the corresponding sites for more info on their causes, projects, and efforts in fixing the industry to help disabled gamers become just as immersed as the rest of us. Next time we’ll discuss money in the market and how much developers lose when we don’t recognize these concerns for the gaming market. Thanks guys for reading and enjoying and I look forward to your opinions!

– Chad K.

Inspirational Gamer of the Week: Mike “Broly” Begum

Today is Thursday, which means, it’s time to find a gamer out there that may give some enlightenment to the needs of disabled gamers. Here I wanted to show that disabled gamers can play just as well as abled gamers. The only difference between disabled gamers and abled gamers is that disabled gamers usually have to figure out and master a form of gaming that fits to them. This doesn’t mean that all games are accessible to them, but my goal here is to show how some have adapted their gameplay to fit the mainstream market. Broly is an example of a gamer who has overcome his condition to adapt it to play fighting games – games that he loves and enjoys. This video I’m posting was an interview done with Broly by Gootecks from CrossCounterTV.

“Broly” suffers from a condition known as arthrogryposis. Seattle Children’s Hospital Orthotics Department defines the condition as “a problem with muscles that causes them to contract so that they are rigid. This affects your child’s movement. It also affects shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, and feet.”

Children’s Hospital also hosts a support group for patients with the condition. Feel free to browse their site to find out more information on Broly’s condition if interested. Now, why is this guy so inspirational to me? Well here’s the thing: He only really has limited mobility in one of his hands, and he plays the rest of the buttons with his tongue! The guy is amazing and if you take a moment to watch this video you’ll see why. He has some profound words of encouragement for fellow disabled gamers. He, just hands down, is a really wonderful example of why bringing disabled gaming to a forefront would be an outstanding effort on the part of the gaming industry.

Last year his friends and supporters raised enough for him to go to EVO 2011 and compete in the Street Fighter IV tournament. This year he is hoping to do the same. If you would like to help his cause and allow him to represent disabled gamers on one of the most competitive battlegrounds on the game industry calendar please feel free to visit his Facebook support page, which I will link here:

Now why did I do this today? Why is it important as able-bodied gamers that we see examples of gamers like “Broly” succeeding like this and overcoming control schemes that would usually be daunting for even the most seasoned veteran? – because I want to make it know that the market is there. Gamers like Broly, I am sure would prefer, if they had the option, to play at a more comfortable level. If we, as designers, can begin to make concessions in our design plans to fit gamers like Broly, then I think the gaming industry could gain a major boost to revenue streams.

He already plays the game well in his physically challenged state, but by adding that extra sense of comfort, or giving him an option for a more comfortable control scheme – you open up a world of feeling competitive. This could definitely aid others like him who may have even worse conditions who wish they could be competitive on his level. There are probably countless kids and adults out there who would love to play a fighting game, with analog sticks and the like, but they can’t because they are hindered by lack of movement, loss of limb, or other impairment. Take a moment to read this article, look at the information provided, and if you want to help Broly get to EVO 2012 please do so. He’s a great face for the disabled gaming community, and thus, why I give him my seal of approval as Inspirational Gamer of the Week. Way to go man! Keep on KO’ing the noobs one tongue click at a time!

– Chad K.