Imagine if you will that you are a gamer and you love playing games, or you would love to play games, but the accessibility of the controls made it inaccessible or impossible to succeed at playing said games. This is a situation that occurs for thousands, if not millions of gamers world wide with disabilities. This week though we have a case of a gaming company hearing the voice of one individual and changing the course of their games accessibility just from the sound of one question posed to them.
In January 2012 a small indie company called Almost Human Games began promotion of a game called Legends of Grimrock. It was set to be an old-school dungeon crawler RPG. The dungeons have tile based movement and so most actions are rather simplistic in nature. The real story here comes from a gamer, HarpoonIPA, who contacted Almost Human about their accessibility and why the option of on-screen directional movement arrows was actually a necessity in his case.
HarpoonIPA is a paraplegic gamer who is required to use a mouth stick for any of his typing and so when HarpoonIPA explained the reason why accessible onscreen button controls were a necessity for his enjoyment and gameplay. The developers were touched by his story and, thus, set about implementing the onscreen HUD to the game. Developer, Petri Hakkinen, stated in an interview with Kotaku that:
” It was no big deal to implement it. I mean even it were to affect only the life of one single person, it is still totally worth it.”
The game will be released on April 11th, 2012 on Windows, Mac, and iOS – but this event truly speaks to me. I mean, as a designer, I’m constantly searching for new ideas and new methods that people are working on and trying to see how to best implement aspects into my own projects. In this story I think it speaks in droves the kind of impact small gestures like this can have.
Why don’t we have more onscreen HUD controls?
Why don’t we see more main-stream developers taking the reigns and reformatting their works to be more accessible?
I have to ask, is it a finance thing?
Is it a lack of desire to change control schemes, or do developers feel locked to the plastic control schemes presented by mainstream consoles?
Is it because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?
I applaud HarpoonIPA for speaking out and requesting his needs and desires to help the developers change their accessibility, and I applaud the developers for having the courage and wherewithal to follow through with it. Most gaming companies would have stopped this idea at the front door, because there’s so much consumerism and mass appeal that goes into production of most of these games. Indie games catch a break though, because they don’t often have to deal with all of the red-tape of a hierarchy system.
My question that this poses is why? Why does it have to be indie houses that show the most attention to detail when it comes to creating accessibility? Why can’t the console market take steps to creating meaningful experiences like this? I’ve traveled many forums, talked to countless other gamers, and even having SOME options like this available to them would make their enjoyment of their gaming lives overall better. One thing I hate though above all are the folks out there who are able-bodied and who troll forums like Youtube and other major network sites and claim that the needs of disabled players shouldn’t be recognized because it will give them an ‘unfair advantage.’
Trust me I’ve seen hate bashing on some button remapping campaigns. Some able-bodied gamers believe that giving access to additions like button remapping or assistive controls will ultimately give disabled gamers an advantage in their gameplay. How much sense does this really make? None. I pose this argument to anyone who still thinks this is true: If you’re getting beat by a disabled gamer, and you’re able bodied, you seriously need to think about choosing a new game to play. They are playing at a disadvantage already, so how does giving them the ability to play on an equal playing field make it an unfair advantage for them?
Fellow gamers shouldn’t complain, instead, embrace and show love and support for your fellow gamers. Almost Human has and I’m so excited to see design studios doing this. I hope there’s more of it in the future. I believe a ton of MMO’s could benefit from onscreen HUD displays like this: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, DC Universe Online – you name it, they could use it. I’ve also thought about the concept of voice recognition software too. I know that Bioware was working on voice software for the Kinect and Mass Effect 3, but I would love to see that same concept implemented into other games before I can truly say that it’s a step forward in gaming.
So here is to you Almost Human Games! You reached out to a gamer in need and changed your game for the benefit of, not only him, but countless new gamers who will play your title. You have not only my respect, but my admiration, and I wish you all the best of luck upon the games release April 11th, 2012! Time for me to go slay a dragon in some dungeon somewhere…