Friday, 27 September 2013

Accessible Gaming - Gaming with a Disability

I recently did a video on Accessible Gaming, particularly focusing on easy modes and how they help new and less 'able' gamers to play, whilst different difficulty levels stop games becoming too easy as a whole for veteran and high-level players. WIN WIN, PEOPLE!

In it I mentioned my older sister, who has mild cerebral palsy, and I said how easy modes enable her to enjoy games she would otherwise be unable to play - because of easy modes she has been able to play games such as the recent Batman Arkham Asylum/City games, but games without easy modes have been very difficult for her to get into.

Whilst my sister is very shy & self conscious on camera (her disability gives her a slightly strained voice which means it can sometimes take more effort to get words out) (also she is ginger - LOL), she is an excellent writer & I asked if she could write something about playing games with a disability, rather than just have me speak on her behalf.

So, take it away, Emily! 

Gaming for special people. That's what I'm supposed to talk about, isn't it? I'm not really a hardcore gamer (unless you count getting to level 350 in Candy Crush Saga) but when you live in the same house as icklenellierose, it's hard not to get at least a little bit enthusiastic about these things.

I remember eagerly hijacking my first car in Grand Theft was so much fun: pulling that poor defenseless man out of his car at gunpoint, jumping in the driver's seat and IMMEDIATELY crashing into the central reservation. I took a breath, backed up to try this "driving malarkey" again...and drove straight off the flyover. This was more or less my entire experience of every GTA game I've tried. My character got sent to that ER far too many times. Chase sequences were particularly infuriating. My joints don't cooperate well under pressure, so as the drug dealer/gang warlord/general bad guy drove further and further out of sight, so my body would become more and more tense from the stress. My fingers would cramp, slip off the controller and BAM - an old lady was dead. I simply cannot take that kind of pressure....I just wanted to play a game. Murdering innocent pedestrians (by accident) soon became more than I could bear.

I've had this frustrating experience with many games. Prince of Persia was a nightmare. I couldn't even make the person move properly so had to angrily shut down the console before I'd even properly started the game. Musical games like Rockband gave me cramp like I'd never experienced before. I was actually traumatised in Red Dead Redemption when I kept accidentally herding those cows into a ravine. In the end, the story mode of that game became so inaccessible that I had to end up trotting through the mountains, stopping here and there to pick wildflowers. I'm guessing Rockstar had put ridiculous amounts of time energy and money into this game and I was GARDENING.

I guess I've had to adapt and play to my strengths. By strengths, I mainly refer to LEGO. I rule at Lego games. I think it's the way they progress: I like that you finish story mode of the first book of LOTR/Harry Potter and you're still only something like 7% of the way through the entire game. There are so many opportunities to go back, unlock more parts of the game, get achievements and smash up more stuff. The smashing up stuff is particularly enjoyable. But, I need to stress, the Lego games are not necessarily easy. Just because they're bright and colourful and the characters make these cute little noises whenever they jump, it doesn't mean I can automatically sail through them without a care.

Ellen went away for a week in August. I had the Xbox all to myself. I had two new Lego games: it was going to be a good week. I reckoned I could near enough 100% the Lord of the Rings game, give or take a few missing minikits.

Until I got stuck.

The camera angle wasn't co-operating and I just couldn't figure out how to make Legolas jump up onto the Oliphaunt (I know NOTHING about LOTR, by the way, so all these words are confusing). There was no hope of that 100% now. All those achievements seemed to be slipping away in front of my eyes. I was frustrated. But I persevered; I had a tea break and then went and played that level until my fingers went numb. And finally the little guy made that jump - his long blonde hair flowing triumphantly as he flew through the air. And I felt like I had achieved something. I hadn't - I was just playing a computer game - but it was encouraging nonetheless and it meant that I could reach the end of the game. This is why "easier" modes are so valuable to me. I'm not an expert gamer and I never will be. But games that are accessible mean I can still enjoy them and, if they're designed well, can still be challenged by them. Challenge is good. Impossibility is not.

We're sisters, honest! (at London 2012 Dressage)



  1. With even point & click adventures demanding quicktime events these days (The Walking Dead for example) it surely is difficult do give recommendations.
    As far as Rockstar games are concerned, have you tried LA Noire? For most parts of the game you can let your fellow detective do the driving and action sequences can be skipped after failing them three times. And it's a good game too with about 30h playtime.

  2. Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place.. best gaming chair under 200

  3. Massive respect to both Nellie and Emily for bringing this issue to light (sorry about 6 years late to the party). Emily has such courage to speak out for what, clearly is, a huge oversight in the industry. Although the multiplayer aspects of most games will probably forever hinder you this should not mean exclusion from single player experiences. Might I suggest something like Final Fantasy 7 which is very slow paced and rewarding?
    Ellen using her status as a platform to bring an issue close to her heart to the forefront is an amazing use of the notoriety she has gained.

    Great read, thank you both.