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Revolution Offers Hope For Disabled Gamers? 85

Posted by Zonk
from the that-can-only-be-a-good-thing dept.
Via Joystiq, an article on Mercury News discussing the possible benefits to disabled gamers via use of Nintendo's unique Revolution control scheme. From the article: "Like many people with spinal-cord injuries that affect all four limbs, Taft retains some use of his arms and hands. But it's not enough for effectively operating the typical two-hand game device. He's confident his relatively strong right hand will be able to manipulate the new controller, which is part of the Revolution game system that's still under development by Nintendo."
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Revolution Offers Hope For Disabled Gamers?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:25PM (#14601695)

    Check out these nifty one-switch games [oneswitch.org.uk]. Not just one hand, but one button. These games are controlled entirely through skillful use of the space bar.
  • No PC gaming? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The-Bus (138060) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:42PM (#14601907)
    I imagine there's a much larger existing userbase for input devices for the disabled in the PC world. What prevents someone from using one of these devices for gaming? I'm not too familiar with this kind of stuff but I'm sure there's a sort of trackball . keyboard combo that could be used. You might not innately be as quick as you used to be (or as other players), but you'd be surprised...

    When I went to college a fellow student at the end of the hall was very big into games. I believe his console of choice was the Saturn and he played it with an arcade-style joystick. What's surprising about him is that he had a pretty serious congenital disorder: he was born without arms, and just small, working hands at the end of his shoulders. I believe he moved the joystick with his mouth. He was a pretty good player too.

    Worthy of mention too, is Pin Interactive's Terraforma [terraformers.nu], which is a game designed both for sighted and unsighted gamers. Even for sighted gamers, the game offers a high-contrast mode. A playable demo [terraformers.nu] is available.

    One of the lead developers of Terraforma mentions in this article that there are other games for the disabled [igda.org] - he specifically mentions MUDs as well as some really neat off-the-wall concepts like games that use a "breating interface".

    I'm glad that attention is being paid to this. I don't think it will mean increased business for Nintendo in any measurable term, but then everything isn't about revenue.
  • by Control Group (105494) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:07PM (#14602186) Homepage
    Fair enough, and I hadn't considered that. It at least splits functions into minor muscle groups (fingers) and major muscle group (arm). I still worry that ignoring the other hand will be, overall, detrimental. I think I'd rather have a two-piece controller, one of which was motion-sensitive and the other of which had all the buttons.

    Consider driving a car. You can easily simulate (and plenty of games do) all the core functionality of a car with one thumbstick (steering), two analog controls (accelerating/braking), and a pair of buttons (shift up/down). In fact, with modern controllers, you can toss in honking the horn, looking around, adjusting your radio, and changing your camera angle (doesn't even have a real-life analogue). I do this every time I play PGR3, and it's not particularly challenging.

    On the other hand, when it comes to a real car, I use two hands, my neck, and one foot (two, if I'm driving a manual). And I have less than no desire to replace all those controls that tie up all those muscle groups with a modern controller. Using more muscle groups with minimal complexity is, to me at least, easier and more intuitive than using fewer muscle groups with greater complexity.

    It's not so much that I don't see how you can play a modern game with one hand, it's more that no matter how simple the game, I'd rather split its inputs across both hands. Even in Asteroids and Galaga, I want to play with one hand on the stick and the other on the button, not with a joystick+trigger.

    *shrug*

    Maybe it's just personal preference, but the long history of video games employing two-handed controllers seems to indicate to me that it's a natural inclination for people to split tasks like this.
  • by MaestroSartori (146297) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:02PM (#14603053) Homepage
    ...but probably only for certain gamers, in certain games. To add my normal disclaimer, I'm a games programmer working for Sony (not their opinions in here, just mine, etc etc), but I have relatives and friends with various medical conditions which would have hampered playing games (ranging from colour blindness and deafness through to cerebral palsy and other more serious problems), so I've thought a little about this. None of them are (or were) games players. so this is mostly just guesswork and supposition on my part, but hopefully worthwhile. Anyway!

    To take the most extreme example, someone without at least partial use of both legs is unlikely to fully enjoy Dance Dance Revolution or similar using a dance mat as an input device. That's not to say someone nimble couldn't manage, though, but generally. Playing bemani with an alternate controller isn't as much fun, for me anyway, but alternate controllers do at least give the option of participation. Which is a good thing - purely from a developer point of view, the more people you can include in your gaming experience, the better. Genres like this, as well as others where the physical interaction isn't the core of the gameplay, are easiest to make inclusive in this way (with subtitles for deaf players, bright or high-contrast graphics and enlarged text for people with impaired vision, etc). These are, of course, the games where the Revolution controller would probably have the least impact, as they're the least directly interactive in the sense of swinging a bat or shooting a gun.

    To jump genres, twitch games like shoot em ups or first person action games almost always require a combination of multiple inputs, exercised with speed and precision. These are things which require much more radical efforts to make inclusive - things like auto aiming and reduced enemy reaction time could help, but would these maybe seem condescending to the player? "Here, let's make things easier for you since you can't manage..." I don't really know, it would be worth asking gamers that. The problem is that unless the Nintendo and game developers consider things like this, Revolution's controller could actually make these games worse for disabled players. For example, the addon controllers already shown could easily mean that some games require two hands to play, but with careful design (or possibly different optional addons designed for different disabilities), it could improve things dramatically for disabled gamers.

    Of course, it'll all come down to money in the end - is the disabled gaming market big enough to justify the expense of research and development time for these things to be adequately looked at? Sadly, I'm pretty pessimistic.At least the possibility is there, and people can start to ask the questions. If enough of a market can be found, maybe something good will happen!
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:21PM (#14603462)
    "I've never seen so many people let their imaginations spin so wildly out of control about a toy."

    You must've missed the build up (and eventual letdown) of everything the PS2 was supposed to do before launch. Anyone remember the Emotion Processor? At one point I'm pretty sure Sony was claiming they'd cure cancer with that one.
  • by Builder (103701) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @05:11AM (#14605452)
    My wife lost around half of her thumb on her right hand in an accident last year. This being her dominant hand, she has been unable to use most of the consoles that we have in the house as effectively as she used to.

    She's looking REALLY forward to the revolution.

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