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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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  • 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.
    • Funny that it's the Revolution getting attention for this. I remember a couple of games (especially driving/racing games) that could be played on the N64 using only one hand.

      And there's always Duck Hunt.
    • I have a handicapped sister so development of games and software useful for people with very limited mobility is interesting to me. I made her a cd/dvd playing program that can be controlled entirely with two buttons and by default the two buttons are mouse buttons which are easily controlled by plugging things like sip & puff switches or jelly buttons into an adapter that lets them act like a mouse button. For those with a bit more mobility it isn't hard to adapt other switches to take on a mouse's bal
      • I've always wondered why seriously disabled people can't use a mouse controlled by the tongue? Google returns a couple of prototypes, but nothing commercial. I'd think something like this would be ideal- IIRC most quads have use of their facial/mouth muscles and coupled with a speech recognition program would allow virtually full use of a computer. (Assuming you could work with both at the same time.)
    • *insert joke about one-handed gaming here*
  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:26PM (#14601704)
    The new controller helps disabled gamers AND it helps obese couchpotatoes lose some arm-flab! score!!!
  • by grub (11606)

    I wish this controller was out a few years ago.

    I remember sitting in the park with Christopher Reeve in mid-2002 when he said "Of all the things I miss from when I was able-bodied, I miss playing games the most." He was quite down about it. I gave him a slap on the back, which was silly in hindsight as he couldn't feel it, and said "Cheer up, you'll be putting the 'Super' back in 'Superman' one day."

    I'll never forget the way he took a big, machine assisted breath and said "Thanks, G."
  • Well, this sounds great if it works like that, which I doubt it will. I would think it would make it harder, not easier. The Revolution is interesting, but I think this is a bit of a long shot, before the console is even out.
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:35PM (#14601822)
    New controller, can be operated with one hand. Photo [slashdot.org]
  • 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.
    • "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?"

      The fact that 99.9% of PC games are designed for keyboard and mouse (as FPS fans are so fond of moaning about when they play on a console), which requires both hands and ten fingers. Unless the games are specifically written for these specialized controllers, you'll end up with a cludge that probably won't be very satisfying to anybody.

      On t
  • by Control Group (105494) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:44PM (#14601927) Homepage
    This highlights exactly my concern regarding the new controller. If someone with only the use of one hand can effectively use the controller, that means (obviously) that most or all potential for input from the other hand will be ignored. This strikes me as a strange, and possibly deal-breaking decision to make for a video game console.

    The trend to date in video games has been towards more, rather than less, complexity. Bucking that trend will be, in my estimation, extraordinarily difficult. Improving games by adding complexity has proven to be comparatively easy - witness the endless parade of sequels, sports franchises, and ever-increasing button counts on controllers. If you can't add complexity, however, you're forced to add to gameplay in another way.

    Now, improving gameplay in ways more fundamental than just adding new things is a fantastic thing to do. Innovation is always better than revision. The problem Nintendo will have is that they've foreclosed the option to add complexity, which means all they can do is add innovation...and innovation is hard.

    If they can pull it off, and release a non-stop series of games that are innovative, then I'll be a happy camper. But I don't know if they can. It's going to be hard to improve on the GC's Metroid games while providing fewer control inputs. Ditto Zelda, Mario, Smash Bro.'s, and Mario Kart, which means they're potentially hurting themselves when it comes to staple games that, to date, have sold systems.

    Possibly even worse, having a radically different controller than the other two consoles will be a disincentive to 3rd-party developers to try and port games to the Revolution. Perhaps the Revo's hardware is going to be far enough behind the others' that this won't matter; they wouldn't have ported anyway. But whatever the reason, that slows uptake of the new console, too.

    Now, if anyone can pull it off, it's probably Nintendo. And I really hope they do, since it would be fantastic if there was a dramatic change in what kind of new games got released in favor of innovation vs. revision. But I harbor deep-seated doubts as to whether even the big N can succeed solely on innovative games, and ignoring wheelhouse franchises.

    (As a sidebar, I'm also leery of how comfortable I might be using just one hand to play a game. I look at it this way: the NES controller could easily be redesigned to be used one-handed, as a pistol-grip with a thumbstick on top and a button per finger on the underside. Would I want to play any game with that controller as opposed to the original? I really don't think so. It's just easier to do two things at once when you've got one hand per task...and most genres of games require at least executing movement along with at least one-button action simultaneously)
    • You're not taking into account the motion sensitivity. If the controller were two-handed, then you'd need to move both hands for one movement. It would be like using two of those one-handed NES controllers you describe, and having to press the same button on both for it to register.
      • 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/b
        • The system is also shipping with an attachment you hold in your left hand which contains an analog stick and 2 buttons. One of the big examples is when playing an FPS, you'd use the stick to walk and the remote to aim. Granted, I still don't think that's enough buttons for Metroid Prime, so I'm rather curious to see what they come up with.

          There's also a WaveBird style shell that goes around the base controller allowing standard control styles while still retaining motion sensitivity.
      • Have you ever played a motion-sensitive game? I recall one gimmick game in the arcades back in the early 90s...it was horrible.

        Nintendo will no doubt find some excellent uses for the controller, but traditional game styles that drive the console market (sports, FPS, fighting, light RPG) don't seem all that well suited for it.

        I could imagine it being VERY cool for racing sims if properly implemented, though.
      • When I use my lightsaber, I want to use both hands.
    • Not so sure (Score:3, Insightful)

      by killmenow (184444)
      Why couldn't it be done such that one controller in one hand could get you through the game, (making certain features automatic or supplemented by the console/game) but still configurable such that you could take over the automatic functions by using a second controller in your other hand? Speaking of the Metroid series, one controller could easily be assigned movement and fire, with automatic aiming turned on...or two controllers could be used with one assigned to weapons control and the other to movement
      • *blink*

        You know, I had managed to not think of that at all?

        Now that you say it, of course, it's smacking me in the face with the "obvious" stick...and you're right, that would take care of all my concerns.

        I would hope, then, that the Revo would ship with two controllers...but since I already factor the cost of a second controller and a game into the purchase price of a console, even that wouldn't bother me much. Do we know how many controllers the Revo will be able to support? If it's the traditional four,
    • by wvitXpert (769356) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:35PM (#14602457)
      Have you not seen the controler mockups? There is a joystick unit with a trigger that attaches via a short cord to the main controller. This allows for moving your character with the joystick, while aiming with the controller, and pulling the trigger to fire. Or at least that's how it would apply to my favorite genre.
    • I think you're main problem with the Rev controller is that the design disallows for games from "normal" controllers to be easily ported. It's one of the lesser known things, but Nintendo is creating a "shell" for the controller- one that will look and act a lot like today's Gamecube controller, and will actually be an attachment for the Remote Controller.

      And, as far as I can remember, it's going to be a regular option, meaning that designers won't have to worry if a consumer has the shell or not, because a
    • by Phantasmo (586700) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @03:52AM (#14605261)
      If Nintendo can make a solid platformer that's controlled with bongo drums, they can certainly make plenty of great games for the one-handed and nunchaku Revolution controllers.
    • Too bad the other Revolution controller design [gizmodo.com] wasn't adopted. I'm all for more buttons!
    • One thing I think you're missing is that controls haven't really been taken away, thanks to the motion-sensing. That is, on a dualshock-type controller your left hand deals with movement through the analog stick and d-pad, and has two shoulder buttons. There aren't any "action" buttons over there (other than the shoulder buttons). So they take away the left side of the controller and the right analog stick, but put the analog-stick/d-pad functionality into the controller itself. They also added some cont
  • by kevin.fowler (915964) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:18PM (#14602294) Homepage
    Teaching/TA'ing/Subbing in a few Middle school programs, I had a chance to work with a lot of disabled kids. Bright kids who enjoyed the same activities as their classmates. Some of them tried ridiculously hard to play video games, even though the conventional controller designs were prohibitive. If any game company were to embrace adaptive technology, I certain feel like Nintendo would. And I would applaud it.
  • by ShyGuy91284 (701108) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:33PM (#14602438)
    Ascii came up with one a while ago for the Playstation called the Ascii Grip (google images has many pictures of it). I got it because it was a cheap "we gotta get rid of this" deal from Electronics Botique. Not great for practical use by your typical gamer due to only being able to press a couple buttons at once, but useful if you want to play your RPG with one hand and eat pizza with the other hand.
  • by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:41PM (#14602502)
    And they should be. There are a lot of us, ranging from car accident victims to war veterans to crazy old men with perceptual disorders like me. If a game company stepped up to the plate and spent the small amount they would need to make a game accessible (integrate it with MS's text-to-speech and other accessibility features; permit simplified game control layouts, even if they allow less of the game to be fully explored, as long as it's finishable with the reduced control set; there's a million ways), I'm certain disabled gamers would respond. I'm not talking about targetting games solely at that section of the market, just removing the artificial and unnecessary barriers that exists as it is, adding features to normal game releases.
  • by Dysson (457249) on Monday January 30, 2006 @07:16PM (#14602774)
    I have lost most of the use in my left hand. I am able to move my fingers, but I cannot obtain a strong grip. I have pretty good use of my thumb, but I am unable to feel anything with the top of my thumb. Therefore, I am able to use a gamepad directional controller, but not effectively. This is why I am so thoroughly happy that the analog stick became the norm in future controllers.

    This is also why I purchsed a Nintendo DS. I only buy games that make complete use of the stylus - Trauma Center, Bust-a-Move, and WarioWare, to name a few. This is also why I will buy a Revolution. Where some will look at this controller as a gimmick, I look at it as a boon. I couldn't have been happier to finally see a controller I could use.

    I know losing the ability to play alot of video games may not be the end of the world, but it really blows.
  • 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!
  • Duck Hunt, with the NES Zapper. Seriously, you can be deaf, colorblind and have only one arm, and still master it easily
  • by macserv (701681) on Monday January 30, 2006 @11:42PM (#14604212)
    ...when it comes to modern video game systems - at least, emotionally. That's the problem Nintendo strives to correct. Most people, outside of a core group of gamers, won't even pick up a controller. And who can blame them? A DualShock 2 has 17 buttons! Seventeen! The Revolution controller is much more akin to a computer mouse, or even a simple pointer, offering direct manipulation of the game.

    Non-gamers love direct manipulation... it's the reason my girlfriend plays her Nintendo DS so much. She won't touch my PlayStation 2. With the DS, in many games you don't use the controller to tell a representative character what to do, you just do it.

    The fact that it allows adaptation for physically handicapped individuals is gravy, and a very tasty gravy indeed. Country gravy, even. Imagine that... so much is possible when a company innovates.
  • I was born missing three fingers on my left hand and two on my right. What fingers I do have are mishapen and deformed. However I'm a huge gamer and I've struggled along through various controllers and I've found weird and awkward ways to use all of them. However I fear that I simply won't be able to play the revolution as I don't think I'll have the grip required to hold the controller up nor will the buttons fall into my grasp easily like they do on the current generations controllers. Already the DS's to
    • What you've hit on here is the central problem in trying to make mainstream products accessible to people with disabilities--which particular disabilities do you optimize for? My roommate is legally blind, and has difficulty with games that have small maps in the corner of the screen (GTA for example). Bright colors would make those maps much easier for him to see. But if all the colors were the same brigtness, a color-blind person would have a much harder time with it. Or if you make the game rely more

  • 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.
  • I know a quadrapalegic who has extremely limited arm movement, but enough so he could enjoy Lifeline on PS2.
  • "relatively strong right hand" Hmm.

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