It's been a year since I started writing games criticism and a lot about the way I play games has changed in that time. And that's because of some serious wrist/arm/hand problems I've been having for a while now. I can't just "plug and play" anymore.
I have to be fiercely intentional about the way I play and work. My desk configuration has changed, I can't play with gaming mice anymore and holding a controller is sometimes hard. This isn't even scratching the surface of what I do to keep my body healthy. But I am privileged to still be able to hold a standard controller and use a keyboard with no modifications. For many disabled folks, that isn't possible. And as such, gaming hasn't been accessible to them.
And it sucks because the technology is there to offer solutions and has been for a while. Yet, it's always been DIY projects or third party manufacturers that offer people real solutions, until now. Earlier this week Microsoft announced that it would release an Xbox controller designed for disabled folks.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller is pretty cool. It's modular, compatible with a whole host of gaming peripherals and has completely programmable buttons. It takes the things people were doing themselves and creates a device that does those things natively. The only problem is that $100 price tag, significantly more than for a standard controller. But progress is something.
Great as this all is, it highlights a greater issue in the gaming industry, a total lack of attention to physical accessibility by the big three companies. Especially Nintendo. Industry fads such as motion controls and VR ignore the needs of disabled folks, especially when they have the nerve to not include a way to enjoy these games without using them.
It's my hope that the trend to address the physical accessibility of games continues beyond the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Developers need to also address the abelism in their design choices. All games should have customizable controls and there's no excuse for a game to have movement controls as the sole means of play. It's high time this gets sorted so we can all enjoy games together while also caring for our bodies.