I’ve been playing games for a little over 20 years now. Starting with PC games when I was a toddler, some age appropriate, some… Less age appropriate (Duke Nukem was a passion for a 3 year old version of myself). Though when I turned 19, things began to change for me physically and mentally. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an incurable illness and something that now leaves me with a disability that affects my daily life. And, as it so happens, my daily life is playing a lot of video games.
Now, I’d always generally played games on normal or easy. I was in it for funsies, because I feel that’s what video games are for. I like to have a good time, be challenged but still be able to get through to whatever ‘a winner is you’ screen the game has in store for me. But being diagnosed with a physical disability changes the way you perceive games. While not as severe as other disabilities, I began to appreciate easy mode and, by extension, various features to accommodate various disabilities.
I began to notice things like Borderlands 2 offering a mode for people with colour-blindness. Games that offered a mode under easy that was heavily narrative based, like the recent Uncharted 4 and its amazing accessibility options. Games with control schemes directed toward people with disabilities, and the ability to remap keys and buttons. Suddenly, all of this made so much sense, and it became a hobby to see which games offered these features and which didn’t.
And it was surprising to see just how many games refused to offer casual modes or even something as simple as a pause screen because they were ‘hardcore’ games. Now, perhaps this is a bad example, because Dark Souls is one of the most hardcore games out there. But, being the game lover I am, I felt it was something I had to play at least once. You know, for that sweet, sweet, ‘gaming cred’ all the kids are talking about. And, lo and behold, I start it up and find that, due to my Crohn’s Disease and all that entails (spoilers: it’s a bowel disease), I had to take a break. Only to discover there’s no pause screen. And I soon found out this seems to be a trend with various horror games, or games that try to market themselves as a hardcore experience.
This immediately alienates such a large part of the market, and yet, there’s such high praise. And if you go online, there’s the same sort of ‘hardcore’ mindset that actively harasses and belittles anyone that chooses anything under normal. Says a game is ‘ruined’ for having narrative modes, despite just, you know, being able to not choose that. It seems a lot of people don’t realize these options that are included aren’t for them. Which I suppose is hard to fathom for a certain section of gamers. And somehow catering to ‘casual’ players is a bad thing.
The truth is, disabled people play games. They need those options. Hell, new players, younger players, older players, even just people who want to have a nice time need those options.
So next time you play a game, don’t roll your eyes at the easy modes, don’t take things like a functioning pause screen for granted.
Think about why it’s there. Think about how these features improve games and make sure everyone can have a good time.