Accessibility concerns in games like New Super Mario Bros


#1

I don’t personally have a physical disability, but playing the Deluxe rerelease of NSMBU was a nasty reminder about how a lack of consideration for common disabilities can make for a frustrating experience.

The main thing I’m hung up on is the implementation of the run button. It’s the same as it always was, where you can hold down the Y button to run faster, which you’ll almost always be doing because of how slow the default walk speed is.

I probably don’t need to explain the issues inherent with a mechanic that requires you to constantly put pressure down on a button at all times. Even for me, it’s physically painful to keep doing that for several minutes at a time, and likely impossible for anyone with several common disabilities that prevent tightly holding any object for very long.

What sours me is how barren the control options are: you can swap the run and jump face buttons. That’s it. No rebinding, no changing what the trigger buttons do (in the case of the two left triggers, literally nothing). Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze at least had the decency to let you hold the triggers to run, which is better but still not ideal.

And the especially weird thing is, Nintendo already solved this is the rerelease of Mario Kart 8, which had an auto-accelerate option. That was a huge relief both for people like me who can easily get hand cramps, and probably a godsend for anyone who physically could not keep the button held down for very long.

I don’t have anywhere to go with this, since I don’t see Nintendo patching the game for something like this, so I’ll ask a question for people here: has a passive design choice with controls ever created a physical irritation or outright barrier for you?


#2

I’m just going to throw out there that anyone who doesn’t add a proper way to rebind controls in their game is either a bad programmer who hard coded and didn’t think about it till the end of development or more likely is someone who didn’t stop to think about anyone but themselves playing the game.

It is a continuous disappointment that games continue to fail in what should be an easy thing to add.


#3

My problem with it is more one of aesthetic than control, but I still find Tetris Effect really difficult as an autistic person and the, apparent, lack of a mode that reduces visual feedback or slows down the music is extremely frustrating.

Like, fuck me, maybe I’m a dumbass, but I tried SO HARD to get into that game only to have it short out my brain at almost every turn.


#4

I completely agree and will expand that Nintendo is extremely bad with offering custom control options. I don’t personally need rebinding (though in some cases for me it is a convenience) but Breath of the Wild, for example, has only one rebinding option to my knowledge: changing the jump button with a vague options menu toggle.

That game has, in my opinion, pretty terrible default controls and when I think about the people who might need some kind of rebinding options for any reason it just doesn’t make sense. Why not? Are control schemes so core to the experience that they can’t be modified in any way? I rarely think they are, and when I do think they are it’s generally an arcade game with a gimmick such as Dance Dance Revolution or something that takes advantage of specific touch screen functionality (see: Florence).


#5

I mostly play the Switch in handheld mode and maybe I just can’t find a comfortable way to hold it yet but I find that every time I play it I get hand cramps just from holding the console by like, 30 minutes in. I wonder though if some of that has also just been bad control design.

I have issues with things that are not colorblind friendly (which is a really weird way to say that I am a kind of colorblind). Most video games these days largely take that into account. It’s much more of a problem in tabletop games, where components are identical but for color, and I play blue with a friend playing purple and constantly pick up their piece, or overlook information on the board because one of the pieces blends really well with the board. That sucks. Although, I’m not sure if this is a colorblindness thing, but when I set video game brightness using their internal metric of making a symbol barely visible, I find that it’s literally impossible to navigate dark areas. I have to put the brightness several ticks above that to be able to see what I’m doing - this happened most recently in Soma, early on when the emergency lights turned on and everything was lit in a faint red - I couldn’t see ANYTHING, and the game definitely wanted me to be able to navigate during that part. Thankfully brightness is a setting in basically every game these days, but that’s due to differences in people’s external hardware rather than out of recognition of differences in our internal “hardware” so to speak. I wish the recognition of “everyone’s TV is different” that motivates brightness and audio lag settings could extend to “every body is different.”


#6

To @Wazanator’s point, I agree that it’s bad programming but not necessarily bad programmers. I have some experience in game dev from the programming side and it’s almost always encouraged to do things the quickest (i.e. least flexible) way possible. It’s often hard to get budget from management to do things the most robust and extensible way.

That said, companies this big have no excuse to be so restrictive with control schemes. It’s not very hard for competent software engineers to build a system that makes rebinding trivial. I can’t find an explanation of the Command Pattern that’s not full of jargon, but the idea is that any action that can be performed is defined separately from the button that performs it. This makes it easy to build AI, too, because you can reuse the commands that players have.

Typically, and this is mostly speculation, I’d bet that rebinding is seen as too costly a feature because interfaces have to be built around it. For console games especially, lower expectation of rebinding probably gives product managers a kind of easy out if those features aren’t considered important.

When it comes to Nintendo, though, that’s honestly bullshit. They could probably take a slice of the money they spend marketing their games as multigenerational and inclusive, and put it towards taking steps to actually include folks.