Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Customizable Button Mapping for Disabled Gamers

Update: Added a title to the post. Whoops :S

A few weeks ago I posted about how Sony San Diego's upcoming MLB '11: The Show will include an "Association for Disabled Virtual Athletes" mode. Basically the game will be playable using only one button, making it accessible to disabled players. Anyway, this morning I read on Joystiq that developer Visceral Games plans to patch customizable controls into the PC version of their recent Dead Space 2.

The patch comes in response to an online petition and a forum post by Gareth Garratt, a player living with cerebral palsy. Garratt has been playing through Dead Space 2 on his PC using a mouse as his primary input device. Frustrated at the inability to program a "walk forward" command to one of the mouse buttons, Garratt posted on publisher EA Games' forums. There he complained about his difficulties with Dead Space 2 and asked the developers to acknowledge the needs of disabled gamers.

Garratt playing Fallout 3 by using his chin to manipulate the mouse

Garratt's post directed readers towards an already existing online petition that asks game developers and publishers to include custom button mapping in their games. At publishing the petition has received almost 25 thousand signatures, and evidently it took less than that to convince Visceral Games to support the cause. Executive Producer Steve Papoutsis has told Joystiq that the PC version of Dead Space 2 will be receiving a patch that will allow players to re-map the games controls to the mouse. For the full release head over to the original post over at Joystiq.

I don't know if it's just that I only recently started paying attention, but it seems like 2011 is proving to be a great year for disabled gamer accessibility. The original Dead Space was hugely enjoyable, and so I've really been looking forward to Dead Space 2. The sequel garnered excellent reviews, so I was already thinking about picking it up (eventually). This news gives me one more (altruistic-ish) reason to buy the game and support developer Visceral Games.


  1. I have a friend who is colourblind, which is often a really big deal for gamers (the number of indicators for games that are red/green or red/blue is staggering -- FPS games often have green sights that turn red when over a target, RPGs have red health bars and green/blue mana bars, etc). He really appreciated, of all things, PopCap's Peggle, which had a options for colourblind players that put symbols on the pegs so that they could rely on the symbols, rather than the colours.

    It's truly important to make games more accessible -- to add subtitles for the hearing impaired (I'm looking at you Left 4 Dead, and your 'sound cues'), larger text and less 'everything is the same shade of brown' color styles of the visually impaired, and more accessible/remappable controls for those with mobility issues. This is also one of my major concerns with the Wii, as well as Move and Kinect; games designed to take advantage of full mobility should be able to be modified for those who are not able-bodied. That the Dead Space developers are working towards accessibility is an excellent sign that the gaming industry is starting to pay attention to people with disabilities.

  2. Fuck all my typos in that, hopefully the point gets across.

  3. good to see accessibility becoming an issue. even better that you noticed. the needs of those with disabilities have been ignored for far too long.