Jan. 30, 2012 at 2:50 PM ET
There are many gamers out there who are unable to enjoy many of today's games, if any at all. These are individuals who are physically handicapped in some manner, making the basic act of managing a controller, or even a keyboard and mouse, a challenge.
It has been an issue since day one, but as titles become increasingly complex, workarounds are becoming less and less effective.
One gamer, going by the name "HarpoonIPA," decided to reach out to Almost Human, the maker of "Legend of Grimrock." When asked if the upcoming game would include on-screen arrows, programmer Petri Häkkinen responded with a no.
But Häkkinen also enquired why such a feature is of interest; the person making the request explained that he/she is disabled and uses a mouth stick for typing. Using the mouse to click on arrows on-screen would be easier, but would in the end do the best he or she can with a physical keyboard.
Three hours later, programmer Häkkinen returned with:
Hey, I didn't see why the arrow icons couldn't be added, so I went and added them for you. They can be enabled from the settings menu. Hope you like the game!
As a result, "HarpoonIPA" was very appreciative. Best part was how this act did not go unnoticed; the exchange was posted on Reddit, and many applauded Almost Human's action. It caused so much sudden interest in the game that it took down their website several times.
Joystiq reached out to Almost Human, and got Juho Salila, one of its artists. He noted how everyone at the studio was blown away by the reaction, and how such a relatively simple act made such a profound impact that it gave everyone a sense of perspective on life. Most telling is the following statement:
It's a bit sad to find out that even such a small gesture toward fans gets so much attention, because it says that there's a huge gap between the game creators and the audience in general, and people just aren't used to this kind of interaction.
It recent years, there have been several grassroots movements that have tried to encourage game makers to address disabled gamers. Perhaps the most prominent entity in this area is the advocacy group Able Gamers.
More recently in the news was the Ocean Marketing PR fiasco, which centered around the Avenger controller attachment, which was originally designed to assist handicapped gamers.
Awareness of such an audience is starting to grow among game makers, but as with many things in life, there is much left for improvement.
Matthew Hawkins is a NYC based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot, and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts of The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.