It’s the beginning of 2015, and while I spent a big portion of January out of town and not listening to podcasts, I caught up in the meantime, especially during long drives for work. I was moved by a lot of thought-provoking and insightful content this month, as well as some laughs.
I enjoy being a member of several smaller subreddits that have good communities, even despite the overarching policies I despise about Reddit itself. Particularly I like local subreddits, like /r/gatech and /r/atlanta. In these spaces the physical proximity serves to create a kinder environment, reinforced by positive, productive discussion about tangible locations and events in the area.
Of course that doesn’t mean I agree with everything I see, as is expected when perusing a space where anyone can say just about anything (AKA the internet). A particular post caught my eye yesterday and caused several reactions in me.
Super Mario 64 is a 1996 Nintendo 64 classic that introduced to a wide audience the possibilities of the 3-dimensional platformer. It preceded and laid groundwork for Super Mario Sunshine and the Galaxy games. It was also one of the most important games of my childhood: I played it for hours, beat it multiple times, marveled at its depth and complexity, and messed with it with a Gameshark.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that about a month ago I took time to read Kotaku and AV Club articles on a recent development about the game. Frankly, though, it should attract attention that this game has any news at all, even without my rampant nostalgia factor. When was the last time anything exciting came out of Wave Race 64? C’mon!
The news? Scott Buchanan, or “pannenkoek2012” on YouTube, was accomplishing major feats within Super Mario 64 that had gone unresolved for years. Notably he had obtained the “impossible coin” through tool-assisted gameplay and significant experimentation. More recently he discovered a “mystery Goomba” and tested different methods to stomp it.
PBS Game/Show is a great YouTube channel where Jamin Warren discusses topics relevant to video game design, culture, and industry. (With a format and tone similar to PBS Idea Channel) This week they put up a video about the challenges of disabled gamers and how video games can be designed better to include them:
Warren has been great, in part, by taking up the mantle of discussing progressive topics about sexism, racism, and other toxic elements in games and their players. This video is another strong example, though not mandatory to watch for this post. I include it as it was my inspiration to write and a great context to couch this post in.
I’m very much on-board with the many ways game designers can work to include simple options to enable disabled people of many different kinds to play their game! What struck me, though, was his mention of left-handedness issues with Pikmin 3’s touchpad and stylus. This made the entire conversation much more relatable to my experience being a southpaw gamer! I want to share several examples of where lefties struggle, show the importance and challenges of including lefty characters, and share some design choices that can include us (and that strongly align with including disabled gamers).
I should state, however, that being left-handed is not a disability. I simply find the problems and solutions in video gaming to be similar and a useful branching point.