Some of my earliest memories are of playing on the Sega Megadrive back in my old, tiny bedroom at the tender age of three or four. Games have always been a dominant part of my life, but they have been a core part of my being that I was never able to share with my parents.
My Dad was a lost cause. He is part of the old guard. A former miner with a love of gardening, he never really gave games the time of day. The few times I got him to sit down and play anything usually only enforced this division of our opinions.
On the other hand, my Mum has always been willing to watch me and my younger sister play, or take part when she can. And that is the trouble: She can’t play 99% of the time. You see, when she was born she suffered a stoke and lost much of the use of her right hand side. She can still walk and move her right arm but it is clumsy and she has no real control over its grip or independent finger movements.
As you can imagine, this is a problem for playing games because she can’t hold a controller. She certainly can’t manoeuvre her fingers to quickly and accurately press buttons. As such, she was never able to join in with our hobby no matter how much she may have wanted to.
There was a moment though when the clouds parted and a ray of light illuminated a saviour: The Nintendo Wii. I have never been a Nintendo player, having never owned any of their consoles until around 2007 or 2008 when it seemed that every household in the developed world had a Wii. The system itself was little more than a gimmick with engaging games being very few and far between. What it did have though was a new way to interface with games. The age of motion controls had dawned.
My mum loved the console. Countless hours were spent as a family playing Wii Fit, Wii Sports Resort, Mariokart and Link’s Crossbow training. The single, motion controlled Wiimote was the perfect tool for her.
Unfortunately the motion controlled games were basically just party games that were nice in short bursts but never held my attention well. No new games were coming out that fully utilised the Wiimote, and even when Microsoft and Sony tried to jump on the motion control bandwagon, nothing ever really appealed to me.
Another brief moment of salvation appeared when my mum bought a new laptop that happened to be touchscreen. On a whim I installed Plants vs Zombies on it and was happy to note that the game could be played entirely by tapping the screen. I guided my mum through the first few levels then she took off like a bullet, playing the game whenever she had a free moment. In no time she had completed it. I felt a sense of pride that she herself had no doubt felt watching me learn as a child. A few other tower defence games followed but again, the well ran dry, and she returned to playing endless Solitaire on her phone.
When Nintendo announced the Switch I was very excited. Motion controls and a touch screen. This was the perfect console for mum. The very easy gameplay that Nintendo is known for was just another benefit in this case. So at Christmas last year I bought the family a Switch and hoped that a more regular offering of games would keep my mum’s attention.
Some games are pretty good for her but the sad fact is that most are not. Arms is probably the only game we’ve played that she can play without any form of handicap, regularly beating the hell out of me and my sister without breaking a sweat. Mariokart 8 for example is a game she can play but not get the full experience from. She can steer and use items but can’t use the R (jump/skid/boost) button. Most games I’ve found that use a single joycon require it to be turned on its side and so still requires a usable right hand to play. I know that Darkest Dungeon is a game that can be played entirely on the touch screen but that isn’t really her cup of tea. Lots of the smaller games seem similar to this but there is a lack of bigger title games that can be played with only one hand. Fingers crossed for Mario Tennis I guess.
So that’s what I’d like to see more of in the future. We have so much potential in the digital space to create new experiences. My mum is handicapped in real life but I don’t see why she has to be handicapped in games as well.
If you have any recommendations of games that can be played with only one hand, (especially just left handed,) then feel free to let me know. I think that a list of such games could be a really great resource for people.