Like many gamers that live with physical disabilities, I have had my fair share of difficulty with many of the non-traditional control schemes that have become synonymous with Wii software since the console was launched almost three years ago.
Whether coming to grips with the Nunchuck attachment or simply using the pointer of the Wii Remote, sometimes it has been difficult and frustrating for me to play Wii because of the limited dexterity of my left hand associated with Cerebral Palsy and the Arthritis in my hands and arms. I wanted to share a few simple tricks that I use to help me enjoy playing Wii, even on days that my body doesn’t want to co-operate.
From the time we brought our Wii home on launch day, I had problems using the Nunchuck attachment. It became apparent to me that over the years I had spent learning to use game controllers with my left hand, I had become used to having my right hand providing both resistance and support. To this day, I still have trouble pushing up on the analog stick and end up just tilting the Nuchuck down because my right hand is not holding the controller in place.
I have tried a couple of things to help alleviate this. First, though I am right-handed, I tried swapping the Wii Remote to my left hand so I could use the analog stick and small C button with my good hand. This setup reminded me of the way I learned to use an N64 controller “left-handed” and it is how I played through most of Super Mario Galaxy.
Now, I do find it tough to use the pointer extensively and reach the 1 and 2 buttons with my left hand, but for me it was an extremely simple solution to a very frustrating problem and it has allowed me to play and complete quite a few games.
Something else I learned to do early on while struggling with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was to use my leg to stabilize my left hand. I simply rest my left hand on the side of my leg to stabilize it and prevent it from just moving through the air. I find that this also helps me grip the analog stick better with my thumb. It still feels unnatural to play games with my hands so far apart, but it works most of the time.
I actually have idea for an attachment that would basically be an arm/wrist rest that hooks over your leg. I think my problem with pushing the Nuchuck through the air stems from weakness in my elbow and forearm and that resting my left arm/wrist on something allows my hand to grip harder.
While the lefty flip method works for some games, there are obviously others it is not practical for. The Trauma Center games are some of my favourites on the DS, but the Wii versions proved to be difficult for me to control because of extensive Nunchuck use that needed to be executed with precision and pointer-heavy gameplay that I needed to use my right hand for.
My solution here is the Wii Zapper accessory. It lets me turn the Wii Remote and Nunchuck into a single, two-handed controller that allows me to better use the analog stick. It also lets me guide the pointer with my right hand and though using the A and B buttons in concert took some getting used to, I found that this also provides me with greater pointer stability.
When I’m having a day that sees me struggling with Arthritis pain, even holding up the Wii Remote and keeping it still enough to use its pointer can be difficult. While the Wii Zapper is great for games that require a Nunchuck, it isn’t very comfortable and it’s impractical for games that use only a Wii Remote or genres like third-person action that tend to require shaking the Wii Remote and/or Nunchuck.
An accessory like the Nyko Perfect Shot is affordable and allows for a more ergonomically sound grip on the Wii Remote while allowing free movement of both the pointer and Nunchuck attachment. The drawback here is that using the A and B buttons at the same time is virtually impossible with one hand.
Of course, the pistol can be gripped with both hands in the case of Wii Remote-only games like Zack & Wiki or my import copy of Another Code: R, which allows for operation of all the Wii Remote buttons and also for shaking, twisting and tilting of the controller. The Wii Wheel attachment is also effective as a two-handed grip for pointer-based games, though I tend to use it for something else.
When I was playing Super Paper Mario I grew to hate playing games for any extended length of time while holding the Wii Remote sideways “NES Style”. The controller is simply too small and the left side of it is very thin. I found it tough to grip it properly and my thumb would tend to slip off of the d-pad and accidentally hit the A or B buttons.
While the Wii Remote Jacket that Nintendo introduced some time later does help by creating a larger surface to grip on the left side of the Wii Remote, the right side is still small and quite often I’ll feel myself getting “Claw Hand” from trying to grip it, especially on days when my Arthritis is flared up. I find that the Wii Wheel not only makes the controller symmetrical, but slightly thicker as well, allowing me a more comfortable grip. It also makes the B button on the back easier to detect and it still allows for shaking, tilting and pointing.
The first thing I do when I play Wii software is check to see whether it supports the Classic Controller or GameCube controller. For many games it simply feels more natural to play on a traditional controller and I do whenever it is possible, which is sadly not nearly as often as I would hope. Many of the “traditional” Wii games like platformers are ported from, or simultaneously developed for the PS2 and/or PSP, so implementing a traditional control scheme on the Wii version should be easy enough for a developer.
While the Wii is arguably the least accessible home video game console ever produced for people with physical limitations or disabilities, adaptations can be made to make it more enjoyable for those of us that struggle with its standard control setup.
I would love to see Nintendo or a third party step up and actively try to make playing Wii more accessible, whether through specifically-designed accessories or by making traditional controls more standard. Nintendo has gone to great lengths to bring video games to a wider audience, now it’s time to bring it back to millions of gamers living with physical limitations and disabilities who grew up and learned to play with them.