Different games ask different things of their players. Some are all about mental and physical skill and provide their satisfaction through sheer accomplishment. Others are all about story. They have a low skill bar, and they are more about exploration. In the middle of those are games like Uncharted.
Uncharted is a fantasy. Instead of being a regular person, you’re Nathan Drake for a while. You get to swing on grappling hooks, barely survive gunfights, and have the adventure of a lifetime doing it. Being the one doing all those things is a huge part of why the games are so well loved. As gamers, we want to feel challenged. We want to make it look easy, but feel like we overcame something.
What that means is that someone who might not be a full time gamer or who has a different set of circumstances from us might not be able to have that experience. Take Josh Straub of DAGERS, a site that helps disabled gamers sift through the huge stacks of games out there to figure out what they’ll be able to play, whether it’s a simple matter of colorblindness or something bigger like not having full use of both hands. Straub has a disability that affects his hands that came to a head while playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – a section late in the game required a bunch of button-mashing that Straub simply cannot do.
“I was faced with the reality that I had played this entire game, I had spent $60 on it, and I could not get any further without the help of an able-bodied person,” Straub explains in a video from Naughty Dog outlining the steps they’ve taken with Uncharted 4 to remove those barriers.
Straub contacted Naughty Dog about his difficulty, and he ended up working with the team to bring in accessibility options that let a much wider range of gamers play their epic adventure.
The team ended up implementing a bunch of features. One straight-forward one is an option to hold a button down instead of mashing it. If you have difficulty with fine motor skills or fast movement, this can take a sequence from unplayable back to that fun escape Uncharted is supposed to be. Other elements aim at de-emphasizing the right analog stick on the Dual Shock 4 controller. When enabled, the camera will self-adjust to point you at enemies. There’s an auto-aim as well to make single-player combat easier. Even multiplayer got some attention; the teams were initially red and green, but were replaced with red and blue to make things easier on those with colorblindness.
These options should, really, be more common than they are. They make games like these playable for people who couldn’t play otherwise without affecting the experience of those who have the ability to hone the skills to play on tougher difficulties. And not only do they welcome in disabled gamers, but even inexperienced gamers having a tough time with the complex controls can get more out of games this way as well.
Microsoft and Sony have both taken bigger steps this generation by allowing full, system-wide remapping of controller buttons as well as game-specific remapping to make stuff like this easier, but game developers have to take on some of the work, too, and Naughty Dog has really stepped up this time around.