I have enjoyed the Wii and DS’s approach to broaden the traditional method of video game control, but in the process, left-handed gamers are being put in a difficult position: become right-handed or give up. That’s not to say every Wii game has been too hard to play. Pointing the Wii remote with the left hand is simply more natural for left-handers, so having to consult the right hand for this task presents an extra learning curve. Sure, the remote and nunchuk combo could theoretically be flipped around, but after 12 years of having the analog stick on the left, that’s not going to happen.
Even Link has turned to the right hand.
Left-handers are, no doubt, used to this kind of neglect. Rarely has being left-handed put us in any kind of advantage, like when you use the tethered pen at the bank and have to stretch it taut to sign your check. Left-handedness only serves a purpose in throwing off baseball pitchers who have never practiced with left-handed batters. In some cases, it also startles classmates who see you write on the chalkboard and bawk, “I didn’t know you were left-handed!” as though this automatically qualifies you as a disheveled creative genius.
With a traditional controller, I always felt my left-handed ways gave me an edge. Primary movement was positioned on the left, after all. This probably didn’t have any real bearing on my gaming skills, but it nevertheless allowed games to be a venue where I didn’t feel handicapped because of my choice of hand. When the DS came out, however, this equality was broken once again.
Developers do make an effort to provide a left-handed option in DS games, but I sense this ends up being a last-minute fix to appease the minority. Too often, all that changes by switching to “left-handed” is that the X, Y, A, and B buttons now become what the D-pad was. These buttons make a lousy D-pad, by the way. In Jam Sessions, it’s harder to pull off a smooth transition between chords, because you can’t just glide across the D-pad. You have to work your way around four separate and distinct buttons, and I always end up hitting the wrong chord or breaking the reverb from the previous chord. I understand there isn’t much developers can do to fix this, though, because the system is what it is: D-pad on one side, buttons on the other.
My bigger gripe is that nothing else changes about a game. Some games don’t even bother to switch the functions of the L and R buttons, like Hannah Montana: Music Jam. Playing the guitar in this game required some very tricky fingerwork. Then there’s Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble, involving a lot of stylus-based gameplay along with the usual D-pad movement. This was an absolute nightmare for left-handers when you were asked to hold a direction on the D-pad, hold the L-button, and slash the screen with the stylus.
Nobody cares about left-handers! Ho, ho, ho!
Fortunately, only a few games have been that bad. But there are little annoyances inside even higher-polished games like The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. All the icons and buttons you need to tap are conveniently placed off to the right side of the screen, perfectly befitting right-handed gamers. Switch to left-handed, and… oh, what’s this? The icons are still on the right side! Phantom Hourglass did try to move some icons over to the left, but the items menu–the most important menu to be able to access–didn’t migrate with them. And Brain Age wouldn’t even re-orient the screen until you went into a left-handed save file! I know, I know, these seem like such petty things for me to have to put up with. But I’m left-handed. My job is to find faults in a right-handed world.