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Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:32 pm
by Erik_Twice
If you have followed the English speaking sphere of gaming, chances are you are aware of the recent Cuphead/skill in gaming/ableism controversy. Thought I would ask you guys what you think about it.

Here's an article and a small excerpt:

The Physical Glass Ceiling: When The Git Gud Mentality Turns Ableist

It’s not ableist to like Cuphead, or be good at Cuphead. But it’s ableist to insist that we shouldn’t lower the access barrier for those who have limitations. As for how to better support people with disabilities, there are many things developers can do, some of which are already widely in use. Skippable levels, varying difficulty levels, remappable control schemes, support for disability-friendly controllers and accessories are all good. These suggestions are opt-in and don’t take anything away from the game. And for titles like Cuphead, whose identity doesn’t rely on its challenging action alone, it would give players a chance to enjoy the many other wonderful things, like music and art style, that make the game what it is.



So:

1) Do you think difficult games are inherently ableist or otherwise exclusionary?
2) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to disabled gamers?
3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?
4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?
Edit: 5) Do you think the same applies to difficult movies (Eg. Baraka) or a difficult book (Don Quixote) or, say, Picasso's art? Is all art inherently exclusionary or ableist?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I'm interesting in hearing what you have to say.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:44 pm
by alienjesus
Erik_Twice wrote:So:

1) Do you think difficult games are inherently ableist or otherwise exclusionary?
2) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to disabled gamers?
3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?
4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I'm interesting in hearing what you have to say.


1. I wouldn't call it 'ableist', but I do think it is exclusionary.

2. I don't think they have a moral obligation, but I do think it should be considered more. Games like cuphead don't set out to exclude disabled gamers, but they often do so unintentionally. You'll never be able to cater everything to everybody, but there's no harm in considering the options.

3. No, I don't think games have any obligation to offer modes accessible to people less skilled in games. However, I do think it's wise of them to do so in order to draw in new fans.

4. No, I don't see an issue with these modes in most situations. People won't experience games in the intended way in many situations even without these mechanics catering to them. As an art form, I don't see a problem with allowing people less able to appreciate the technical depth of the medium to experience the medium on at least some level. We don't restrict art galleries to people who have no deep understanding of art theory, or music from those who have no understanding of musical theory. I think restricting game content from those with less understanding of the game mechanics is probably more damaging to the art than assisting people to progress. The vision of the art is likely more ruined by not being seen in it's entirety than by being aided in your udnerstanding of it.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:52 pm
by Erik_Twice
Let's add a fifth question:

5) Do you think the same applies to difficult movies (Eg. Baraka) or a difficult book (Don Quixote) or, say, Picasso's art? Is all art inherently exclusionary or ableist?

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:54 pm
by PartridgeSenpai
1) Do you think difficult games are inherently ableist or otherwise exclusionary?

I don't really think difficult games are inherently ableist. No more than a movie is ableist by not being accessible to the blind. There are many circumstances where it's just not possible to cater to some audiences for whatever reason. Most video games require certain things to enjoy them at a very base level: sight, hearing, quick reflexes, two hands, and with the advent of VR we can now add the ability to get up and walk around or twist your body. Just because the blind can't enjoy video games or films doesn't mean every video game needs to start adjusting itself so as to be enjoyed by those without the ability to perceive their visual feedback.

2) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to disabled gamers?
3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?

To answer 2 and 2 at once, I think obligation is a bit of a strong word. It's nice if your game is designed as such that you can put in some modes that allow more people to enjoy it. Some games by design just can't do this for whatever reason. It's nice if they can accommodate the disabled or lower skilled, especially because it widens their customer base, but I don't think developers are obligated to modify the thing they're selling in order to do so. If they want to make a more restricted product that less people can buy, that's their business. No one's life is going to end and no one is going to suffer emotional or physical trauma just because they can't play a certain video game.

4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?

I think justifying making your game less inclusive as part of your "artistic vision" is a bunch of bollocks, frankly. Does it go against your stated purpose? Sure, it very well might. But games are a business of entertainment at the end of the day. Bottom line: It's just plain good business sense to make a game that more people can enjoy. Look at how much good press Nintendo got for the adjustments made to Mario Kart 8 DX that made it easier for both gaming challenged and physically challenged folks to better enjoy. Video games are about having fun, and if a single-player modification that doesn't affect other players' experiences at all can be put in your game to let more people play it, then there is nothing wrong with its inclusion. Let people have fun with things they enjoy!

----

Frankly I absolutely do believe it's ableist, or at the very least elitist, for a consumer to assert that a game they like should not be made more accessible if it in no way affects that consumer's experience. The classic example is an easy mode in Dark Souls. It in no way, shape, or form inhibits your ability to play through it as it was always "intended" to be if there's an easier option for people who don't have the time to get good enough at the game. Some people want something more than just watching a Let's Play to experience a game, and frankly people should be happy that more people can enjoy the game they apparently love so much. There is a clear difference of loving a product for the quality found within it and loving a product because of how much it enhances your e-peen that you can beat it.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:57 pm
by Xeogred
It’s not ableist to like Cuphead, or be good at Cuphead. But it’s ableist to insist that we shouldn’t lower the access barrier for those who have limitations. As for how to better support people with disabilities, there are many things developers can do, some of which are already widely in use. Skippable levels, varying difficulty levels, remappable control schemes, support for disability-friendly controllers and accessories are all good. These suggestions are opt-in and don’t take anything away from the game. And for titles like Cuphead, whose identity doesn’t rely on its challenging action alone, it would give players a chance to enjoy the many other wonderful things, like music and art style, that make the game what it is.

In an interview on Game Informer's podcast last week with one of the devs, the host brought up the difficulty and the interviewee glossed it over pretty quickly making it clear they made exactly the kind of game they wanted to make.

We had a similar discussions recently somewhere, maybe around the Souls thread or something. But I'm going to be that guy, not every game is for everyone and I want the artist to make THEIR vision.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:37 pm
by Sarge
Depending on how you define the term, video games as a whole can be considered inherently ableist. There are things that some folks can't handle, even if they ostensibly possess the faculties to "git gud". I don't think the developers have an onus on them to produce an easier game for these folks if their vision is something entirely different. There are many other video game options out there for folks to play. It's okay for all of us to have different experiences, skill levels, and entertainment that we can handle.

For instance, let's take another genre, real-time strategy games. I don't play many of them, and when I do, I'm not very good at them. It's probably the multitasking aspect that gets me. However, I don't advocate a developer changing their game to cater to me; I simply play other games. And in general, I avoid RTS games because I recognize that they're just not made for me. And that's okay!

I feel the same about run-and-gun action games. These games have generally been known as tough-as-nails experiences, and the fans of these games expect as much. I wouldn't compromise the vision or the core audience's experience by catering to a lower skillset. Now, if lower difficulty options are something the devs want to do, that's great, but I don't think it's "wrong" to not make concessions, either. In the end, it is the creator's prerogative to make what they wish, and the consumer has to deal with that.

This also ties into why games have gotten significantly easier over the years. Gaming has tried to be accessible to many different skillsets, and as such games just "aren't like they were back in the day". That's okay, too! If you're seeking an audience, accessibility is helpful. But there's something to be said for the small team that sticks to their vision no matter what.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:04 pm
by samsonlonghair
This is some white knight nonsense right here. :roll:

I currently work professionally as a job coach for people with disabilities. You know what? They'll surprise you. They don't see themselves as victims, and they don't expect the whole world to slow down to hold their hands. They are some of the most resilient, resourceful people I have ever met.

This reminds me... I once worked up the nerve to ask Luke how a man with one hand plays video games. You know what he said? "Like a boss!"

Don't be too surprised if you find out that someone who tells you to "git good scrub" has a disability that you didn't know about. Some people with disabilities are REALLY flipping good at video games.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:30 pm
by Gunstar Green
I think rants aimed at games like Dark Souls and Cuphead for their difficulty boil down to the Fear of Missing Out.

As others have said I don't think all games are for everyone and I don't even think all games need to be able to be beaten. I also think the prevalence of streaming, "let's plays," and other gameplay videos allow people to largely experience other artistic elements of games even when the gameplay doesn't work for them. I certainly don't find every genre or game enjoyable, even many considered classics.

These games sell, there's clearly a niche for them. Horror movies sell, they're clearly not for everyone either.

Just like other forms of media there is equal room for art made for general audiences and tailoring your work to more specific tastes. We don't need just one way or the other.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:46 pm
by marurun
All visions are available for compromise. Movies can have closed captions to aid the deaf, and in fact audio description is becoming much more common to allow the blind to enjoy movies in a manner similar to audio drama. And there are blind gamers who play Overwatch. Blizzard’s audio team actual clarified audio in the game to improve audio feedback so that blind gamers could have a better game experience.

Accommodating disabilities and varied skill levels cannot be seen as compromising artistic vision if it is an optional mode after the fact. No movie director is going to protest closed captions or descriptive audio (if they do they are an asshole). And federal law requires captions on broadcasts, just as it requires accommodations at businesses that serve the public. Big websites now also have to have accommodations for the blind. Target was sued over it. Museums have descriptive audio to provide access to the blind to visual arts. So far, games are one medium that’s been given a free pass. So while I can understand some developers being unable to provide a robust assistive experience, those who otherwise can but use artistic vision as the primary reason not to will slowly become dinosaurs.

Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

Posted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:54 pm
by Gunstar Green
The main issue is games being an interactive medium. You're never going to get 100% inclusiveness without making the games play themselves which as I said, you can already do by just watching someone else play them.

I do think there are a lot of common sense things that games should be doing that not all games do such as including color-blind modes for color-based mechanics.