Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been a bastion of comfort and escapism for the last year for plenty of gamers. It hasn’t been easy for everybody though, as many disabled players have been affected by Nintendo’s slow and inconsistent approach to accessibility, such as only allowing for the re-mapping of Joy-Con buttons three years after the console’s release. Others have managed to fill the gap, though, with specially-designed controllers and even apps that simulate a Joy-Con’s buttons on a phone or tablet.
The peaceful island life sim has sold over 31 million copies worldwide since its launch last March, and since then plenty of third party developers have been stepping in to shore up those numbers by creating apps and peripherals to make the game playable for gamers with reduced motor function and other disabilities. Dedicated adaptive controllers have often proved invaluable, if expensive, but one Redditor and YouTuber found a viable solution in the Joy-Con Droid App, which maps the Joy-Con’s buttons to a phone or other device for ease of access.
Biggy, a gamer and Let’s Player who’s paralyzed from the chest down and has “significant loss of motor function” in both his hands, recently started a series on his YouTube channel called “Unlockable Content”, reviewing the accessibility of various games and the peripherals that make them more useable. In the most recent episode, he took a look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons and, after gently pointing out the shortcomings of Nintendo’s official offerings, introduced his audience to the Joy-Con Droid App, which syncs directly with the Switch via Bluetooth to allow accessible and customizable controls without a bunch of extra wires.
The existence of apps and peripherals like this one is hugely important in creating an inclusive and accessible environment for all types of gamers, and the big players in the industry seem to have finally started to take notice. Nintendo’s approach has arguably been a little sluggish, but Microsoft took huge strides a few years ago with the release of its Xbox One Adaptive Controller, which still continues to be a mainstay in the disabled gaming scene.
Even the ventures orbiting the main gaming industry are slowly starting to come on board with new accessibility options. December 2020’s Game Awards show added an audio-descriptive mode to proceedings to benefit visually-impaired audience members, while Twitch finally implemented the option to change font size in a stream’s chat as of last year.
In any case, in such a decidedly social game as Animal Crossing, it’s always heartening when more people are able to join the community. Hopefully the work of groups like Deep Blue Labs, the developers of Joy-Con Droid App, will inspire the rest of the industry to redouble their efforts, and we’ll see even more people enjoying the own island paradise for Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ next anniversary.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Source: Biggy’s Let’s Plays/Reddit