Splatoon 2 is a great time. Fighting as a squid-kid is fun and the game takes steps to make sure many people can enjoy. From new players to those with disabilities, games can take actions to help everyone join in the action. We take a look how in this critical video.
I think that if you’ve played games for a long time, it is easy overlook that video games are hard to get into. We’re used to controllers. We’ve grown accustom to interfaces and industry standard control schemes. We forget that games require an excess of time and money that many people cannot afford. Last weekend, I played the Splatoon 2 test fire and it was a blast. And while the game doesn’t avoid these things entirely, it shows a pathway forward in the AAA space.
In Splatoon, teams of colourful squid-kids face off in a match to see who can cover the most territory with paint. In function, Splatoon resembles most competitive online shooters and fans of those games will find the game easy to jump into. These players will be able to contribute consistently by attacking other players and stymying their progress.
But other players aren’t left out. The only thing the game checks to determine which team wins is how much territory each has covered. This focus means that there is always a way to help your team. You just have to shoot free areas on the map or cover up enemy territory to make a difference. When in doubt, you can just pull the trigger. Even if you’re missing your shots on an enemy, your paint is splatting into the ground and painting territory.
This means that players who are new to competitive games are able to meaningfully alter the result of a match simply by firing on the landscape. If you’re younger, new to the genre, or just not too great at shooters, you don’t need to feel like a fifth wheel. There will always be something for you to do. Splatoon can still be played at a high skill level but the initial barrier to entry is all but non-existent. You can pick up and play. There are even weapons, like the roller, which are specifically designed for players who want to focus on covering the map with paint.
The biggest failure players can suffer is temporary downtime if you get shot and have to respawn but even this is mitigated by the ability to leap quickly to teammates. This means that players are never far removed from the action and rarely left in a position where they are unable to help. Splatoon is an active game that eschews hard punishments, facilitates meaningful contributions, and keeps up a fast pace. This helps it be approachable and exciting for players of all skill levels.
Accessibility has other concerns beyond gameplay however, and while Splatoon does not exhaustive address those issues, it takes steps to deal with the most glaring ones. Specifically, it takes steps to help players with physical impairments play the game.
This is something that most games are terrible with. They use sound and colour to communicate intensely important information without considering players with unique physical facticities. Case in point: there are puzzles in The Witness that my father cannot solve traditionally because he is colorblind. Games make assumptions about their players and develop for a “normal” that ignores the diversity of the player base.
The major factors that Splatoon 2 considers are colorblindness and physical disabilities that affect controller use. While motions controls initially seem like a gimmick, they can be a meaningful way to allow a wider range of motions to players unable to use dual analogue sticks. Tilting the controller allows you to aim up and down quickly and can be used to turn, albeit slower than using the stick. It’s not perfect but it still provides a jumping point of physical accessibility that other games flat out ignore.
Additionally, players are able to lock paint colours to their preference in order to help them distinguish the territory their team has claimed. In a game that weighs everything based on map control this not only means more people can play, it also means they can focus on the objective without worry.
If Splatoon 2 does make major accessibility mistakes, they come on the economic end. This is a problem that plagues games as a medium. Gaming is an expensive hobby and it is just as lacking in concern for impoverished players as those with disabilities.
You need a lot of shit to play a game. To play the game, you need to buy a Nintendo Switch, a copy of the game, have a monitor to play it on, and access to an internet connection for matches. Even if you’re frugal, you’re going to pay over three hundred dollars to play the game. Some of these investments have a longer life: the monitor and the Switch are one off purchases unless they break. Books, movies, and even tickets to some live theatre will cost you less than playing a new game.
I’m not trying to suggest that Splatoon 2 is perfect but I think the gameplay makes it so players across skill levels can play easily. Alternate control options and the ability to adjust visuals allows even more people to play. That’s important. The more players we have, the better.
Games are wonderful. They take you to far off places, fill your day with excitement, and weave amazing stories for us to enjoy. For players to not have access to games when there are solutions we can implement is unfortunate. I think Splatoon 2 takes noticeable steps to make itself approachable and less intimidating in an important way.
We have a long way to go on this front. Many things can drive away players. Gaming culture can push them away with a “git gud” mentality and could stand to make things friendlier for people without experience. We also need to make sure people with disabilities can join in the fun.
The first is going to take some to fix but the second is something that people are working to solve. There are charities devoted to providing alternate controllers and services to players who need them. I encourage you, if this topic interests you, to look into it even further.
Support charities and developers who seek to make games accessible to other players. That way, even more people can enjoy a game as awesome as Splatoon 2.