The Left of Us – Southpaw Gaming in a Right-Handed World - maxmaher Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Left of Us – Southpaw Gaming in a Right-Handed World

Like many Nintendo gamers, one of my favorite franchises is The Legend of Zelda series.  I played Ocarina of Time when I was only 10 years old, so it was not hard for me to empathize with the main character.  Link begins the game as a shy kid, born into a microcosm of age-resistant characters.  Not unlike your average child, Link dealt with bullies and experienced puppy love, making his everyday issues in the Kokiri Forest very relatable.  But one often overlooked characteristic connected with me – Link was a leftie.

 

That is, until the Wii Zelda games were released.  New motion controls dictated that a player swing the Wii Remote to strike with the in-game sword, but that controller would most commonly be held in a person’s right hand.  To keep consistent with the player’s movements, the designers announced Link’s character would be mirrored for the Wii version of Twilight Princess, effectively making the Hero of Time right-handed (though the GameCube version still honored Link’s southpaw origins).  This change remained in Skyward Sword.

 

 

This news disappointed me at the time, but mattered little in the long run.  With the exception of PC gamers that swapped the location of the mouse, left-handed players have had no choice but to adapt to one control scheme.  Direction pads are on the left, along with triggers for aiming, and the buttons on the right serve as primary inputs (pick up, jump, reload, shoot, crouch, etc.).  The Wii Remote was truly the only exception to that rule, as a user could easily switch which hand held the nunchuk or remote.  Yet even when that opportunity presented itself, developers understandably catered their design choices to accommodate the nine out of ten right-handed crowd.

 

Lacking a viable alternative for the majority of my gaming life makes me wonder if my skills have suffered.  If possible, I still depend on my dominant hand if I’m playing on a console.  When a game requires me to button mash to get out of a sticky situation, I instinctively let go of the left stick and play the QTE with my left hand.  I have also found that while I can get used to a first-person shooter, I’m often slower at aiming with a right stick and take time adjusting to the sensitivity.  My left hand’s dexterity easily surpasses my right’s, and while that does not deter me from investing many hours into Fallout: New Vegas or Grand Theft Auto V, the disadvantage is present.

 

Lefties are naturally flexible, however, and have to adjust to a right-handed layout throughout normal life.  In a single day, I might clip a coupon with right-handed scissors, attend class with my right elbow on the desk's arm rest (and my left hovering in mid-air), switch gears using my right hand or find ring indentations on my left wrist from those horrendous spiral notebooks.  Any left-handed person will admit that none of this is a huge deal (okay, maybe the notebooks), but if the left-handed population was equally split with the right-handed, it would be interesting how much more choice and sensitivity there would be toward these everyday inconveniences.

 

On the same token, while I have not tried playing with a modded left-handed controller, I am resistant to the idea.  I’ve easily spent hours of my life playing console video games and have simply gotten used to the controller layout.  You move your character on the left side and take action with your character on the right side – it’s been the way the world worked since the earliest arcade machines.  At this point, switching that logic would require some brain training, and that many hours of nurture would take time to erode.  If I got into a car with the parking brake on the left, or tried opening a can with the crank on the opposite side, the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming.

 

I’m not surprised that first-party console developers have not created their own left-handed versions of controllers.  Most gamers are not only right-handed, but seasoned and used to a scheme that has worked for years.  I also can’t imagine the look of horror on a right-handed gamer’s face after opening a present from oblivious mom and dad, who mistakenly purchased a gift tailored to lefties.  A significant chunk of the gaming community has been grandfathered into one structure, but I would be interested in seeing which controller style a first-time console-gaming leftie would find more comfortable.

 

Are you a southpaw console gamer that wonders how a reversed controller layout would feel?  Or are you a quick-on-the-draw rightie that has a few cents to share on the matter?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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