The Devil Plays Protoss: Accessible Gaming

BY Andrew Miesner / September 20, 2011

The Devil Plays Protoss: Accessible Gaming

by Jacqueline Geller

Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.

Imagine the following scene:

You’re playing a ladder game vs a Terran on Shattered Temple. The game has been going for well over thirty minutes, but you’re certain that you are ahead of your opponent. Throughout the game, you have been actively scouting and are well aware of the Ghost Academy in your opponent’s main and have seen a ghost or two on the map. The Terran army is moving out, and you’re ready to catch your opponent off guard as he attempts to take your third. As the armies engage, you hear those fated words: “nuclear launch detected.” You scramble to find the ghost or the telltale animation on the map with no such luck. Try as you might, you have severe red/green color blindness and have a nearly impossible time finding the red dot on the map. GG.

Until last week, I had no idea that individuals who have severe red/green color blindness had issues seeing the nuke dot in SC2. Although the dot pulses, it can take some individuals a number of passes to find it. Of course, the issues seeing the animation is dependent on the severity of the color blindness, but approximately 7% of the male American population suffers from red/green color blindness to some degree. There must be a number of avid SC2 fans and players in America who have difficulties seeing the nuke dot. I have half a panic attack each time I hear “nuclear launch detected,” and I am able to see the animations with no issues.

“When was the last time you read an article about the advances in special hardware for gamers with physical handicaps?”

A friend of mine once asked me about my thoughts on accessible gaming. Although not being able to see the nuke dot does not ruin the whole SC2 game experience or require specialized gaming equipment, it did get me thinking about accessible gaming over the weekend. Considering the significant number of Americans who suffer from severe physical disability or a mild physical handicap, it’s a surprise that accessible gaming is not more actively discussed within the industry. When was the last time you read an article about the advances in special hardware for gamers with physical handicaps?

Developers are starting to think about accessible gaming during the design phase, but there have been very few concessions to disabled gamers from mainstream video game developers. The DotA2 beta has an option for color blind players which isn’t implemented yet but is still impressive. Gamers with color blindness will be able to play DotA2 without the issues they experience while playing SC2. This can help make the game less frustrating for a number of both casual and competitive players. There are other great advances in gaming for individuals with disabilities, but the majority of them are from individuals and researchers, not mainstream developers or manufacturers. A good example of this was a group of Frenchmen who hacked the Xbox Kinect to translate sign language which could be useful well beyond the realm of gaming.

I think that accessibility should be discussed within the video game community more often than it is. With such a significant portion of individuals with either a severe physical disability or a mild physical handicap, the video game industry would be reaching a significantly large market of individuals with accessible gaming. Why are Steel Series and Razer not developing peripherals for gamers with disabilities? Accessible gaming is a way to reach a wider audience and include more individuals in the wonderful world of video games.


As much as I love competitive gaming, I can see the eSports community being critical of leagues for gamers with disabilities. It’s a sad truth that more often than not, the eSports community’s overall reaction to everything is negative. The community is filled with supportive, wonderful people, but the trolls and jerks on the internet love to voice their less than happy opinions. I hope that when accessible gaming becomes more mainstream, the eSports community will welcome leagues for gamers with disabilities with open arms and open minds. It is something that the community should be actively encouraging, not discouraging.

That being said, I have questions for you, the reader, to ponder and respond to:

  1. Is game accessibility something that should be discussed more often within the video game industry?
  2. Should video game developers consider accessibility during the game development phase?
  3. Is hardware for gamers with physical handicaps something that major peripheral companies should be making?
  4. Will there be a place for gamers with disabilities in the eSports community?
  5. Would the eSports community be open to leagues for gamers with disabilities or harshly criticize such endeavors?

Let me know your thoughts!



About the Author – Jacqueline Geller

After years of playing World of Warcraft, a friend introduced Jacqueline to Starcraft early last year. Jacqueline’s relationship with Starcraft started out slowly: a handful of casual dates, a little bit of flirting but nothing serious. She took her relationship with the game to the next level after BlizzCon 2010 where she experienced eSports magic first-hand and realized that Starcraft was the one. Despite being a mediocre player, she has been clambering the ladder at a glacial pace and has spent more time watching Starcraft online than she’d like to admit. In March, Jacqueline made the leap from eSports fan to eSports professional when she was hired by the Handsome Nerd as their Art Director, combining her design skills with her love of Starcraft. Since its start in April, Jacqueline has been a contributing writer for the North American Star League, writing coverage for Division 1. Offline, Jacqueline is a bookworm, a runner, a freeride snowboarder and has a Human Ecology degree with a Clothing and Textiles major.

View Jacqueline’s profile here.
Visit @jacquelinesg on Twitter