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Deconstructing Diablo 3: The Irony of Accessible Ableism
The following is a guest post from Static Nonsense: Static Nonsense is the alias of a group of nonwhite, disabled queer trans folk who spend much of their spare time gaming and lounging on the tubes of the internets in a bathrobe. Formerly console gaming, they have since moved to PC gaming and MMOs, where the problems of the gaming community became (even more) crystal clear. They write primarily at Some Assembly Required and Chronicles of a Crip 'Lock as a way to hash together their muddled thoughts on society and the effects of sexism, racism, ableism et al, or just as a way to wind down. [caption id="attachment_8662" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Chronic Illness Cat meme generator: “Live vicariously through Diablo III character” ~ credit not mine, unverified"][/caption] So, I love dungeon crawlers. I remember years ago when I was younger, playing random indie games that I could come across, including one where the entire essence of the game is you looking for treasure. Nothing else, just straight and to the point. Of course, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. But since then I branched out into various other games, like the Champions of Norrath series, both of the .hack// series (or rather, rpgs with very obvious dungeon-crawling characteristics), and eventually the Diablo series. Unfortunately though, I never was able to play much of the latter – I never really had anyone to play with, at the time. Now, I simply can’t play them period. Games that rely so heavily on mouse clicks to move and cast spells destroy my hands in as little as an hour. On bad days, even less than that. Which is one of the reasons why I like Diablo 3 so much. See, unlike the first two, Diablo 3 includes two particular functions that will make the game significantly more accessible to people with disabilities. The first, you are actually able to change the keybind for moving your character to a keyboard button instead of clicking the mouse. By doing so, you are able to make your character move to where the mouse cursor is, but you don’t have to click repeatedly or hold the button down to keep yourself at a steady pace. For familiarity and ease of access, I have my move button set as W. The second, and which is notably unique in the games of such a genre, is elective mode. By default, you are only able to assign particular skills of specific types to particular buttons. The reason why this is a major problem is because your class’s primary damage skills are only able to be assigned to your mouse’s left click. When it’s a skill that you are spamming, having to click the button continuously can be incredibly painful, and others may not have the dexterity necessary to use individual mouse buttons in the fashion that they were designed to be utilized in. But if you enable elective mode, you are then able to map your skills to whatever keybinds you decide to set up. Most of mine are set up with the standard 1 2 3 4, with tab as my “stand still and kill shit” button. It doesn’t come without its own problems, though. If you decide to change your keybindings, you will find that you cannot change the functions assigned to your mouse buttons. Unlike all the other keys, they are locked. I, personally, cannot fathom why, but that may be because I actually have to think about such things on a day to day basis. The other major problem, which is directly related to this, is that for some reason particular skills cannot be assigned to your mouse buttons. This can include some major defensive skills, such as Spirit Walk for witch doctors and Smoke Screen for demon hunters. When you already have to rely on a mouse simply to move (even if you’re not clicking for said movement), it can be difficult to suddenly switch from the mouse to buttons on a keyboard you designate for defensive or otherwise important skills. And it’s even harder for someone who can’t use a mouse well, but is forced to utilize the right and left click just to have access to those two skill slots. There are workarounds for these, such as using a gaming mouse with custom commands for additional buttons and using external macro software to simulate a mouse click when using a keyboard button. But the fact that we have to rely on such things just to get the full accessibility out of a game is just poor programming and execution. So here we have this game, where its current form is more accessible than its former titles, but with serious limits. Yet even with these in mind, Blizzard hasn’t exactly been stellar with disabilities in the past. It’s great to see progress, and moving away from seriously clunky mechanics and UIs that plagued the series before. But then we look on the flip side, on things that they clearly don’t give a damn about and haven’t for a long, long time. “Madness” this, “madness” that. It seems like as soon as you decide to get your toes wet, the sheer levels of psychobigotry start piling up from the start. Which, unfortunately, is pretty typical. I mean, come on. Three entire expansion packs for World of Warcraft alone are based on the bad guys having gone mad. Year after year after year, and that’s not even getting into elements such as particular quests or npcs, and even without approaching other games from the same company. First major story-line quest chain, off to lay the mad king of Tristram to rest. Then it’s off to fight off the clutches of the mad cultists. Let’s not forget the mad ramblings of the cultist leader, and that mad hermit that you are forced to listen to from the spider cave. Then you go off and hunt down the mad cultists specifically, while trudging through the torture chambers of the mad king, while the mad cultists are torturing and killing the dude you’re trying to save. Have I said ‘mad’ enough yet? Because that’s only the first act out of four. At least with cut scenes and quest dialogue, you can just hit Esc and not have to listen to it. But you don’t have that option with the random speech bubbles that show up, conversations between you and your follower[s] or other various npcs. I hope you don’t plan on bringing the templar with you, despite him being the most effective follower available, because he will not shut up about it. The fact that you have to go through the exact same story-line with the exact same quests four times in a row per character doesn’t exactly help matters. I haven’t felt like psychobigotry was thrown this much into my face since Rift. Given the fact that I’m no longer playing Rift, one can (accurately) guess that my bullshit-tolerance bar is pretty damn low. Here’s hoping that I’ll be able to work past it all this time and continue to enjoy the game for its mechanics. And if not, well, at least I got the game for free.