Pokémon Go is getting gamers outside, but not all gamers. Tales of trespassing, fence-jumping and brave jaunts through tough terrain to catch Pokémon have bolstered the hit mobile game’s popularity among able-bodied players.
Physically handicapped fans of the Pokémon franchise, however, are struggling to love a Pokémon game in which movement is a crucial mechanic.
Some wheelchair-bound fans of the Pokémon franchise say that important game mechanics like frequenting PokéStops for items and gyms for battles, hatching eggs and even traveling around to catch rare Pokémon are exponentially more difficult for them.
Well, yes. No doubt. And the blind won’t benefit from the latest 3D TVs, or the deaf from Sony’s newest portable speaker set-up.
But that’s just life…
“A lot of the PokéStops I’ve seen are tucked away on running trails, or places that aren’t handicapped-accessible,” Feldman told me. “Because of that, I can’t really go to as many PokéStops. I can’t go find new Pokémon in different places so well. And because of that, none of my Pokémon are powerful enough to get any use out of the gyms. Everything is much much harder, but still doable. The hardest part is hatching eggs. For me, walking from my bed to my bathroom can be a challenge on some days. So the idea of walking 10 km to hatch an egg…it seems like a nearly unclimbable mountain.”
That’s not some kind of personal affront. It’s not something that needs to be immediately rectified. Even the usual grievance-panderers have to admit this.
Steven Spohn, the Chief Operations Officer of the AbleGamers Foundation, which advocates for gamers with disabilities, said that Pokémon Go has left many handicapped gamers feeling more left out than ever. Wheelchair-bound fans of the franchise, or gamers more generally, enjoy games like Pokémon that have large communities with which to socialize. Pokémon Go capitalizes on the franchise’s social features, but at the expense of accessibility.
“It’s a pretty unfortunate scenario for people with disabilities,” Spohn told me. “Even if Nintendo could implement every accessibility option I could dream of for handicapped gamers, they would still miss out on the social aspect of it.”
“It’s a shame,” Spohn added. “They’re just left out of another scenario.”
So where now? Will we see demands for changes to a hugely-popular game because some can’t accept that they cannot play it as intended?