Right is right and left is wrong?

Posted: September 25, 2007 by Kendricke in General Game Concepts

Inigo Montoya: I admit it, you are better than I am.
Man in Black: Then why are you smiling?
Inigo Montoya: Because I know something you don’t know.
Man in Black: And what is that?
Inigo Montoya: I… am not left-handed.  

-“The Princess Bride”

I’ve been close with this particular group of guys for years.  We used to play Dungeons and Dragons and Earthdawn and Mechwarrior together back through college.  We’ve played MMO’s together on and off again and have for many years.  We talk stats, compare notes on raid targets, and generally shoot the breeze regarding what we’d do to improve on MMO design. 

When we get into these discussions, one subject that invariably comes up is which hand holds the weapons.   You see, most of these guys are left handed.  Within this group of friends, I’m the minority right hander.  And to these guys, game design which only allow for right handed animations is just lazy.

Is this a subject even worth talking about?  I think it is.  Why don’t you come along for the ride…

You see, for right handers like myself, I never have to think twice about this in games.  My characters naturally reach for their primary weapon with their right hand and that’s that.  My eyes see this and my brain processes this as perfectly normal.

For my southpaw friends, this is anything but normal.  It’s like riding goofy foot in a Tony Hawk game when you really don’t want to.  It’s like being forced to golf off-handed.  For my left handed friends, it’s like…well, like being forced to write with a different hand than the one that feels natural because that’s how the your first grade teacher, Mrs. Rutledge, wants you to write, young man!

Now, this is where we insert how hard it is to invert animations, or how no one cares about political correctness, or how I should go and get a haircut and a real job, ya lefty lovin’ hippy!

Or we could treat the subject with at least a certain amount of serious respect and at least attempt to approach the idea with some level of intellectual honesty.  The basic concern is simple enough: a segment of customers feel alienated by a game design – a design which seems (to my untrained eyes, at least) to be easy enough to deal with.

And so I open the floor to discussion.  It’s not a world ending topic, to be certain, but it’s still enough of an issue to folks I know that the subject comes up…a lot.

What do the lot of you think?  Don’t waste developer time on a minor issue?  Or why hasn’t this issue been talked about more before?

I’d love to hear some opinions.

  1. AverageJoe says:

    #1 it’s great to see that Left Handers are finally getting the respect they deserve. As a fellow left hander and being discriminated against for years, I’m happy to see acceptance and issues being heard:

    Supporting Organizations like http://www.nalg.org/ and supporting scholarships like http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/unusual.phtml and others ensure that I am given a fair chance at life and liberty…..amd that thing they call the pursuit of happiness.

    Products like Left Handed Scissors, Golf Clubs, Rifles, etc.. make me feel more normal.

    But as left handers are treated as normal as can be, there will always be right handed people that do their best to tear us down, that’s just the way it is. To be honest though, for gaming purposes, I think that seeing a right wielded weapon is just a learned behavior. It’s like driving, you just assume you drive on the right side of the road, unless you’re in Europe or something, ok that made no sense, but you get the point.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you are so used to everything being right-hand dominated that you don’t really realize that most graphical interpretation images are dominated with the right hand.

    For me, it really honestly makes no difference, just that the gameplay is enjoyable. There’s worse things in the game to complain about rather than what hand the sword is in 🙂

  2. Well, as you say, it’s probably tough to invert attack animations. I mean, if your game uses a first person view it’s a little easier. But most current MMOGs favor a third person view, so it likely requires a decent amount of work to give players a choice of left or right-handed.

    I also wonder how much this bothers most lefties. Is it enough that they’re constantly thinking about it during game play, or is it just a minor annoyance? I feel like it’s one of those features that would always take a back seat to new content.

  3. Chris says:

    As a leftie I can say its only a minor annoyance most of the time. It was a nice change when City of Heroes redid all the katana animations and they ended up left handed.

  4. stargrace says:

    Fellow lefty too, and I’ve actually never given any thought at all to whether or not my character’s “main” hand was by default left or right. I think after playing mmo’s for so long I just naturally assume my characters will all be right handed and if I were to have a choice, or see a left handed one, it’d throw me off a bit. For games like the wii however, thank goodness they offer it for us lefties, I’d be lost without it since I actually have to physically move around.

  5. Gdub says:

    I may be the unusual one out of the bunch here, I’m a lefty in the sense that I write with my left hand, but I do almost everything else with my right. I wouldn’t go as far to say I’m ambidextrous, because I can’t really do everything as well with my left. But as far as the game goes, I could care less. It doesn’t affect game play so who cares?

  6. Aaron says:

    If the game’s character models are designed from the onset with potential inversion in mind, I don’t see why it would be that difficult. Inversion is only a problem if you try to include it as a feature when the game is done or in late production.

    Which hand appears as dominant in the animation doesn’t seem as important as which hand the game’s controls cater to. If a left-handed person is used to using the mouse and keyboard in a right-handed configuration, then there’s no problem. If a left-handed person uses a left-handed mouse, on the other hand, a considerate developer might arrange a preset keyboard configuration for that control style (so instead of WASD for movement, it might be O;LK).

    But I bet a good portion of left-handed folks are just fine with the right-handed mouse-keyboard configuration. As a guitarist and pianist, I know from experience that the off-hand can be trained to comfortably perform complex and independent movements. It’s only awkward in the beginning. I’m sure the customary QWERTY keyboard configuration is just as awkward for right-handed beginners as for left-handed beginners.

  7. No more shall the right man hold us down! Righty has always been holding us back! Repressing our people! Well no more I say! We will not bow before the right man, and these right supremacists need to know that we will not tolerate intolerance! Preach on my brothers and sisters so that the deeds of the right devil reaches the ears and the hearts of the repressed! Stand up I say! Stand up and KILL THE RIGHT MAN!


  8. Gdub says:

    I should mention that at least on my characters, they wield their weapon with their left hand.

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