Monday, December 17, 2012



 The app store description of Minecraft: Pocket Edition says, “Imagine it. Build it. Create worlds on the go, with Minecraft: Pocket Edition!” I would add: (If you’re able-bodied.) Let me describe to you my first experience playing Minecraft on this device. Minecraft is like Legos, except you build and “craft” things from the environment around you, usually found underground (Hence, “Mining”+ “crafting” = Minecraft.)  or if you need wood, you chop down a tree, which gives you a block of wood, etc. First rule of Minecraft for me, (In the game’s Survival Mode.) is to build a shelter first, to protect myself from monsters.

   Ordinarily, this means chopping down a tree. Fair enough. But, here you have something worse than a virtual joystick or compass: A virtual keypad. I understand there’s always a learning curve with Minecraft, but the bottom line is the control of the keypad is just too sensitive, and not well-spaced. A jump button is in the middle. As if the keypad wasn’t bad enough, you have to swipe to move around the camera. Holding down the tap for just a second switches from using an item (Like an axe to chop wood.) to examining items. The end result was I was half dancing around this tree while trying to cut it down.

   Which is bad not just because I could barely control it, but because the monsters come out at nightfall. I wasted time dancing around a tree and getting my blocks. I had no shelter. Several zombies emerged, and I hastily dug a ditch in the dirt to protect myself, which meant swiping the camera down to look at the ground and several fast taps to dig, lazily shuffling into my ditch while looking at the ground. Yeah, the zombie knocked me out of the ditch.

   So, you’re thinking: “Well, you have an axe. Just turn around and whack him!” I was thinking the same; except I instead of you. This means I had to tap back to the axe, swipe to the right, swipe to look at the zombie and tap, no! don’t examine the zombie! Tap to attack it. Oh, and it was attacking me all the while, so I was being knocked around. I died. Re-spawned. I died again. Re-spawned. And again! From the same single zombie! So, when I re-spawned the fourth time I just ran far away into a nearby tundra. From there, I built a ruddy little log cabin with naught but two spaces to move around in over the course of two game days. Now, ordinarily, building in-game takes patience, I understand that. Sometimes, you click the wrong places; things get built wrong, whatever. But, the interface between: use item, build, and examine all done with taps really creates a problem. You’ll be destroying things you built, looking at them, and building where you want to destroy.

    Now, once I had my little ramshackle roof over my head (it had a door even!) I wanted to go hunting. As luck would have it, the tundra had plenty of sheep and pigs. Pigs can be hunted for meat, and sheep for wool. Maybe I’d make a bed! (Bed = 3 wood planks + 3 wool.) But, as usual, I found myself examining sheep, and even being pushed (not attacked, though.) around by pigs once I attacked. Only one sheep dropped 2 wool blocks. I ran back to my log cabin. Pushed around by pigs, for crying out loud! Seemed like I’d have to avoid every critter in the game on top of monsters!  

    I like the idea of Minecraft. I just think the iPad, with its tap formats (which you can’t change around at all.) are really ill-suited for those of us with mobility impairments. I have to say I did enjoy building things and crafting tools, when it went right! But, when it came down to I can’t even dig a ditch right (while staring at the ground!), or attack a zombie because my swipes and taps (upward or downward.) don’t register; that’s not a patience issue. That’s an accessibility issue. If I had a mouse and keyboard, I would’ve seen that zombie, and killed it in three clicks. I’d have had a bed from all the wool (maybe.) and I would’ve made those bully pigs into pork instead of dancing around them awkwardly.

    Now, there is a “Creative Mode” aside from “Survival Mode”. Creative Mode gets rid of the monsters, gives you infinite resources, and lets you fly around instead of jump. It basically just lets you build. This mode was slightly more enjoyable. Did it make the controls any less frustrating? No! But, no monsters to worry about. Building is still awkward. In Creative Mode, I just carved a dwelling out of a cave, and put a door on it. I wasn’t even in the mood to imagine! I just wanted the controls to work!
      Hunting was still as abysmal. Only this time, I had ducks that kept getting through my door. (Some kind of game glitch?) I will say Creative Mode is better for exploring, but then: Why build shelter? I know, I know. To exercise your imagination. But, with a control system this bad, and half the challenge gone, the only thing I could imagine was playing a better app!

  Creative Mode does offer more accessibility, but at expense of half of the game, and the controls are still the same; that horrible keypad! The terrible tap sensitivity! (And, no re-mapping is available.) It does feel a little less stressful, but the controls just try to do to much with the various taps and motions, and don‘t appear to have had the mobility impaired in mind. A sad thing for such a creativity-based game.

   In conclusion, if you’re mobility impaired, the touchscreen commands may be a bit much. I know Minecraft has a big world to offer, and it’s fun to look at, but I want to build things and hunt and to survive zombie attacks. The swiping for me to turn around then having to use the keypad to move separately means those pigs will just walk on by you, and the zombies will eat you before you have your first plank laid. It’s very confusing, and frustrating that I can’t build what’s in my mind. I would play this game to escape my physical limits, not to be constantly reminded of them. Because of running from monsters at night, I felt like I was playing a weird 3D version of Castlevania 2: WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE. ;-)


ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: C (Creative Mode has no monsters.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: D (Can re-spawn; but not often helpful accessibility-wise.)

TOUCHSCREEN CONTROL: F (Virtual keypad; sensitive-command taps, swipe-based camera.)

                        (AHH!!! A ZOMBIE!!! AHH!!! GRAPHIC/INTERFACE OVERLAP!!! RUN!!!)


                                                       (MY NEMESIS MR. SHEEP.)


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