Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been pondering. Today, Kate discusses rediscovering the joy of Joy-Con following a recent mishap, and her dreams of Joy-Con 2.0...
I'm about to turn 30, so of course, the natural thing to do is learn how to rollerskate. It makes total sense. I never had skates as a kid, so now that my joints are beginning to creak like the Grim Reaper poking his head through the door, what better activity to take up than the one where you tempt fate with wheels on your shoes?
Anyway, you'll be unsurprised to know that I fell and hurt myself. Twice. The first time, I was wearing the skates (they're quads, for the record) in my kitchen with no knee pads, and I suffered for my hubris by injuring my knee. The next time was outside, fully padded up, but I fell backwards (I am told that this is not ideal, but it's hard to stop falling once you've started) and injured my elbow, making me unable to bend my arm for the next week. And I love bending my arm! It's one of my favourite activities!
But let me tell you: when you've messed up your stupid, ageing body, there's nothing better than lying on the sofa, feeling sorry for yourself, but still able to play video games — and there's nothing better for that than the Joy-Con.
I've always enjoyed the chaos of Joy-Con. No longer am I confined to a single controller — I can sprawl across the sofa any which way I damn please, arms askew, and as long as I'm vaguely pointing at the screen, it's all good. And there's nothing better for injuries: if I need to have my arm in a particular orientation, it doesn't matter. I don't have to figure out some weirdly uncomfortable position where I can hold the controller with both hands, because the Joy-Con come to me, not the other way around.
It's hard to mention Joy-Con without the word "drift" in the same breath, though, and I'm currently on my third pair, not counting the Pro Controller I bought to be able to play games without worrying that my control sticks would betray me.
My oldest Joy-Con pair used to drift sideways, and I attempted to do the clean-without-taking-it-apart thing with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab, but all that did was change the drifting direction to "Up". My second oldest pair, wanting to join in on the fun, does exactly the same thing. My new pair is okay for now, and I'm taking EXTRA EXTRA good care of them to keep that going for as long as possible, but I have to be honest: I'm a dusty gal, and it's only a matter of time before my dust gets in there and messes things up.
I don't want to be forced to go back to the confined hand-prison of the all-in-one controller; I just want the Joy-Con to be better.
The thing is, once you've been converted to the joy of Joy-Con sprawling, it's hard to go back. I like feeling like a hedonistic Roman, lounging across a couch, and lazily pressing buttons. I like knowing that I can play games, even when my arm is in a sling. And because I have recurring tendonitis, I like being able to have my hands and wrists in a relatively ergonomic position, too. I don't want to be forced to go back to the confined hand-prison of the all-in-one controller; I just want the Joy-Con to be better.
Seeing as the Switch OLED model doesn't actually have upgraded Joy-Con, though, I wonder how long I'll have to wait for that to be the case.
Other game companies have made huge strides in accessibility, like Xbox's Adaptive Controller and customisable Elite Controller, and Sony's new PS5 controller includes haptic and audio feedback for people with low vision or hearing impairments.
Nintendo, on the other hand, has historically been behind the times when it comes to accessibility features (as the AbleGamers accessibility review of the Switch details) and the Joy-Con were likely accidentally helpful in some ways, like the ability to hold them far apart in any old configuration. They're also pretty unfriendly with those TEENY TINY buttons, and the need for fine motor control in detaching them from the Switch in the first place.
I know I haven't delved too deeply into the utter lack of accessibility options on the Nintendo Switch and in games in general — adjustable text size is a particular bugbear of mine — but fear not, I'm going to keep banging the accessibility drum as much as I possibly can, and this Soapbox certainly isn't my last word on the matter.
For now, I'll leave it at this: I would love to see more controllers that let you split your hands in the way that Joy-Con do. Most accessibility controllers are huge blocks with large buttons on them, like the Hori Flex, although some come with buttons that you can put anywhere you please (as our own Alex demonstrates with his lovely feet). Disabilities, after all, are as wide-ranging as the characters in Smash Bros, and not everyone is served by the same kind of accessibility services.
As we all age, we're all much more likely to need those accessibility services, though — and if I keep up rollerskating, I'll probably have many more injury-related sick days, too.