I’m left handed. This has of course presented me with some minor difficulties in a predominantly right handed world, but it wasn’t until recently I noticed how it affects me in video games.
One of the things that makes me an irrelevant gamer is the fact I sometimes dislike titles that seem almost universally loved, and one of these games is Resident Evil 4. For everyone else it seemed like a breath of fresh air to a stagnant franchise, going from the fixed camera to being an over the shoulder shooter. One of the biggest complaints against Resident Evil games up to that point was about the controls. If you’re saying to yourself there was nothing wrong with those controls I challenge you to go back and play Resident Evil 2, and attempt to dodge all of the zombies on your way to the police station during the opening of the game. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
So with Resident Evil 4′s more action oriented gameplay the controls were much improved. According to everyone else. I just could not get the hang of it, and at first I thought it was because I couldn’t move and shoot at the same time. After all I was pretty good at fist person shooters, but I never had to stand still to shoot in those. So I never finished the game. It was just too frustrating.
When Resident Evil 5 came out, and looked to be the same game with a two player cooperative mode I was wary, but having a friend who wanted to play through it with me made me take the plunge. I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Standing still to shoot didn’t bother me, and the controls seemed fine. Did they tighten them up from the previous version? Did I just suck when RE4 came out? I didn’t understand it, but I didn’t really think about it much. I just enjoyed the game.
Then one day I played the game by myself as Chris, and I couldn’t get anything right. I was missing shots, and getting mauled by zombie dogs left and right. It dawned on me that I had been played as left-handed Sheva the whole time I had been enjoying the game. Chris is right handed. This may not sound like a huge difference, but Chris’s roided up torso takes of a a large portion of the left side of the screen as the player looks over his right shoulder. When you play as Sheva it is the reverse. When I played as Chris if felt like I was driving down the road with something on my windshield, or one eye closed. Playing as Sheva felt completely natural. Leon from Resident Evil 4 was right handed just like Chris. I finally knew why I couldn’t stand a game most gamers seemed to love.
It is probably important to note that I’m not only left handed, but also left eye dominant. The way to find this is is to point your index finger of either hand at something while keeping both eyes open. Then close one eye at a time. Whichever eye you have open when your hand appears to have moved the least is your dominant eye. If you do it with something nearby the difference will be negligible, but you will see a larger discrepancy with far objects.
After discovering this odd little fact I thought about it more while playing games, and realized that it even has an effect in first person shooter games. I almost always run to the right as soon as a match of Call of Duty 4 begins. In maps where I can hug the right flank, and keep the action on my left where I notice it quicker I tend to do better. Pipeline is probably my best map while Strike is my worst. Anyone familiar with the layouts will know why.
I have a friend who works in the gaming industry so I related this odd factoid to him. He thought it was pretty interesting, and told me it would also be easy to mirror the animations in a third person game like Resident Evil 4, and he would relate my experience to the guys in his company who are making a third person action game. So if games start having a option for choosing which hand the protagonist uses I might have been the catalyst. Of course when I told him I wasn’t enjoying the Arkham Asylum demo because Batman hogs the left side of the screen he simply said, “You’ll have to get over that, lefty.”