Hands Up: Left handedness and video games


Left handed representation doesn’t matter in most games since the game controller in the player’s hand causes actions, regardless of the player or character’s handedness. But there is one exception, and many players – even right handed people – took notice when it happened.

Link, the most famous left handed character in gaming was changed to right handed for Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Wii. This was done for an obvious reason: the Wii controller is designed only for use with the right hand, and players’ actions wouldn’t match the action on screen.

But that begs the question: Why didn’t Nintendo program the Wii (not just for Zelda, but all games) with a left handed option so that left handed players could play? And people say “right handed privilege doesn’t exist!”

Why Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Link is Right-Handed

A 2015 article on lists five left handed characters in different video games.

Kain Highwind (Final Fantasy IV)
Freya Crescent (Final Fantasy IX)
Luke fon Fabre (Tales of the Abyss)
Mega Man (fires primarily left handed in the series)
Link (Legend of Zelda series)

One character not entioned in the item is “Doomguy” from DOOM and DOOM 2 (1993, 1994). Doomguy punches and uses the pistol left handed. He uses other weapons right handed, but this is more likely a reflection of reality. Few weapons are designed to be used right handed. I’ve seen chainsaws up close, and all are designed to be used right handed.

I plan to write a third item later when I get home.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    Actually it was not Breath of the Wild (Which was released not on the Wii but on the Wii U and Switch, in 2017) that changed Link’s chirality. It was Twilight Princess (Gamecube and Wii, 2006).

    That game was originally developed for the Gamecube (which used a normal controller, not a motion controller), and in the Gamecube version Link is his normal left-handed self. It was adapted for the Wii, and in order to make right-handed players feel comfortable using the console’s motion controller they changed Link to being right-handed. The way they did this was to mirror the entire world, so it had the rather radical effect of making what was in the east of the world map on the Gamecube the west of the map on the Wii. There was some outcry over this among left-handed people, because they did not make it an option to just mirror everything back so we could use our favoured hands – which would not have been at all difficult to do. We were forced to play in a way they specifically took pains to ensure right-handed people wouldn’t.

    The major Zelda games since then – Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild – made Link right-handed from the beginning. Which is a shame.

  2. cartomancer says

    There is also the issue of sprite mirroring in older (8-16 bit or thereabouts) games. Which is where the sprite of a character is mirrored when they are looking in the opposite direction to normal (often as a way to save on game memory, because you only need the one sprite rather than two). This means that in side-scrolling games the characters tend to switch handedness when going backwards (and if they have asymmetrical bodily features like a scar or an eyepatch, those switch round too). Even Link was affected by this in some of his earliest appearances on NES, SNES and Gameboy. One might reasonably write this up as technical limitations though, rather than deliberately changing handedness.

  3. says

    I am not a gamer, but I do play occasionally on PC. I am not left-handed either, but I do like to use the left hand for many tasks, including using PC.
    I am continually pissed at how difficult it is to get a good, ergonomic left-hand mouse.

  4. jrkrideau says

    I am mainly right-handed except for things like hockey sticks and shovels but I like the look of that mouse. It might make a good birthday present fol a friend of mine. BTW, anyone know where to buy a left-handed can opener other than on Amazon?

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