A competitor plays Pokemon on a Nintendo Switch console

Does Nintendo Even Care That Its New Tournament Rules Discriminate Against Disabled Gamers?

Just lovely of you, Nintendo!

Nintendo has decided to be shitty towards those who want to play their consoles and games competitively and the disabled community is taking the biggest hit.

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On Tuesday, October 24, the company announced that there would be new rules coming into effect for those who want to play in Nintendo tournaments — at this time only in the U.K. and Japan. Several of the rules are weirdly restrictive, like marking a capacity of 200 people at an in-person event, unless you have a license from Nintendo.

But the real kicker? Those who have accessibility needs due to disability or injury won’t be able to participate in tournaments like everyone else.

Under the “tournaments that are illegal or inappropriately conducted or that could be viewed as offensive or otherwise inappropriate” section of the newly published guidelines, the rules state “Use of game consoles, accessories and software not licensed by Nintendo” is prohibited. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, that reeks of ableism.

If someone at one of the biggest video game developers and publishers had done their research, they would know that many people can’t use regular controllers to play games and therefore need to be able to use special accessories. In fact, if I was a gamer who liked to play competitively I would sue because what they’re doing is undeniably discriminatory.

Clearly, Nintendo needs to refer back to their own guidelines, which also state: “Organizers will make full efforts to create a Community Tournament that is friendly and welcoming to all, and that fully respects the dignity of Participants and will not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind, including based on race, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, religion, belief, origin, social status, class, occupation, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.”

I mean, Nintendo could solve the problem by making accessible accessories for their consoles that are licensed by them. But they don’t, and presumably won’t because those with access needs are an afterthought and that sort of investment is seen as a waste of money because it would constitute a minority of sales.

Now, I’m a gamer girly and I couldn’t imagine being into tournaments and having that hobby ripped away from me. But having a disability myself, I know the heartache of not being able to play properly. I couldn’t play on my DS very well due to it being a two-handed operation and struggled on the Wii too. As a child that was soul-crushing. Only now with the Switch (and having a gamer boyfriend) have I learned I can change the damn controls. I don’t think I will ever get over the joy of being able to play Mario like everyone else.

It was only this year that I discovered all of this. Yes, I could have researched, but with all previous Nintendo consoles not allowing you to change the mapping of the controls, is it any surprise that I believed you couldn’t?

I’m not the only person who isn’t happy about Nintendo’s discriminatory rules.

I’m hoping Nintendo will come to their senses, apologize, and fix their careless ableism. These new rules take effect November 15, 2023, so there’s still time for them to reverse course—if they decide to care.

(featured image: John Keeble/Getty Images)

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Brooke Pollock
Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases. She has almost a year of experience and her core beat is digital culture.