The Dad Pad Isn’t as Patronizing as It Seems

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  • Happy Belated Father’s Day! I spent my day preparing to move back in with my father, but probably you didn’t. Some of you may have even spent the day watching the UEFA Euro 2016 with dear old dad. Maybe Dad is a diehard supporter of Argentina and spent all day in the glow of their massive victory over Venezuela. The world of international soccer may not be for all, but for those dads who are passionate about the game, EA Canada has the perfect gift for them, Two Button Mode. And they made it in 2010.

    Let’s set the scene: It’s June of 2010. Millions across the world are gathering in front of TVs to watch the World Cup. High on the game, they take a leap into total darkness and ask their children if they could play the FIFA videogame with them. It does not go well. What do all of the buttons do? What do you mean that was a foul? Why is this game so hard?

    By September that year, EA Canada had solved the problem. They introduced what Santiago Jaramillo of EA speaking to the New York Times called “Dad Pad,” otherwise known as two button mode. All a player needed to know how to do was move, pass, and shoot and the AI used context to decide almost all the rest. Finally, Dads everywhere got what they wanted, a somewhat patronizing way to play their favorite sport.

    It’s unlikely that this mode helped sell millions of copies, but it is emblematic of a struggle being seen all over videogames. Over the years, the bar for access to videogames has been raised dramatically. New-fangled controllers have motion sensors, touch pads and soon VR controls. Coupled with the resurgence of roguelikes and other “hard mode” style games, it’s harder than ever to pick up and play a videogame.

    Games have not exactly become more difficult over the years, but they certainly have become more complicated. Lapsed players whose last videogame experience may have been Doom would find DOOM to be lightyears beyond what they remember playing. This is what makes two button mode so important. Its inclusion admits and remedies the access problem that had been building up in FIFA for years. Fans of soccer may fundamentally understand the game and its rules but EA’s FIFA isn’t soccer as such, it’s a representation of soccer with its own rules.

    But two button mode does more than just give dads a way to play. By lowering the bar, EA Canada also paved the way for younger players, more casual players and players new to the sport. It’s how I learned to play FIFA in 2012. By introducing the fundamentals in a simple and accessible way, EA Canada provides a path to full competency.

    Access, complexity and difficulty, still remain contentious and embedded problems within the world of videogames but we should all realize that a major studio has already taken a gigantic stab at the problem. They succeeded in creating a more streamlined experience for those who wanted it while leaving a complex experience for “diehards.” They even did it without sacrificing any of their design aesthetic or game modes. And they did it all for dad.

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