The Southpaw Manifesto

It is time once again to take a brief aside from the legal commentary to address an issue that I believe needs addressing, that issue being customizable controls. Specifically, I’m speaking to the ongoing issue of the use of thumbsticks in First Person Shooter titles. Before getting into my “manifesto,” a little background.

I, like many other gamers, logged an untold number of hours in Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64, and I, like many others, found it far easier to aim with the only analog stick on the N64 controller, which was used with your left hand. Perhaps it was from the years of using my left hand to control the D-Pad or perhaps it was just easier to aim with an analog stick. As time passed and the dual analog stick controller was released, these hours of play translated to what is known as the “southpaw” control style, where the left stick looks and the right stick moves the player. I’ve tried to play with both the “standard” and the “legacy” styles, but neither feel as natural. In fact, my reflexes default to southpaw, even though I’m right handed. It’s just how I play.

It is unfortunate, then, when a AAA title is released with no southpaw support. Most notably, I’m looking at Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and now, BioShock and Stranglehold. Given that this control style (if not complete customization) is offered by other titles, I see no reason for a developer to leave it out. I greatly appreciate companies like id, Epic, Bungie, Free Radical, Insomniac, Rare, and many others for including the southpaw option in most, if not all, of their games. For others who play as I do, ALT + CNTRL + GMR has lists for both 360 and PS3 control availability.

With that in mind, I give you the Southpaw Manifesto (which can also be adopted by any other alternative control users).

The SouthPaw Manifesto

Be it known that there are gamers who do not use the default control stick layout for First Person Shooter games, and as such, will not play those games which cannot be controlled as we desire. In this day and age, it is not asking much to include the most common alternative thumbstick layouts in a console first person shooter title. These layouts have existed for years, and have been implemented by the overwhelming majority of titles. As such, we, the users of different control styles, state the following:

We will not purchase a title which does not have our control style available. We will not purchase games with the mere promise of a patch to address the issue.

We will not “learn” another control style. No developer has taken a racing game, made the right stick steer, and told the public to “learn” that control style.

We welcome games that take a wholly different approach, such as the Metroid Prime series and Resident Evil 4. We have no issue with games taking new approaches to controlling altogether.

We acknowledge that a lot of hard work goes into making the games we love, and we appreciate the developers for their work. However, we don’t feel that we’re asking much to be able to experience the game in the way we are most comfortable.

We want to play and enjoy your games, so please include the normal alternative control styles.

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It only constitutes commentary on legal issues,
and is for educational and informational purposes only.
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About Mark Methenitis

Mark Methenitis is an attorney in Dallas Texas. Mark received his Juris Doctorate and his Master of Business Administration from Texas Tech University and his Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas.

17 Responses to The Southpaw Manifesto

  1. David says:

    Hear hear!

    Mark this man’s words, he speaketh the truth. I am an GoldenEye and Perfect Dark man who finds it most natural to shoot with the Southpaw control style. I really want to play BioShock, and have been looking into buying a Modded controller to do so.

    Developers, please help us!

  2. T says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. T says:

    you know? i’ve been saying this for years. it simply makes no sense to automatically exclude a certain number of users due to a lack of foresight in development. i mean, seriously, would people still play these titles if they were ONLY southpaw? i think not. then why make a game that is ONLY default? it doesn’t compute.

    all games should be completely customizable. i should be able to program each and every button and stick according to my liking. some games do offer this ability. i just don’t understand why they all don’t.

    good job on this site! i hope this gains the attention it deserves.

  4. michael says:

    you are so right, my excitement as i started up the bioshock demo was pretty quickly dissolved when i realised i was going to be completely unable to control it properly. such a shame…

  5. Mark says:

    it is always refreshing to realise that one is not alone, that there are other gaming compatriots experiencing the same problems as oneself. i too developed my first-person-shooter skills exhaustively playing GoldenEye over and over, and i too have a “default” southpaw control layout.

    when first developing my first person shooter skills my brain laid down new neural networks dedicated to the task, to efficiently coordinate the massively complex hand-eye and neuromuscular coordination that is required. “southpaw” is for me, indeed for many of us, HARDWIRED into our brains.

    i enjoyed oblivion on the ps3 but stopped playing after visiting all of the cities partly because of the “default” control style. i played the bioshock demo the other day on xbox 360 and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, scenery, and concept, but will not buy the game – mainly due to the control style. no, i’ll continue to flog halo 3 like i once did GoldenEye.

    this is an absolute shame; a developer spends tens of thousands of man-hours making a beautiful game, but doesn’t spend another dozen or two adding in other control options!? asking us to unlearn these reflexes and lay down new neural networks is too big an ask; especially when the alternative is the (relatively) minor inclusion of a few more lines of code.

  6. PI_Marc says:

    At last some sense.

    What i don’t understand is when you play a PC game you can customize every single control input, you can even invert the x of the mouse (i have no idea why), but the same game ported onto the XBOX and you cant customise the controls. I love FPS games on consoles, but the sheer amount i have had to miss because of the default controls.

    interesting thing is that we all have a common background. I flogged Golden Eye and Perfect Dark to death when i had an N64 (golden eye was the reason i love FPS games) but i am naturally right handed so i play southpaw (God bless Bungie for showing us the true way, it would have been an resounding tragedy if the halo series offered no southpaw controls). I cannot and will not use the default control method. It would be the equivalent of being forced to write with my left hand. And we don’t expect people to do that.

  7. right on. i am also a southpaw and a really big halo fan. i would like to play the other fps like bioshock. its nice to know that lefties r not alone.

  8. Brett says:

    What a fantastic post! Southpaw is indeed my control of choice. Besides getting frustrated about certain games not supporting it, we have also had to adapt to “new” controllers, which are clearly not Southpaw-friendly. I have become quite efficient with the index-finger-over method but a Southpaw controller would be nice.

  9. Matt says:

    For me and most of my fellow FPS players we started on the 64 with Golden Eye (at first in Legacy style), but then Turok came out and it essentially started in South Paw. We quickly realized that South Paw had an advantage in Golden Eye because you could use the analog for aiming. Then came Perfect Dark. Brilliant game! We (my friends and I) are all hard wired in South Paw – it just makes sense. As a side note, I think most would agree that with any two hand weapon holding in real life the left hand controls the aim, while the right controls the trigger. Strange also that GRAW2 has reversed triggers in South Paw. Retarded. The fact is default is designed for ease of use – particularly for kids. I refuse to buy any game that does not support my preferred control style. It is ludicrous that all games do not have COMPLETELY customizable control. It would literally take a programmer a few minutes to make the change. Long live South Paw.

  10. Upright says:

    Southpaw or no paw is what I always say

  11. Daniel says:

    You might be interested to know that I made a petition requestion Customizable game controls at the firmware level for PS3 also referenced at my blog.

  12. JacobK says:

    Thank god there are other people who feel the same way I do! I will absolutely refuse to play a game that does not have southpaw controls…I am also right handed by default and always thought something must have been weird in my brain but the Goldeneye logic makes alot of sense. I spent coutless hours on that game, as many of you did.

    Also, reversing the triggers on a southpaw layout is incredibly maddening and I have no idea why anyone would do that. Retarded…

  13. PI_Marc says:

    I got FarCry 2 for christmas, its everything i expected it to be. You couldnt imagine my relief when i found out that it comes with a left handed thumbstick layout.

    And the triggers are reversed as well…

    oh well.

    all we ask is for a fully customisable control method.

    Could you imagine the outrage, if a PC game was released and it didnt allow you to customise your contols even down to the mouse x axis?

    I suspect i know why game designers dont do it. If they did they would be constantly bombarded by emails and telephone calls to the helpdesk with people saying “i cant figure out how to get button “x” to map to “fire” etc…

    because lets face it, as a species we hardly qualify for any awards when it comes to:

    A: Reading instructions properly
    B: Using logic to deduce the purposes of those instructions (even though the purpose is outlined in the instruction)


    Today i ordered a controller, that has the thumbsticks swapped pysically.

    I can now play every game i wanted to play but couldnt. (when it arrives)

    And at least claim to be considered somewhat normal 😉

    Ironically, i got pissed off enough to start to learn the default method of aiming with my right hand, i was doing alright until i Played HALO 3 and found i couldnt aim with my left as well anymore…

    Southpaw for life.

  14. Ty says:

    I totally agree.

    As a totally left handed player I can’t get my head around trying to play any FPS right handed, so GTA IV

    My solution? Well, I got a controller permanently modded for Southpaw here in the UK, and they’re now available at .

    Saying that, I’d still prefer it if developers made all game controls configurable. Criminal not to really…


  15. Glan says:

    I would automatically downgrade a AAA FPS game to A or AA at best if it misses out on Southpaw.

    AAA should be reserved for games which get everything right, like Halo and Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

    Crap like Bioshock is unplayable for people who are used to Southpaw setups and can not be considered a polished game, definitely not worthy of AAA or a BAFTA!

    Also I don’t get why there are a load of forums full of anti-southpaw Nazis?

  16. Hans says:

    I’m not even lefty and I use southpaw. I bought Dead Space 1 and ended up playing it for like 30 minutes before putting it down because there was no southpaw support. For this reason also I will not purchase Dead Space 2. It SUCKS!

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