5 Ways Accessibility in Video Games is Evolving

5 min read
April 2, 2021
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5 Ways Accessibility in Video Games is Evolving

Playing video games can boost creativity, improve problem-solving skills, encourage teamwork and offers players the ability to escape and explore. People with disabilities have more limited opportunities to play video games. Roughly 20% of the casual video game audience is comprised of disabled gamers, according to research done by PopCap. For as long as gaming has been around, the disabled community has faced barriers with inaccessible technology and video games themselves. For example, those with mobility challenges may not be able to use a standard video game controller or a person with visual impairments may be unable to play a game rich in graphics. Many new resources are becoming available to help give accessibility to disabled gamers and things are getting brighter for the industry. Individuals and organisations have adapted to these problems by modifying controllers and developing audio games. In this blog, we are going to look at 5 ways accessibility is evolving for the disabled gaming world and what it means for the future of disabled gamers.

1. Accessible Gaming is Award-Winning and Newsworthy

The support of accessibility in video games has been in progress and becoming more prominent in the past few years.

Continuing research is repeatedly making the news. The RAD interface created by Brian A. Smith is a Racing auditory display that enables gamers who are visually impaired to play the same racing games that sighted players can play and with the same speed, control and excitement. This is an audio-based interface where players listen using headphones. It can be easily integrated by developers into nearly any racing video game.

In 2014 SpecialEffect won the AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award for their work in adapting game controllers for people with mobility issues to play video games. Microsoft have reported on the UK charity as they have created a way to play Minecraft using just your eyes. SpecialEffect created EyeMine which is available for anyone with a Microsoft account and an eye-tracking device.

2. Building in Accessibility From the Start

There are many new improvements being made to games that can aid people with disabilities or impairments.

Special filters have been developed to help blind or partially sighted players. Some players may benefit from the High Contrast Display option, which mutes the environment colours while also making allies, enemies, items, and interactive objects much more distinctive. Other options include Enhanced Listen Mode, this allows you to scan for items or enemies individually and will trigger an audio cue based on their height and distance relative to you.

For users with motor impairments or limited dexterity, conventional consoles are not designed in a usable way. There are now customisable controls and alternative grip solutions for one handed playing. The Nintendo Switch allows you to adjust the fundamental settings of how you play which is very beneficial for many people.

Accessibility for deaf or hard of hearing gamers has also evolved. Subtitles can be found in a large number of games. Small additions, from optional backgrounds for text to adjustable font sizes, can make it easier to read what’s being said on screen. Changing the colour tabs for each character, or simply adding a speaker label, can also remove some of the barriers for deaf or hard of hearing gameplay.

3. More Gaming Organisations are Embracing Accessibility

Microsoft has launched an official set of guidelines for accessibility in Xbox titles and testing service that will measure a games functionality against those guidelines pre-launched.

Sony’s first-party studios have made accessibility into a core part of its games’ feature-set with The Last of Us Part 2 being a high level of value.

EA has recently launched an accessibility portal. This was created to better support diverse needs and make it easier to find accessibility-specific features and resources. AAA is a term used to classify games with the highest budget and levels of promotion. They are being recognised for the work they are doing.

Now that most console manufacturers and games published are embracing accessibility it has become common to incorporate accessibility at the early stages of development. Inclusive design is becoming more common, and this has resulted in new conferences and events which are dedicated to the topic of accessibility in gaming, such as the Gaming Accessibility Conference.

4. Different People have Different Playing Styles

There are many different ways people play video games. A main goal of accessibility in gaming is to grow the number of different people who play video games. Everyone can benefit from the hardware and software adjustments being made. Allowing all players to change the gaming experience is enabling different play styles.

Many video games and controllers allow the remapping of controls, this allows for different play styles. This allows the player to change their gaming experience to meet their requirements. This benefits everyone.

The Copilot feature on the Xbox One allows two controls to act as if they were one. This allows two users to share one controller by combining the input from both controllers. A person with a disability may need someone else to handle a certain action can use this copilot function to aid them with this. This has been developed so that everyone can play despite their physical limitations.

5. Future Plans

It’s vital that we continue to think about ways video game accessibility can be implemented to enhance the gaming experience and reach more and more people.

More video games accessibility developments are happening at a rapid rate with the increasing pressure and support from developers and senior managers. Increasing awareness of accessibility and the provisions of available tools will ensure that efforts to make gaming more inclusive will continue. The future is bright for video games accessibility.

We will be updating our blog when we have more information to share (and some new UI designs), but be sure to join our Discord where you can chat directly with the team and share your feedback!

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