Video games and accessibility: 'When everyone plays we all win'? Where are we and how much we need to improve

Video games and accessibility: 'When everyone plays we all win'? Where are we and how much we need to improve

Video games and accessibility

Disability History Month is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the community of gamers with disabilities and their accomplishments in the gaming industry.

Over the past five years the entire industry has grown into a more inclusive space, realizing that how accessibility is a crucial issue. Plenty of developers now design accessibility settings using experts as consultants. Gamers with disabilities now have a solid foundation for driving change through their experiences and there are several pioneers with disabilities working in game design.

In the past, accessibility was represented by Alien Isolation: Amanda Ripley alone in the darkness haunted by a lethal predator. In video games, no one can hear you scream. Accessibility is currently Far Cry 6. You are Dani Rojas with a boundless arsenal, fantastic allies and some healthy carefree guerilla warfare, all to create your own style of play with the goal of eliminating Anton Castillo.

This year, the charity for equality towards people with disabilities, Scope, wrote a report on accessibility in video games in order to understand the barriers that players with disabilities face.

When the report was released Molly White, co-lead of the Scope co-production group, released a statement about Scope's work to improve accessible gaming and raise the bar for fundraising events. "In a world full of barriers, video games open up an exciting new world of possibilities," said White. "However, two-thirds of players with disabilities have faced barriers, whether it be poor accessibility, lack of representation or negative attitudes from other players. Scope believes that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of gaming. This is the why we released our Accessibility in Gaming report: to put the most common barriers that players with disabilities face and discuss the changes they want to see in the spotlight. "

Forza Horizon 5 shows what that can be the look of the most modern accessibility features.

Watch on YouTube. Sightless Kombat, blind gamer, prominent streamer and accessibility specialist added: "It's great to see so much more research on accessibility and that the information is publicly available as knowing what the situation is in the industry is not just helpful. for the consultants but also for all the other people. As for the co-production, it was great to work on an event like this with so many accessibility professionals and several companies, charities and related companies. accessibility can be implemented not only in their products and events but also in the design process itself ".

The data in this report is extremely interesting so I thought I'd share my thoughts on it.

There are 14.1 million people with disabilities in the UK, a substantial chunk of consumers. The purchasing power of people with disabilities (The Purple Pound) is massively neglected. What is it about? 274 billion pounds according to the report.

The results of this report showed that 66% of gamers with disabilities encountered barriers when playing video games. The biggest barrier is the ability to access suitable modified controllers (22%), inaccessible consoles (18%), the knowledge or time required to prepare technology capable of assisting (23%), and inaccessible video games (17 %).

Modified controllers are often custom made products. It can be tricky to find the right people to fit these things and therefore they can get very expensive. When you start to need accessibility support, there isn't much information available either. Luckily in the UK there is the Special Effect charity which adapts controllers and assists people in finding the best set up.

The hardware solutions that are important to players with disabilities are clear. 25% want to change the sensitivity of the analogs or controller buttons. 16% ask for the ability to map buttons in order to place actions in the best places for their capabilities. 14% would need a one-handed controller and haptic feedback while 11% would require controllers that can be used with their head or mouth.

Cost and complexity increases considerably when support solutions are needed to support switches or controllers for various set ups. It's not even easy to prepare everything every single time. The Xbox Adaptive Controller and Logitech solutions are answers to reach that open access to video games to a much wider variety of gamers.

Personally, the biggest problem for me is the inaccessibility of consoles. The Titan 2 device I use to get my PS4 controller working on PS5 solved a big problem. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart initially worked flawlessly with the Dualshock 4. However, recent PlayStation updates have "closed" several accessibility shortcuts. The solution is to buy an add on for the Titan 2 but it will only be launched in the next year.

Our review of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

Watch on YouTube. So sadly at the time of writing (early November) PS5 is a console inaccessible to gamers using the device I need until the add on solution is available. Gamers with disabilities shouldn't be forced to spend extra money to make a console accessible. Also, if a console is inaccessible then the accessibility settings cannot benefit players with disabilities. Unfortunately, this hardware barrier does nothing but sabotage the incredible work done by PlayStation developers, developers who have revolutionized accessibility.

Scope has found that 50% of gamers with disabilities want to know about accessibility. of a game as this affects their decision to make a purchase or not. In the past I would have just pre-ordered a game without worrying but now the accessibility features and control scheme information have the power to change my decision to buy a game or not.

Scope report highlights how players with disabilities tend to be more interested in subscription services, using Discord or watching live streams than other players. It is also pointed out that 20% of players with disabilities have purchased titles that they could not play due to poor accessibility. Furthermore, 14% of these players failed to get their money back and this is a great injustice. Subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass give players with disabilities the choice to try the games without having to worry about the single cost in case it turns out to be unavailable.

The report also offers recommendations for the video game industry.

The main recommendation is that 31% of gamers want platforms to put more effort into addressing the negative attitude towards disability that exists online. Dealing with trolls or hateful attitudes destroys your confidence and video games must be fun and social.

25% of gamers want an accurate representation of people with disabilities in video games . It is quite common in horror games to have to deal with creaking wheelchairs in creepy hospitals or the presence of wheelchairs that are not representative of modernity. We need main characters with disabilities or characters who do not propose a disability as the key element of their characterization. (My favorite depiction is found in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a game in which Miles communicates in sign language with the character of Hailey, a deaf girl.)

20% want less assistive technologies expensive and 16% more options in this respect. This barrier must be destroyed and with Purple Pound underestimated there is an abundance of cash ready to be spent on technologies that can help players. Xbox really promoted the removal of this barrier by first creating the relatively inexpensive Xbox Adaptive Controller and then allowing gamers to use any controller on the Xbox Series X.

Research such as these are extremely helpful in illustrating gamer experiences with disabilities and highlight accessibility gaps by suggesting ways to solve them. The trajectory of accessibility knowledge and collaboration between players with disabilities and developers has never pointed so far and shows no signs of stopping.

Disability History Month celebrates the most talented pioneers with disabilities but it is also important to recognize the achievements of people with disabilities in order to create a better and more inclusive future.

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