Video games and accessibility: a small revolution, for everyone

Video games and accessibility: a small revolution, for everyone

Video games and accessibility

As great video game enthusiasts that we are, we can't help but be amazed by all those great little revolutions we witness every year. More or less radical changes, which over time have incredibly transformed a medium that was originally perceived in a totally different way: from a "simple" form of entertainment, in short, the video game has become an all-round communication tool.

In the vast and complex panorama of contemporary media, we often and willingly find the predisposition and (rightly) the need to make everything accessible to an audience that is as wide as possible: in practice, everyone must have access to entertainment, without any exclusion. Some impediments of various kinds, however, can slow down or limit this use, such as in cases of disability or impediments of a structural nature: it is in these situations that a further small revolution is needed, to make everything conform to a now fundamental character. Accessibility.

Video games and accessibility: where to start

The explosion of the video game not only as a medium, but as an integral part of popular culture has placed the industry of facing new challenges. The strong growth, also and above all at the public level, has made it necessary to develop a solution to meet ever more precise needs and requirements: the numbers, after all, speak loud and clear. An analysis by Scope, an association that has always been committed to the integration of people with disabilities, has in fact shown how:

In the United Kingdom we find more than 14 million million disabled people 66% of gamers with disabilities have encountered barriers in the use of the medium 22% complain about the absence of suitable controllers, while 18% believe that consoles need to be more accessible. The combination of video games and accessibility therefore becomes central, and implementing practical solutions is consequently essential to carry on an industry that, in the United States alone, is now worth almost 100 billion dollars. How to do? Going back a few decades we do find some supports, mostly linked to seminal versions of virtual reality, designed to ensure better accessibility to the gaming world. However, these were very niche solutions, mostly inserted within academic contexts far removed from the mainstream scene. Little by little, however, things have changed.

Many modern titles have many, many options related to accessibility. In 2012 Game Accessibility Guidelines was born: a platform full of advice, ideas and real directives on how to make a videogame product truly accessible. It was the beginning of a very important path, which over the years has been widely recognized by both companies and users from all corners of the world. It is indeed incredible to notice how often small, very small tricks are enough to make an experience of this kind even more usable.

The possibility of selecting a particular color setting, an audio sector designed in a certain way or the simple size of the characters: a minimum detail, numbers in hand, really changes the cards on the table. Several projects were born from these guidelines that over time have taken hold in an important way, finally landing also in contexts of much higher dimensions.

Xbox Adaptive Controller A giant like Microsoft, for example, has designed the Xbox Adaptive Controller: the perfect solution, and developed in collaboration with the community, to allow anyone to live the experience of a video game in a really affordable. It is a controller compatible with numerous devices and, above all, incredibly customizable: everyone, as we said, must have the possibility to play, without limits. And this is just the beginning.

What future is accessibility in gaming?

In recent years we have seen an increasingly marked integration of such solutions within video games and consoles, and today virtually every title on the market lends itself to making the link between video games and accessibility even more solid.

Another concept that undoubtedly deserves an honorable mention is related to audio games, solutions designed specifically for those suffering from very severe and debilitating visual impairments. Projects of this type are among those born decades ago, which in recent years have been moving from experimental environments to contexts closer to the public. Even in Italy we find more than concrete action from this point of view, with the CTO of Italian Games Factory Ivan Venturi at the forefront to promote this type of instrument.

Thanks to audio games a new way of conceiving the videogame is born, where the playful component is flanked by a narrative system that is even more in-depth: thus a different, unique and above all accessible experience originates. Without neglecting also what happens on the development side, with studios and professionals who can give vent to their creativity with a production, in these cases, with much lower costs than a traditional video game.

What the future in this sense is clearly a huge unknown: as ten years ago we had no idea how we would relate today to the theme of accessibility in gaming, today we cannot know for sure what awaits us in the coming years. Today, however, there is much more awareness, both on the part of those who design and from the point of view of those who experience the video game in all its forms. This is an aspect that bodes well, also and above all in the development of new technologies that we all can't wait to admire.

We close with an interesting report for those who are looking for products aimed at accessibility, whose potential is unfortunately not always properly communicated. Over the years, many databases have been created that collect all the information necessary to experience the video game at 360 °, and one of these can be found on the official website in the NLS (National Library Service). It is a list full of resources, advice and platforms focused on the theme of video games and accessibility: perhaps it is "just" a list but, on closer inspection, it will become clear how much this is also a great little revolution. For everyone.

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