Friday, July 30, 2021

Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War

Lamoine Williams

               Since Sony has a summer sale on PlayStation games, I thought that now would be the perfect time to try out a game I’ve been wanting to play and get it for 50% off at the same time. The game is Call of Duty Cold War and it is not as bad as I thought for accessibility. The bundle that I purchased is the cross-generation bundle for $35 and contains the game for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles. Since this is a cross platform game, playing with your friends who have a PS5 or PS4 is no problem at all. I also want to mention that gamers who play on PS5 get a bit more information when it comes to finding out stats like score and kills, more on that later.

               Now I know that many of you are wondering exactly how accessible Cold War is and the simplest answer is there are not many accessible features for gamers who are totally blind. However, there are a few things that help blind gamers out and we will be going over those here today. Cold War is one of those games that although there are no specific accessibility features for the blind like menu narration, it is still playable with a little time and effort. If you’re a gamer who is interested in putting some time into a new game and learning the ropes then this just might be the game for you. With games on average costing upwards to $70 for just base games with no extras, this sale price is an all-around win.


               First things first let’s talk about the menus in Cold War. Now if you are a gamer who is blind then you know how much a pain it can be trying to navigate unfamiliar screens and menus that wrap. If you don’t know what that means, it’s when players can go from the top of a menu and when the final option is passed the curser wraps back up to the top. This can be annoying for gamers who navigate menus via clicks and sound cues since one never really knows what option they are on because there really is no starting point once you start moving the curser. In the past the way blind gamers have gotten passed this barrier is by memorizing the number of options on a menu and also what function they perform.

               In Cold War none of the menus wrap so it is very easy to learn how to navigate the screens with relative ease. This may seem like something very small to gamers with sight, but it is one less barrier that can keep gamers with vision loss from playing a game. Paired together with audio cues that are very clear and distinct and you have a foundation that allows many more players to navigate the game with little to no problems. Another thing that I find awesome about Cold War is that the main menu is simple. In past Call of Duty games, the menus have been literal nightmares to navigate for blind players.

               Having four options on the left of the main menu makes it easy to get around and find what mode you’re looking for. From top to bottom you have campaign, multiplayer, league, and zombies. There are more options to the right but those are not really needed in order to get started playing Zombies or multiplayer. I found that the clicks that can be heard when navigating the menu were easily heard even over the menu music. With most navigation being up and down, right to left getting around is a breeze.

PS5 3-d Tempest audio

               One of the biggest things that needs to be pointed out is the audio engine. Redesigned from the ground up specifically for Cold War, the sounds are clear, dynamic, and very detailed. With a decent pair of head phones this game sounds awesome. However, I would like to say that compared to gears 5 on PC, the Cold War sound engine on PS5 still has a bit to go in order to get on equal footing with the Coalition sound engine. Now, the more I play Cold War I may change that opinion, but as of right now the G5 engine for PC is more clear, detailed, and distinct when aiming and finding targets in the middle of noisy battles.

               Currently I am using the Sony Pulse 3-d headset made specially to take advantage of the Sony PlayStation 5 Tempest audio engine. I have noticed that hearing zombies from a distance is a bit troubling. Now, this could be because my ears are not used to all of the tiny sounds as of yet. For me ranging the distance that an enemy is from me just isn’t there yet and can be frustrating when trying to perform a melee kill in order to conserve ammo. But it just may be that more practice is needed in order to master that attack.

               I found that when navigating in-game I can follow my sighted team mates simply by listening for their movement and gunshots. This makes it much easier for me to help out with combat. Although, when a teammate is firing their weapon close to where my character is standing the noise tends to drown out the zombies from time to time. I did however lower my music volume so that the game music was not over powering the tiny sounds like enemy footsteps closing in. I found that having the music volume set to around 35 is a perfect level for me.

Game Mechanics

               There are a few different game mechanics that should be tweaked in order to make Cold War more playable for blind gamers. Most can be found in the options menu and others are in-game to help with navigation. Like I mentioned before, this game is not exactly what I would call accessible for the blind, but with a few work arounds it is indeed possible to play and have a good time. Playing with friends in a party is one of the best things about online gaming, sadly not many games that are accessible for the blind have this feature. I would love to see menu narration in the next Call of Duty game, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

               The first place to go after booting up Cold War is the options menu. Here you will find options for gameplay, controls, music, and tons of other things. One big option to change is the vertical sensitivity for the right stick. This controls where your character is looking and can have a huge impact on aiming. Setting this to low means that your aiming curser or reticle will not move as much during gameplay which will result in more shots being on target and less work for the ADS.

               Next is lowering the music volume. This will help you hear tiny sounds like the humming of machines, zombie footsteps, and scrap that is dropped by zombies. Lowering the music volume will also help with navigating the menu as the click sound cues will be easier to hear. When you lower the music volume instead of turning it off, you will hear the music that the perk machines play and other similar in-game sound cues. I also found that the dialog volume is too high so I lowered that as well.

Final Thoughts

               Overall, I like playing Cold War. Do I wish that there were more accessibility options? Hell yeah, but that won’t keep me from doing my best to play. Even without options for accessibility it’s still a fun game to play. I can see the more that I play how easy it would be to add menu narration and in-game narration to make this game and future games in this franchise more accessible for gamers who are blind and looking for a multiplayer game to play with their sighted friends and family, it really wouldn’t take much.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Steam Deck: Will Accessibility Meet Portability?

 By Lamoine Williams

               The newest contender in the battle royale of gaming platforms is Valve’s newest creation, the Steam Deck. Being promoted as more of a full-fledged gaming PC than a portable gaming console, this handheld has caught the attention of gamers worldwide. In theory, this new platform could face off against the Nintendo Switch, while also due to the vast library of games already available, could pull gamers in with gaming services such as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Google Stadia, and Ubisoft Plus among others. If you’re already a Steam gamer then the Steam Deck is definitely worth taking a look at for anyone looking to take their setup on the go.

               The Steam Deck features Steam OS, remote play, and even Cloud Saves for easily transitioning from your PC to the Steam Deck in titles that allow this option. Other features that will be available through Steam OS are notifications, community chat, and Steam Works for using game mods with your favorite titles. The Steam Deck comes in three different options with the differences mainly being storage space, with the more expensive options offering a faster SSD. Preorders go live July 16, 2021. Shipping will begin December 2021.

               Now, let’s talk accessibility. Valve has stated that the Deck is highly customizable, just like a gaming PC. What this means for gamers is that uploading software is easy, and even encouraged in order to make the Stream Deck your own. This could mean running NVDA or even J.A.W.S thus making this one of the most accessible portable platforms on the market. Imagine playing your favorite video games while also being able to play your favorite audio games on the go without carrying around a bulky laptop.

               More information about the Steam Deck will be released in the upcoming weeks as we get closer to launch. To check out all the official news, visit There you will find everything needed to buy one of your own if you choose. My thoughts on the Deck are that although it is useful as a portable platform, I personally don’t need another piece of gaming tech as my iPhone does what I need and is already accessible. However, later on when the system is more tested, I may grab one if there are advancements in Steam’s accessibility overall.

©2021 Lamoine Williams

Monday, July 12, 2021

Accessibility in Gaming


               What does accessibility truly mean to gaming? This question is one of many that has been seemingly overlooked on the big stage of main stream gaming for the last four decades. That is until last year when a title that some of you may have heard of brought accessibility more into the spotlight than it has ever been before. That title? The Last of Us Part II. Which begs the question, will accessibility ever be the same again?

               Many gamers in the disabled community hope that accessibility will never be the same as it was before TLOU2 and with good reason. Just the same as movies and television, gaming will need to evolve to stay relevant, and accessibility is playing a major role in evolving the video game industry. This is leading more disabled gamers to ask more from developers in regards to accessibility. Now that consumers have seen what is possible when it comes to accessibility and AAA titles, it’s hard to go back to wishing our favorite games were more accessible when we know deep down, they can be. Developer Naughty Dog showed the world what can be done when excuses are set aside and accessibility is implemented during the early stages of gaming development.

               However, it’s not just game developers who are taking accessibility more seriously. Industry giants like Sony and Microsoft both have plans on making accessibility a bigger part of their business plans for the future. This can be seen in last generation as well as the newest generation of consoles. Microsoft’s Xbox One had the best accessibility of its generation. This success has carried into the newest generation of Microsoft’s Xbox, the Series X.

               While last generations PlayStation 4 lacked many of the accessibility features that made the Xbox One a favorite for many disabled gamers, Sony has strived to make up for it with the accessibility features implemented into its PlayStation 5 console. Although console shortage issues are plaguing the world, many in the disabled community who have managed to get their hands on the newest consoles believe that Sony is making a noticeable effort to include more accessibility into their products and services. It seems that at this point many in the gaming industry see a lack of accessibility in the same light as a lack of potential players for their products, which is exactly what it is. No developer wants to potentially limit the number of players who can play their game right out the box, right? Well, that is exactly what many developers are doing when they don’t consider accessibility during early stages of development.

               For both developers and consumers getting involved with accessibility is as easy as networking. For developers, getting in touch with accessibility consultants is the first step. Preferably disabled consultants so that direct feedback can be given from those who face the types of barriers developers are attempting to overcome. For consumers, getting in touch with developers who make the games they want to play and letting them know what barriers are keeping them from enjoying their games is the first step. Understand that if you are having a problem playing a game then there are many more people who are probably facing those same issues. Likewise, if a developer does not know there is a barrier, they most likely can’t remove it.

               Accessibility has many definitions. What may be accessible for some, may not be accessible for all. Although a developer can add subtitles and promote their game as being accessible, if a developer is looking to make a difference to their bottom line a general rule is the more accessibility options the better. It’s a proven fact that even players without disabilities use accessibility options during gameplay. The more accessibility features games have, the more players a game can reach. This also allows more gamers to play games in ways that make a difference to them, which could be the difference between that same gamer picking up your next big title.

Far Cry 6 Not Far from Blind Accessible

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