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.

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