Many of us love to play video games. However, if you are able-bodied you may not often consider if games are accessible to everyone. Many games are designed with people who are able-bodied and have good hearing and vision in mind. What if you are someone who needs some sort of modification, how will you get to enjoy games too? Thankfully, many steps are now being taken to include everyone in games.
Subtitles have been the norm in games for a long time. But now, more and more games are also including captioning for the game environment too. Captioning refers to using descriptive text for non-spoken sounds, such as gunfire or creatures growling. Games often build collectibles and mechanics around the sound of the environment. Without captioning, a lot of this content can be completely inaccessible for someone who is hard of hearing. Including captioning for the environment is a great step towards inclusivity for people who are hard of hearing and are gamers. However, there are still many games being released that do not take accessibility into account! As it becomes more popular for older games to be remastered (like the recent release of the PlayStation classic and all of the remastered classics that come with it) the remastering process can be an opportunity to make even old games accessible for everyone. During remastering, there is the opportunity to include everyone when the original game may have excluded some. Unfortunately, this does not always happen with new releases.
However, there are many people who are working on solutions to include everyone in games. Particularly, the people at Inclusive Tech Lab at Microsoft are working on a completely adaptive video game controller. It can often be the hardware that is excluding people from games as traditional hardware and controllers can be very limiting for some people.
The Xbox adaptive controller is able to have separate push buttons to replace every button or trigger on a traditional controller, and it is entirely customizable. The controller will allow gamers to connect external switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks. In addition, the controller has multiple features designed for deaf gamers too! These adaptive buttons can be mounted to anything, so someone who has gross motor skills is able to push buttons and play games more easily with their fists, feet, or any other way that works for their own needs! This also means that game developers don’t have to actually design differently for this controller, it is usable across all games!
From the game development side, many new games are even moving beyond just easy, medium, and hard mode. Lots of games are now allowing for more customization. For some people, puzzles may be no problem to play on hard mode, whereas maybe in combat situations they need an easier difficulty. With more customization options, players can adjust the game to make it appropriate for their ability. As more and more big titles include these adaptability options, making games more and more accessible and customizable for all abilities will become the norm. When this becomes the norm, we will be taking even bigger steps towards including everyone in gaming!
Any limitation should not stop someone from being included in gaming. And games do not somehow needy to be “easy” from a developers standpoint in order to be accessible.
We can learn from diversity; inclusive design puts people in the centre of the design process and this is how we gain insight to improve designs for ALL gamers universally.
There is still a long way to go, but big steps are being made toward making gaming inclusive for EVERYONE.
If you want to learn more about inclusive gaming, check out this inspiring story!