Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Leveling the Playing Field: Video Games & Accessibility

Description: Close up of a pair of hands holding a Playstation
4 controller. The controller is a deep blue, and a light on the front
of the controller glows brightly.
Accessibility in video games is more than just creating specialized controllers. It's an issue that doesn't even have to be particularly time-consuming or expensive, as long as you make sure to think of it at the beginning instead of bolting it on at the end. So why are ways to make video games accessible still so sparsely implemented? Why does change keep happening so incrementally, if at all? How can this be fixed? Why is the video game industry so slow to adopt techniques that have made entertainment media accessible in other domains? In "How Games Can Better Accommodate Disabled Players", Waypoint's Mike Diver interviews Ian Hamilton, an game development consultant and advocate for increasing video game accessibility for game players with disabilities. An excerpt:
"Awareness, though, can be hard to come by directly—the circumstances in which games are made are not the same as those in which games are played. Console games are not played on a 27-inch monitor, 18 inches from your face; but that's often the environment in which day-to-day UI decisions are made... There's no reason why the system can't be designed and implemented before the content it's going to display is finalized. That's something I'd dearly love to see addressed at an engine level, as there's really no need for developers to keep reinventing the wheel every time—especially when it's so often reinvented as a square. Again, as with a great deal in accessibility, this isn't rocket science to solve, at all. It's just about actually getting it done."

The discussion of subtitles in video games was of particular interest to me. I always play with subtitles on, as I have an auditory processing disorder and there are times that I just can't focus on the dialogue any other way. Hamilton also talks about controller remapping, colorblind mode and more. The entire article's a great read, so do read the whole thing.

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