Close up of a Sony Playstation 4 controller

Game on! Looking at accessibility in video games

Phil, Scope’s Stories Manager, is a self-confessed video game geek. With game developers and software companies beginning to take accessibility in gaming to a whole new level, Phil and some of the campaigners from Scope for Change talk about their experiences and what should happen next.

I love video games. Sometimes, there is nothing better than holding off a zombie hoard or exploring the deepest, darkest corners of space. However, I will be totally honest and admit that I have never thought about the accessibility of gaming. It’s definitely something that I’ve always taken for granted.

So when Sony released a video last week which detailed the extensive list of accessibility features that they have introduced for the first time in their new game Uncharted 4, it really hit home that many disabled people have missed or are missing out on the gaming world.

The video follows Josh Straub, a disabled gamer, who met with developers of the game to express his frustrations of the lack of accessibility in previous games. Thankfully, the developers listened and introduced a whole host of different features to make Uncharted 4 one of the most accessible video games ever made.

I asked the Scope for Change campaigners to tell me their experiences of gaming and what they think needs to be improved to make games more accessible.

SamSam Pugh, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“I do love my video games. I often have issues with them not being captioned, especially with the influx of voice acting in video games – very often the actual game play will be captioned, but opening scenes and extra bits (like in game radio) just aren’t.

I feel like there are some elements of video games that would transfer really well over to a gaming platform designed with visually impaired people in mind. If you take the story and the voice acting and combine them with elements of choice and problem solving, you could create something really strong and immersive.”

Jack Welch, a young disabled man, smiles at the cameraJack

“I’m not much of a gamer myself these days, but I was always a bigger fan of the open ended and more relaxed options, as it was much better for staying calm (e.g. The Sims).”

 

JamieJamie, a young disabled man, smiles at the camera

“Since my stroke, I’ve lost most dexterity in my left hand and using the left trigger/shoulder buttons on my Xbox controller is very difficult. It’s a big problem for playing shooters as these are often the aim/throw grenade buttons. There are a lot of great games where these buttons are less important and phone games and a lot of PC games are far more accessible.

However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find accessible big budget titles as the industry puts more and more emphasis on making every button on a controller very important. The Dragon Age games are a good example, as the left trigger/shoulder buttons weren’t very important in the first 2 games, but control changes made the third game much less accessible. So it’s a very good sign that developers are becoming more aware of this and taking steps to make the games more inclusive.”

AliceAlice, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“Generally, games cannot be played by photosensitive people as most have flashing lights. They now warn people beforehand which is great as we can make an informed decision not to play. It would be amazing for games to be more accessible though!”

 

BeccaBecca, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“I like to play video games but I’m not very good at them! A family friend loves video games though and growing up I have noticed that not all games have consistent captions or subtitles which can be difficult for those with hearing difficulties.”

 

SarahSarah, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“Ever since I had my head injury, I had real difficulty with games and the noises and explosions. I have really bad reactions and hand eye coordination! My brother and my boyfriend love gaming and when they are playing the noises and lights really trigger me. I don’t really know how much of that can be changed as it’s part of the game really but it would be great if maybe the designers thought about it.”

HollyHolly, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“I don’t really game. There are a couple of blind gamers, but very few mainstream games can be played by us. Just three or four fighting games as far as I know.”

 

CharlieCharlie, a young disabled man, smiles at the camera

“I play a lot of games but only use subtitles as an accessibility option. Generally I think that the games industry is inaccessible, but is trying to reach out. Phone games and handheld games are probably, ultimately more accessible than console ones that use a controller. Games that are on the PC often have more accessibility options.

As with everything, accessibility makes everything easier for everyone and gives people the option to make the choices they want to, whatever media they want to enjoy.”

Close up of someone holding a Sony Playstation 4 controller

Accessibility in gaming is obviously getting better but there is still a long way to go before it can accommodate everyone. The news from Sony highlights how important it is for disabled people to start conversations with game developers on what they need from a game.

Disabled consumers have the power to help shape what the future of video gaming looks like and companies are listening.

Have any questions or advice about accessible video gaming? Join our online community and start a discussion today!

Cover image of Playstaton controller used under a Creative Commons license from here.