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Is the video game industry doing enough to make gaming accessible?

Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

Scope community team

edited March 8 in Coffee lounge

The accessibility of video games

New console, new possibilities

November 2020 saw the release of the next generation of the big two games consoles. Both Sony and Microsoft launched the latest PlayStation and Xbox machines to an expectant audience worldwide, promising many of the same improvements that come with every new generation, such as graphical enhancements, processing speed and fancy features that enable the player to enjoy their games like never before.

While that's all very nice and much appreciated, the topic that is always on the cusp of many disabled gamers' minds is accessibility, because it's no good having the latest features and hardware if you can't enjoy the main reason you are there for, the games. However, it is true that many gamers are able to thoroughly love their gaming experience despite any lack of accessibility, and I include myself, but that should not be a contributing factor to accessibility being an after thought for many developers and manufacturers.

Gaming has come a long way

Gaming now, compared to a decade ago, is a vastly different experience. It has changed so very much, from the type and size of the games, to the features and power of the consoles they run on, as well as the platform you are using. These days, you can find gaming everywhere, such as:
  • consoles like the Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch
  • laptops and PCs
  • phones and tablets
  • smart speakers like Google Home and Alexa
And even within these platforms, there are different ways to play games and it's a constantly evolving situation, it almost seems as though accessibility is constantly playing a game of catch up, which can often make it feel like a case of two steps forward and one step back.

One of my favourite ways to judge the evolution of games is by looking at the settings menu, which is my favourite menu in any game. When I compare the settings menus of today to those of the past I'm normally staggered by the difference in quantity and quality of the available options. Go back 10 or 15 years and you might only be able to change the brightness, toggle the subtitles and increase or decrease the sensitivity of the in-game camera, whereas on the titles of today your options menu can occasionally be that packed it's overwhelming, which isn't a bad thing. If anything, it's a base level demonstration of the step forward accessibility has made that you can customise your experience so much, even though many of the options aren't designed for disabled people specifically.

image of the PlayStation 5 controller on a table

Is accessibility out there?

There are good examples of accessibility in the gaming world, but they are few and far between. As mentioned above, the constant evolution of gaming has meant that accessibility is always playing a chasing game and hardly ever feels quite up to scratch. As a result, people often end up celebrating improvements that are either very slight or way overdue, such as the PS5 being the first PlayStation console in the UK to have a screen reader built in.

However, I think it is worth celebrating the moments where accessibility is implemented successfully and acknowledge that, while in the past it's been a largely neglected topic in gaming, attitudes are beginning to shift amongst manufacturers and developers alike. Here are just a few examples below:
  • the Microsoft Adaptive controller is one such option where accessibility is the primary focus. It  is a video game controller designed by Microsoft for Windows PCs and the Xbox. The controller was made in 2015 for disabled people to help make user input for video games more accessible. It works with a range of external devices, for example you can connect switches, buttons, mounts and joysticks to create a custom controller experience that is uniquely yours.
  • The Last of Us Part 2, which has widely become known as the most accessible video game of all time, has enabled disabled people worldwide to enjoy a triple A title in the same way as non-disabled people, thanks to it's copious amounts of accessibility settings. The developer, Naughty Dog, put accessibility at the centre of development right from the start and interacted with specialist consultants throughout the process to make the game accessible for as many people as possible. Upon launching the game, you can choose from three accessibility presets which will adapt the game to best suit your needs, and you can further toggle settings on and off to your hearts content. The three presets are visual enhancements, hearing enhancements and enhancements for those with physical impairments. Below you can watch a clip of the audio and visual queues accessibility features.

  • the sheer number of ways in which we can enjoy video games has made them more accessible for a wider range of people. There is almost an option for every level of dedication you want to show, from the fun free smart speaker audio based games to the big theatrical triple A titles on PlayStation and Xbox that might cost your wallet a penny or two. Having that flexibility means that most people can enjoy games somehow, and it isn't dependant on how much you can afford or having a super in depth knowledge of gaming. For example, me and my partner have taken to playing a quiz game on Google Home each evening, because it's fun, simple and is entirely audio based which makes it so much easier for myself. There is a way to play games for almost everyone, regardless of your impairment, whether it be sensory or physical for example, and the hope is that one day every form of game will be adapted and designed to meet the needs of every player.

Is video game accessibility evolving?

Yes it is, as the technological capabilities of gaming platforms develop, and understanding amongst those in the industry increases, it can only mean positive things for accessibility. While it has been ignored in the past, whether that be purposefully or due to a lack of understanding and awareness, games like The Last of Us Part 2 pushing the subject into the mainstream media have made the large game companies realise the benefit of accessibility and shown the players what can be done to make games accessible for as many people as possible.

Do you find video games accessible?

Have you encountered barriers in terms of accessibility when gaming? Have you had experience of any of the things mentioned above? What are your thoughts on gaming as a whole and how it could improve?
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Replies

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
    About 10 years ago I had a Nintendo Wii, which I bought mainly for Wii Fit in a vain effort to try and do some exercise, waste of money as I just couldn't use it.

    I have however previously used fitness games on the Xbox 360 which worked great for the Kinect device, some of which are available on eBay or in second hand gaming shops such as CEX.

    So yeah gaming can be accessible to disabled gamers, if you can hold a controller (preferably a wireless one) you can do pretty much anything in games.

  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

    Scope community team

    Thanks for sharing @MrAllen1976

    I'm glad that you get so much enjoyment out of games and overcome any barriers that are there.

    For me, the challenge comes in actually seeing what's going on, I find that very few games actually have accessibility features built in for those with a visual impairment. I often find myself not enjoying a game as much as I could, because I can't play them that well.
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  • 66Mustang66Mustang Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,403 Disability Gamechanger
    edited December 2020
    @Ross_Scope I once had the chance to play XBOX at school with some classmates, sadly I’d forgotten my glasses so I couldn’t really see what was going on. I tried selecting a sniper rifle so I could zoom in on the baddies :D but that didn’t really help. It was very frustrating to say the least. I am not comparing this to being visually impaired just merely saying I can only begin to imagine how frustrating it must be to have a game you love playing but can’t see it properly.

    Another example is when I was trying to play games with a broken finger in a cast, again a very minuscule problem compared to many physical disabilities however it did give me a small taste of the frustration people must face.

    If they make games more accessible this must be a good thing. :)
  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,912 Disability Gamechanger
    I would love to be able to game again
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

    Scope community team

    I'm jealous that your school had a games console @66Mustang :D But yes, you're right. It can be very frustrating, especially when you know you would be decent at the game if it was accessible. 

    I'm sorry that you can't game at the moment @Ami2301, hopefully you'll be able to one day soon. Do you mind me asking why you can't right now? :) 
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  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
    Yeah my school had an ancient BBC Micro with Repton 3 and Granny's Garden installed lol.


  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,912 Disability Gamechanger
    Where do I begin? I have central vision loss (optic neuropathy) and find it difficult to enjoy gaming without getting a headache from squinting or focusing on a screen within 10 minutes. I'm not sure if I have some type of processing disorder but I find a standard normal paced game too fast and overwhelming and would need the game to be at a much slower pace.

    My sensory ataxia and transverse myelitis cause altered sensations, mainly in my hands, as a result I struggle to feel the buttons and grips. Also with ataxia causing lack of coordination, I can't move quick to alternate between buttons.
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

    Scope community team

    I'm sorry to hear that those things prevent you from playing games @Ami2301, I wonder if there's something that can be done to make the process easier for you, like games with accessibility settings or any other kind of adjustments.

    Regarding your vision, I'm in a similar boat and I find that amber tinted glasses help me. I have no central vision (due to a condition called Cone-rod Dystrophy) and I'm really sensitive to any kind of light. When I look at screens I wear amber tinted glasses with an anti glare lens built into them and they reduce the irritation massively.

    maybe this would be something to speak to your optition or eye specialist about?
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  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,912 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks @Ross_Scope I will find out more about amber-tinted glasses and hopefully they will help :)

    I've never really sat down and thoroughly looked through the accessibility settings, hopefully I will get round to looking at some point :)
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

    Scope community team

    No worries @Ami2301, a different colour might work better for you, as long as it's something that will help reduce the impact of the brightness without you needing to turn your TV's brightness all the way down.
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  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

    Scope community team

    Here's a really exciting opportunity for those of you who are passionate about video games to make a difference.

    Gaming for Good co-production group

    From challenging friends to a gaming tournament, to testing endurance with 24-hour gaming marathons, ‘gaming for good’ is fast becoming a popular way to fundraise and support charities.
    The Public Fundraising team are looking into new fundraising activities through gaming, this new income stream will allow Scope to reach new audiences and diversify our fundraising activity.

      The group

      We're forming a Gaming Co-production group to help design the fundraiser and ensure it’s genuinely accessible, inclusive, and built with disabled people from the very start.
      The group will be formed of disabled gamers and streamers, and experts in the field of accessible gaming.

      Get involved

      Join our Gaming for Good co-production group and help us design an epic gaming fundraiser. To find out more and register your interest, follow the link below.

      Join the group

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    • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

      Scope community team

      edited December 2020
      The Festive Find present hunt

      image of the Christmas present for the festive find game
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    • 66Mustang66Mustang Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,403 Disability Gamechanger
    • Ami2301Ami2301 Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,912 Disability Gamechanger
      @Ross_Scope 2nd present!
      Disability Gamechanger - 2019
    • WestHam06WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,376 Pioneering
      Hi @Ross_Scope
                                    Thank you for sharing this interesting post with us. Gaming has come a long way in terms of accessibility but there is still so much that can be done. I knew of a charity which worked with people to adapt their games consoles or other devices they used to play games to meet their needs. I have always played on PlayStation but certain games used to frustrate me as I found it hard to hold the controller and press the buttons, particularly games such as Call of Duty which I love. I want to enjoy the gaming experience so now think about which games can provide this. I have played FIFA since I was a child and have had to work really hard over the years at getting better at the controls. I like a challenge and it's certainly one of endurance :) Thank you.    
    • chiariedschiarieds Community Co-Production Group Posts: 10,154 Disability Gamechanger
      Just saw this challenge now.....1st one found @Ross_Scope :)
    • StayceStayce Member Posts: 682 Pioneering
      edited January 27
      Great post @Ross_Scope 👍

       I have right sided hemiplegia which means that the majority of the buttons on controllers or handheld consoles are always on the right (my affected side) making it hard for me to operate the game to become any good at them😀. Settings often don’t allow for very much manoeuvre on this either

      Nintendo DS consoles were a big step in the gaming industry for me where the touch screen could be used allowing me to use my left hand to operate large proportions of game play

      For games that were released across platforms (not DS specific) I’ve had to be more selective about the games that I pick (and look up the control manual before purchasing) - I find simulation, puzzles, racing games or FIFA the best for me, because multiple button combinations won’t be necessary in a single move.


      Hope this is helpful. 

      Best


    • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Posts: 5,644

      Scope community team

      Thanks for offering your insight @Stayce! That's really interesting. I used to (and still sometimes do!) love playing on my Nintendo DS, so it's good to hear that that was a positive step forward in accessibility for you. Which games do you enjoy playing on the DS? 
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    • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
      I used to love Dr Kawashima's Brain Training on the DS, and Cooking Mama, and especially the Phoenix Wright games.


    • 66Mustang66Mustang Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,403 Disability Gamechanger
      I used to love Dr Kawashima's Brain Training on the DS

      I remember that, I spent hours doing that every day!!
    • StayceStayce Member Posts: 682 Pioneering
      edited January 29

      Thanks for offering your insight @Stayce! That's really interesting. I used to (and still sometimes do!) love playing on my Nintendo DS, so it's good to hear that that was a positive step forward in accessibility for you. Which games do you enjoy playing on the DS? 

      Big fan of the any of the Animal Crossing games

      Rather addicted to the puzzle games polarium and meteos too😀
    • Blake95Blake95 Member Posts: 3 Listener
      Personally I don't think they do enough to protect people online disabled or not from Trolls, hence why I haven't upgraded from PS2 after my nasty experiences on PS3. I thought of upgrading to PS5 or the newest xbox but the cost😮 not only for the console but things like the membership to be able to play most games 

    • 66Mustang66Mustang Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,403 Disability Gamechanger
      Blake95 said:
      Personally I don't think they do enough to protect people online disabled or not from Trolls

      I agree 100%. The comments you get on there are shocking. Racist, homophobic, sexist, comments, death threats etc are all seemingly part of normal discussion on video games. Anywhere else it would cause outrage - if someone mutters something ever so slightly racist or sexist on TV for example - but on video games people seem to be immune to any form of punishment.

      I do like my games and am able to filter out the bad stuff but I can imagine it to be upsetting for a lot of people.
    • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
      66Mustang said:
      Blake95 said:
      Personally I don't think they do enough to protect people online disabled or not from Trolls

      I agree 100%. The comments you get on there are shocking. Racist, homophobic, sexist, comments, death threats etc are all seemingly part of normal discussion on video games. Anywhere else it would cause outrage - if someone mutters something ever so slightly racist or sexist on TV for example - but on video games people seem to be immune to any form of punishment.

      I do like my games and am able to filter out the bad stuff but I can imagine it to be upsetting for a lot of people.
      This is why I don't game online, although I've seen 12 year olds on stuff like COD and GTA and the games are 18 rated! What idiot buys these games for underage kids? More to the point, why aren't Parents who knowingly buy for underage kids getting done for it?! Fortunately my soon to be 13 year old nephew solely plays Fortnite on his Xbox.



    • 8cent88cent8 Member Posts: 8 Listener
      Hi, has anyone heard of the Microsoft Adaptive Controller? This clever device lets you connect your preferred switches into 3.5mm jack-plugs that can represent any key of an X-boxes control pads. 

      Watch this short movie clip. :) 
    • 8cent88cent8 Member Posts: 8 Listener
      edited February 2

      Glassouse - a cross that is between glasses and a mouse 





      This device is a wearable gyroscopic bar that you can wear just like spectacles. This device controls the mouse pointer of any Bluetooth enabled device such as:
      Android phone or tablet.Any iPhone or iPad that has iOS 13 or later PC and MacLinuxTV's that have Bluetooth After pairing your Glassouse with your Bluetooth enabled device a mouse pointer will appear, simply move your head around to control the device.
      To activate or select an icon you press a switch:Bite switch Finger switch Blow into a puff switch A footswitch You can also use a method called 'dwell' where you can switch hands-free by staring at an object for say 1 second without moving. This time limit can be altered to suit the user.

      <Moderator removed - advertising not allowed on the online community>


    • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 4,641

      Scope community team

      Hi @8cent8

      Have you used the devices you mentioned above?
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    • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
      Hi @8cent8

      Have you used the devices you mentioned above?
      @Ross_Scope the guy got banned last week for mass advertising.

    • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Posts: 2,878

      Scope community team

      I am hopeful that inclusivity is increasing all of the time.
      Inclusive and Positive Gaming from Xbox Ambassadors — Scope | Disability forum
      Scope
      Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead

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    • 11190821119082 Posts: 258 Member
    • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
      Up to about 10 years ago there were loads of Fitness games on the Xbox, including one licensed to the "Scary" one from the Spice Girls... They were very accessible for the Kinect device on the 360, shame that device flopped big style as it had some good games :(

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