Video Games have become a major part of our culture since the industry began in the 1960’s. Whereas games are getting more realistic over time, accessibility has most of the time never been considered until recently. Could video games be made that are accessible to both disabled and non-disabled people?
Video games first began in the 1960s, at mainly arcades and have gradually grown into a multi-million industry. Games can be found just about everywhere, however a majority of them are deemed inaccessible – mainly to disabled people. Issues with video game access can affect disabled people in the following ways:
Hearing & Visual: Gamers who are either hearing- or visually-impaired may find video games inaccessible, as game content can either be mainly visual or include voice-acting with no option to use subtitles / captions.
Controls: Gamers who are physically-impaired may find video games inaccessible, as more complicated games (such as first-person shooters or role playing games(RPGs)) that use controllers with multiple buttons may find them difficult to use.
Understanding: Gamers who may have poor literacy skills may find video games inaccessible, especially with strategy-based games that require micromanagement.
Whereas some major video game companies may not consider disabled people as gamers, small companies & independent developers have attempted to create accessible video games. These can include audio-based games, one-switch games, learning disabled games and universally accessible games.
I spoke to Phil Samphire, a disabled person himself who has played video games and ran a project in 2006 which investigated video game access for disabled people. He is part of the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, based in Ardwick Manchester:
How accessible are video games to you?
I have found certain games accessible, especially ones that require only one hand. Games such as first-person shooters and RPGs are difficult due to the controls needed to play them. Certain game systems, such as Nintendo’s Wii are accessible providing that the game only requires the Wii Remote. Games that use the Nunchuck as well as the Remote I find inaccessible. I am concerned about the new Wii U, as I feel that it may not be as accessible as the Wii.
Which games in your opinion are considered accessible?
I have found point-and-click games to be accessible to me, as well as a few Wii ones (Wii Sports, Wii Play & Mario Kart Wii) and on-rail shooters. Mature games I’ve found are not very accessible.
What in your opinion do you think should be done to make video games accessible?
One great suggestion is that video game companies should actively recruit disabled people, especially as consultants and game testers.
If you had the opportunity to pass on a message to video game developers and major video game companies, what would that message be?
They should realise that they are missing out on a potential market here and should take feedback from disabled people on board. Also, they should not over-complicate things and instead should simplify them. The main message is “Don’t over complicate things. Keep it simplified”.
Video game companies need to realise that disabled people play video games as well as non-disabled people. Should major video game companies consider disabled people when developing hardware or software for disabled gamers to both use and play?