Gaming with disabilities

written by Simon Cordon on 20.11.12 gaming-special-effect

Have you ever bought a game based on reviews, but found that you could not fully utilise the controls and therefore had to trade the game back losing you money in the process? This happens quite a lot with disabled gamers especially those with mild physical disabilities.

The UK Games industry is worth billions and according to research by the Internet Advertising Bureau, approximately 33 million Brits are active computer game players. There are over eleven million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability (source). That means potentially up to one third of gamers could have a disability of some description.

Video gaming for people with disabilities becomes very important because you can free yourself from your disability through a video game, you can make new friends where your disability is not a visual barrier.

Various games publishers tackle game accessibility at different levels, some tie down controls to one set; others offer more than one control set, and some publishers offer fully remappable controls.

There are organisations that have cottoned on to the fact that disabled gamers need help. Take this article from One switch about Physical Barriers and Gaming and there is the Able Gamers Foundation based in the US. From their website “. . The Able Gamers Foundation is dedicated to bring greater accessibility in the digital entertainment space so that people with disabilities can gain a greater quality of life, and develop a rich social life that gaming can bring. We understand the road to accessibility will not be an easy one, but through open dialog, education, and research we can close the gap between where we are and where we need to be. “

When it comes to reviewing or previewing video games on websites or in magazines the consumers are not being told about control options, this then takes me back to my opening statement.

In my mind the solution would be to offer remappable controls on every game, surely this would not be difficult, It has been happening since 1981 and the ZX81. Take racing games, some users cannot utilise the Triggers on the controller to accelerate and brake, but they may be able to use the face buttons A,B, X, Y (on 360) or Square, Triangle, O, and X (PS3). Lesser used controls like horns, camera views could be placed on the triggers where users could just ‘bump’ them with a fist when needed (if ever).

All control options need to be discussed within reviews to enable disabled gamers to make an informed choice. Presently we are left scrambling around forums post release asking about control options where most of the time we never hear an answer.

A detailed set of guidelines has been published online to help video-games developers cater for users with accessibility issues. (Link). If publishers can achieve these guidelines and magazines / websites can review the control options in a game then that would be a great first step in helping those millions of disabled gamers.

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