31 Mar 2015’s Most Accessible Games Awarded by AbleGamers Foundation
The AbleGamers Foundation has named the ‘Accessible Games of the Year 2015’ as ‘Rocket League’ by Psyonix in the indie category, and ‘MLB 15: The Show’ by SCE San Diego Studio, in the mainstream category. The Foundation promotes equality in the video games market and the breaking down boundaries within the multi-billion pound gaming industry. This is done through extensive research that informs reviews and in-depth analysis of assistive technology to help disabled players make ‘educated purchases’.
‘Rocket League’, released by Psyonix in summer 2015 on the PC and PlayStation 4 platforms, was the surprise indie hit of the year; winning multiple awards and earning widespread recognition across the games industry. Psyonix went to great lengths to include as many gamers as possible by working with focus groups and a vast array of dedicated gamers, including those who were disabled. ‘Rocket League’ was carefully designed to accommodate the disabled gamer, with remappable keys, adaptable colour contrast for the colour blind and short matches for those that may fatigue after long sessions of play. The entire game design points to a conscientious developer who cares about an experience for everyone.
Similarly, ‘MLB 15: The Show’, the latest in the Major League Baseball video game series, was released in March and developers SCE San Diego Studio were also praised by AbleGamers for their attention to accessibility. As part of a long-running series covering one of America’s most popular sports, MLB 15 was guaranteed widespread sales across the country. However, in spite of an assured position at the top of the gaming charts, SCE still decided to work to make the platform more accessible. SCE included a dynamic difficulty setting, player control of what part of the game they play (fielding, batting or throwing) and multiple camera options to help people who may have a visual impairment. The whole game can also be played without sound.
As a form of escapism – and a social leisure activity – gaming can be enjoyed from most places, and is therefore potentially universal in its reach. This helps to break down the boundaries that are present in other sports and leisure activities.
AbleGamers is the biggest community of disabled gamers in the world due to its promotion of unity in gaming. They describe their achievement as having forged a community of “gamers with disabilities helping (other) gamers with disabilities.”
On top of this, gaming’s most popular consoles, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, have had system updates in the last year which have increased their accessibility for disabled players. New accessibility sections on the hardware mean players can modify their gaming experience. Features include closed captions, button remapping, zoom functions, higher contrasts, and text-to-speech. Having these access options at hardware level is a huge step forward for the industry.
It’s clear that heavy hitters in the gaming industry are recognising the importance of the purple pound and have taken the necessary steps to help enhance their games and consoles for the disabled gamer. Although this isn’t present across the whole industry, it is certainly a big step in the right direction.
Ways that gaming developers can make their games more accessible:
- Instructive menus and layouts so that the game can be played entirely without sound.
- Greater visual options such as colour contrasting, size and angle manipulation, visual indicators and camera focus on important aspects of gameplay to help the visually impaired.
- Flexible button remapping to simplify the experience and for greater freedom of hand-movement.
- Short matches and frequent break options for players who may experience fatigue.
- Various difficulty options and a dynamic difficulty system.
- An instructive and simple tutorial.
- Subtitles and text-to-speech functions.