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Video Game Accessibility: Things to Consider

Video game accessibility is becoming a growing situation that needs to be addresses to connect with the diverse gaming community. This article is the result of a high school research project on video game accessibility.

 

Video games, once seen as a hobby of few, have become integrated as a form of interactive entertainment into the daily lives of many, with over 1.8 million gamers worldwide and a consumer market worth $30.4 billion in just 2016. With this ever-growing diverse population of gamers, as shown in surveys conducted by the Entertainment Software Association, the need for game accessibility is on the rise as more individuals with disabilities are exposed to this new medium of connection. Game accessibility is not a well-known topic, but there is still a great demand to make games more flexible and engaging to individuals with varying disabilities. Video games are meant to bring everyone from all walks of life together and accessibility can be easy to achieve with early planning during game development.

The common outcry against the development of accessibility is that these features will “water-down” games to cater to the minority, but that’s not always the case. Accessibility can benefit all gamers with or without disabilities by making games more flexible for our needs. For example, closed-captioning not only helps those hard-of-hearing but also helps when you have other in game-music or distractions in your environment. Another is enlarging game icons or color blind contrast options which helps everyone with impaired vision as seen in Madden NFL 17. In addition to helping all gamers, according to an article by Microsoft, companies can also seek to benefit. Accessible games can gain positive feedback from the gaming community and reach out to more consumers who may have been barred away. Early implementation is essential for companies to include accessibility and may prove to be more expensive if accessibility was as an afterthought.

There have been additional steps provided by nonprofits to provide accessibility to individuals with disabilities. An example is AbleGamers, a company that does consultations to provide custom hand-held controllers to individuals who may have upper body limitations play console games. These groups provide hardware assistance to individuals with physical disabilities but not everyone can afford the time or energy to find a provider that is right for them. Therefore more needs to be done to implement accessibility within the game itself. Further research shows that artificial intelligence can be offered as a solution to make games more engaging with dynamic output that can adjust to player skill. An example of this is screen capture as a method in determining what actions a player is executing and then allowing the AI to reconfigure obstacles to make the task more difficult or easy depending on how a player may be doing. This can set to an assist mode so all users can turn it on or off, depending if they feel they might need it. AI can also be found in the form of ambient AI to organize series of animations, dialogue, or quest scenes so gameplay can be run smoothly and at the highest quality, adding to the engaging factor of a game.

There are many things to consider for video game accessibility, but it is clear that there is a definite need. The gaming population is growing and with it a diverse group of people who want to be part of our thriving community. Without these individuals the gaming environment will never be the same and companies will not be able to truly understand the individuals who make up their player bases. Many people use video games as a way to cope with their disability or just use it as a way to hang out with friends and it would be a shame if developers were unable to include them. Accessibility is an essential element to games and it is time to consider it during game development

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