Growing Up and Gaming with a Disability
It’s very easy for people with disabilities to feel betrayed when a game lacks proper accessibility. If we can’t play their games yet, how can the studio expect us to celebrate these innovations and victories? If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from critiquing it as such, it’s that major developments should be celebrated, even if it means missing out on brand new experiences.
When I write, I tend to avoid including my own perspective, aside from reviews. It is worth emphasizing how you are helping or failing But in some cases, I find it almost cathartic and very important to share my personal story when exploring the need for accessibility. I will talk about my growth and evolution of my understanding of accessibility as a disabled person.
My birthday is from March to March 19th to be exact. In my 29 years of life, I’ve played games on almost every system. From handhelds like the Game Boy Advance to today’s PCs, we’ve gotten to know some of the best games the industry has to offer.
When I was young, I had no limits. I lived with a neuromuscular disorder (Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II), but my hand and finger muscles were strong enough to allow me to play on a variety of consoles. The relationship between my disability and gaming has been incredibly black and white. It was either playing until I needed my brother’s help, or returning the game to the local store if the barriers proved unmanageable. That is, it wasn’t until the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live came out that the reality of my limitations became more commonplace.
In the halls of the Nacht Der Untoten I met my current closest group of friends. The fast-paced action of escaping and shooting Nazi zombies brought new challenges beyond Call of Duty: World at War. For the first time in my gaming life, I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the controller. Not only did the shape and size of the 360 pad keep important buttons such as the triggers out of reach, but the actuation force of the LS and RS buttons was stronger than I had ever experienced. Before telling my friends about the disability, I consistently made up excuses as to why I couldn’t sprint, use melee attacks, or even aim certain weapons like bolt-action rifles. For a while I even believed my lies. I didn’t want to accept my weakened state as a result of my disability. Especially because it affected my only form of independence.
World at War served as an accessibility awakening. I couldn’t just give up a game my friends were addicted to without risking losing my ability to play with them. and started looking for options. Unfortunately nothing worked. My brother had to tape popsicle sticks to the back of the controller so he could effectively use both triggers. This was a unique solution to a unique problem that hadn’t solved everything yet and made me mad. World at War failed to provide its own answer.
The simple change of adding popsicle sticks was a lifeline when rich menus and accessible design practices were still in their infancy. And with each new 360 controller, my little brother was able to make another popsicle stick on his side and enjoy the entire lifetime of the console that remains my favorite console generation.
As my disability progressed and my hand strength gradually diminished, shooters like Call of Duty disappeared from the shelves. Instead, the fast-paced game has found a new home on my his PC. There it was easy to increase mouse sensitivity and create custom keybindings, which were much easier for my needs. And as I spent more time playing on my computer, my hands got used to the setup, making it much harder to seamlessly transition between systems. became particularly noticeable.
2020 was a year of celebration for the gaming accessibility community. His Naughty Dog, a sequel to The Last of Us, is notable not only for its story continuity, but also for its attention to detail to the needs of players with disabilities. TLOU 2 not only provided a great setting for both the disabled and the deaf/hard of hearing, but also one of the few that the blind/low vision people could seamlessly play from start to finish without visual assistance. Became one of his in AAA games. It was also a game that truly demonstrated the importance and necessity of accessibility-related journalism.
During that release, I was the mobility editor for Can I Play That. Can I Play That is a publication completely devoted to accessibility and disability perspectives. My team and I spent weeks prior to release deciding how to cover the enormity of this accessible game. We published anything that could indicate sexuality (except mobility reviews). Despite all its award-winning features, the lack of an accessible controller on the PlayStation made it physically impossible to review the year’s most accessible game.
I was frustrated with myself and the lack of first party hardware compatible with the PlayStation system. But writing about immense disappointment struck me with a juxtaposition of joy for my colleagues. And after searching various social media platforms, the consensus was one of blessing him. Finally, disabled people are at the forefront of major AAA launches. I allowed myself to feel left out, but I also learned to appreciate Naughty Dog’s efforts and soon began cheering along with my disabled peers. . This was a handicapped victory.
Growing up, I was the only child with a noticeable physical disability at school and at home.My disability was all I knew. When I found my place in the industry, I learned to celebrate the success of the disabled gaming community, even if I didn’t enjoy it. Obstacles, like games, are very personal to everyone. Stories told with titles like TLOU 2 provide great metaphors for important life lessons. For me, Naughty Dog’s award-winning sequel was a reminder that a win for some is still a win for all.
Grant Stoner is a disability journalist who covers disability perspectives in accessibility and video games. When he’s not writing, he’s ranting about Pokemon and the cat Goomba. twitter.