Video Games

Why 2022 Signaled a Bright Future for Accessibility in Games

Accessibility is not a trend. With over 400 million players with disabilities worldwide, the studio is actively working to ensure that its games incorporate features and design techniques that serve people with disabilities. From changing key bindings to adjusting subtitle sizes, our understanding of accessibility continues to grow each year, and 2022 is no exception.

Last year saw the release of multiple titles that put accessibility at the forefront, revolutionizing the industry and showing that not every option needs to be revolutionary. One of the reasons 2022 has been so successful for players with disabilities is that developers have improved many of the tools that are now common across genres and systems. Not all games need to reinvent the accessibility wheel, but they should continue to refine and improve their current options and designs. For me, accessibility services in 2022 have proven that one setting or design decision can open up a whole world. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites and find out what makes them so fun and accessible.

elden ring

FromSoftware’s title is infamous among the disabled community as an inaccessible nightmare. Even I, who lists this as one of my favorite him’s, can get a lot of criticism from my disabled peers. In terms of options, Elden Ring’s choices are relatively bare. There are no settings other than brightness adjustments for blind players, subtitles are only available for spoken words, and disabled players like me can’t even rebind all the keys. But the level of choice people have within The Lands Between is so vast that Elden Ring perfectly encapsulates the notion that a game can be accessed without extensive menus.

Elden Ring’s accessibility options are sparse, but with so many ways to play, including spellcaster and co-op, there’s plenty to choose from.

More than just choosing where to go and which bosses to avoid, Elden Ring allows players to meticulously create the character they want. I’m not good at quick reactions, so I chose a mage who can snipe enemies at a distance. But the biggest accessibility surprise came in the form of cooperatives. Elden Ring encourages players to explore with friends or summons called spirits that greatly reduce enemy attacks. I had friends and allies to absorb damage, so I didn’t have to worry about dodging attacks all the time. Choice is the most powerful tool for players with disabilities, and Elden Ring’s biggest accessibility service was allowing them to choose how they played.

tunic

Combat is surprisingly difficult, especially in this indie game where a little fox solves a major mystery. The brutal, punishing, soul-like nature of each fight made me very happy after beating tough bosses, but incredibly draining. Until, these encounters initially made it difficult to play for more than 30 minutes.

Tunic's no-fail mode allows players to focus on exploration and solving puzzles rather than getting bogged down in combat.

Tunic’s no-fail mode allows players to focus on exploration and solving puzzles rather than getting bogged down in combat.

This accessibility option prevents players from losing the game. You can still take damage and progress in the story even if you die, but the fights are ultimately trivial. And that’s okay. Tunic’s core components are about exploration and puzzle-solving. Players must either return to previously visited areas with new items to discover secrets, or continually refer to the in-game journal to unlock new pathways or find upgrades. I have. In the end, I had no problem defeating the boss in no-fail mode. Also, if I wanted to play Soulslike, I was able to easily turn off and re-enable some combat options. The tunic does one thing, so you can get the most out of your game without straining yourself.

The Last of Us Part I

In 2020, Naughty Dog released The Last of Us Part II with over 60 accessibility settings for players with various disabilities. More importantly, certain options such as traversal and combat audio cues, navigation and traversal assistance, and auto-targeting allow blind players to fully complete the entire game without sighted assistance. It is now possible. Additionally, difficulty adjustments did not affect any of the accessibility features. This meant that blind people could challenge themselves without risking losing useful options.Two years later, Part I Remake remade accessibility for visually impaired players. defined.

In addition to all the accessibility options included in The Last of Us Part II, Part I also includes audio description cutscenes to help even more players enjoy the game.

In addition to all the accessibility options included in The Last of Us Part II, Part I also includes audio description cutscenes to help even more players enjoy the game.

The remake includes all the settings of Part II, but the game also includes all-new accessibility tools never seen in any AAA title. Audio-descriptive cutscenes help provide important emotional information for visually impaired players in each scene. Every character’s position, facial expressions, reaching for items, and even the slightest movement are now described by audio. Because storytelling often relied on the body language as much as it did on being spoken, people who were blind or partially sighted were now able to fully understand the impact of each scene. The Last of Us series is acclaimed for its storytelling, and this accessibility option reshapes how players with disabilities interact with story-driven games.

War God Ragnarok

It’s easy to compare a game with tons of accessibility options to a title like The Last of Us Part II. Especially when a new entry is released by another PlayStation studio. Still, God of War Ragnarok deserves a mention because it reinforces PlayStation’s commitment to creating accessible games.

God of War: Ragnarok does very little when it comes to true innovation in accessibility, but it's proof that things have come a long way in the last few years.

God of War: Ragnarok does very little when it comes to true innovation in accessibility, but it’s proof that things have come a long way in the last few years.

Ragnarök differs from previous Sony games in several ways that favor players with disabilities. The sequel offers configurable contrast settings for the visually impaired, which were not available in The Last of Us Part II. Also, unlike Part II, there are captions for various non-dialogue sounds. Even its enemy targeting system is more beneficial for the disabled and visually impaired. None of these options are revolutionary, but they show that the industry needs to do more than consider The Last of Us Part II the pinnacle of accessibility. applied knowledge to accessible tools and systems. And Ragnarok proves that 2020 is no longer the benchmark for accessibility.

For me, 2022 was filled with dozens of accessible games, so it’s hard to rate my favorites. As a player with reduced mobility, I am relieved that I no longer have to be afraid to buy new releases. I have high hopes.

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.

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