Podcast S2 EP13 Accessibility in Video Games

S2 EP13 – Accessibility in Video Games

ALEXIS: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. I’m Alexis and I’m here, as always, with Melisa, with Lali. Hi, guys. How are you? So, in this episode, we’re gonna be talking about accessibility in video games.

LARA: And what a topic.

ALEXIS: What a topic. So let’s start small, okay? So what do you guys think that accessibility is and what does that mean in video games?

LARA: Um, accessibility is making the game available and playable for everyone, regardless of anything, you know? Just like, to me, it’s opening the opportunity for someone that might have never played a video game before being able to play a videogame. For me, that’s huge. And nowadays you’ve seen like a lot of games adding these accessibility features and stuff, and something that flutters me a little bit is just like… I’ve seen video game companies talking about accessibility as if it was an issue. And I think it’s a solution. It’s far away from an issue.

MELISA: It’s an opportunity to reach more people.

ALEXIS: It’s all the contrary.

LARA: It’s all the contrary. Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, that’s basically for me. Accessibility is making your game playable for everyone.

MELISA: Definitely. And for me, it’s also like, make it part of your process. Like, you know, for a lot of people, they have to find a way around it of how to play it. But when you have it, you know, as part of what you offer for your game, it’s great. And we’ve come such a long way and like technological advances and everything. So it’s something I believe it’s very, you know, like people just know the importance of it a lot more now.

LARA: Yeah. And sometimes we have these misconstruction or misjudgments that accessibility is, I don’t know…

ALEXIS: A ramp for a wheelchair. Right?

LARA: Oh, my God. It’s just like, it’s so much more than that. It is that, but it’s so much more than that.

MELISA: Exactly. There are a lot of different disabilities, you know. Mobility disability, of course, but there’s this whole other, you know, speech…

LARA: Speech, hearing. Yeah.

ALEXIS: You have vision. I have cheats. Sitting here gives us that privilege. Vision, hearing, speech, mobility and cognitive impairments. So on that note, in video games, what are some of the accessibility features that nowadays are being used or that should be used, as you said, Lali?

MELISA: One of the main ones I know is like the remappable keys, so like when you have the option to configure like different keys to have, you know, different options in the game. Or, I mean, not only keys, but like different controllers, different buttons. So like, an example, if you’re playing a shooting game and to fire a gun, you have to press Enter, and you can change it to, you know, the spacebar, if you’re playing with a keyboard. But, you know if you can add a different controller, like the Xbox controller.

ALEXIS: The adaptive controller of Xbox, yeah.

MELISA: That’s like a huge advantage, you can even add different, you know, comfortable controller for different mobility disabilities.

LARA: Yeah, I know a bunch of streamers that have built their own console or keyboard by themselves just to adapt their necessities to gaming. And I think that’s so amazing. And being able to have these feature of remappable keys, it gives this option to these people that are doing their own controllers or their own way to play a video game more accessible. So it’s just like, if you do that, you know that everyone can play that game. It’s so important.

ALEXIS: Nothing should stop someone from playing video games.

LARA: Absolutely.

ALEXIS: So, Lali, what about you? Any other?

LARA: Yeah. For me, it’s colorblind options. I’m a little bit color blind, I have troubles with blues and greens, and I’ve seen it in some video games like League of Legends or Overwatch. What they have is just like, ‘cause they are PvP video games, so it’s player versus player, you can actually change the colors of the teams so you don’t mix them, which for me is great. And I know… the problems I have with color blindness is they are so small compared with other ones, but this accessibility feature, to me, makes it easier. It is easier for my brain to process which one is the enemy and which one is my teammate, you know? So for me it has to be that.

ALEXIS: But, I mean, it’s quite common. It’s a quite common problem to some extent, to have colorblindness, especially in men. I have one or two friends that are actually quite colorblind with different colors, I don’t remember right now which one. But it’s also, I mean, not only the color of things, right? But also like subtitles or even closed captioning, you know? And other elements that…

MELISA: Another feature that is really important.

ALEXIS: Right? Not only adding colors to the subtitling or the size or even like a background to make them more visible…

LARA: Or change the fonts.

ALEXIS: The fonts.

LARA: The amount of times… The size of the fonts. Yeah. Sometimes I find myself… The other day I was playing actually a video game. I don’t remember the name, I don’t think it’s important at the moment. But I was playing on my PS5, and I had the controller and I was playing in bed, chilling. And when the game started with the… In the game, actually, you have to customize your character. And then when the game starts, I encounter myself with subtitles like this. Like this. And the size of the letters was so small.

ALEXIS: Many lines?

LARA: It had like four lines. It was like screen-wide long.


LARA: So I actually had to pause the game to be able to read the subtitles. Because that is not subtitling, dude. That’s just putting text on your screen.

ALEXIS: A paragraph.

LARA: An entire paragraph. You are writing the story of your game in the screen.

MELISA: And nowadays, I mean, you have so many of like, you know… everything is like measured in how long it takes you to read.

ALEXIS: You have best practices for everything.

MELISA: For everything, which is great.

LARA: Right. Yeah. I have played video games when you can actually slow down the speed of the subtitles. That’s so good.

ALEXIS: And, I mean, even in closed captioning, it also gives, like, for example, this is very, very used nowadays, but The Last of Us too did an amazing, and one of the most visible examples that I can remember, in their closed captioning, you could even see, from the intensity of the letters, how near were, I don’t know, your enemies or the soldiers, and where the sound was coming from.

LARA: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla had that, too. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, when you start playing it, you can see the arrows or you can see where the sound is coming from. So it makes it much easier for you to set yourself and immerse yourself into that world if you have hearing aids or something.

MELISA: And for night, too. Also.

ALEXIS: And what about difficulty or tutorials or things like that? Because those things can be restrictive for players.

MELISA: And for cognitive disabilities. That’s why tutorials are key.

LARA: Yeah. To me, having AI assistance is so important because you don’t know the person that is playing your video game. And if you want that person to play your video game and you have, I don’t know, only one type of setting of difficulty to be like super hard, that person is not going to be able to play your game. And I sometimes I feel it myself, because I might be a try-hard with some games, but with some other games I just really enjoy…

ALEXIS: It’s good to have the option.

LARA: Make the game easier. You’re not going to judge me if I play a game on easy mode. I don’t care if you do, but you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t at all, because I’m doing it because I wanna chill, my brain is tired and everything, but there is people that are doing it because it’s their only option.

MELISA: Yes, of course. And tutorials are key to learn how to play it in the first place. So absolutely, they’re a key part. And now that we’re talking about, like, all the different features, I also have… I’m sorry, Ale, I’m also going to use it. There was the Video Games Accessibility Awards in 2021. We’re going to link this in the description because this is great. I mean, just the games that are doing a really good job because are getting recognized and, you know, it just brings more visibility to everything that we’re talking. And I thought about just naming a few of them because there were many, like, different things that they gave awards for. But some of them are Clear Text with Halo Infinite, was someone who won. AI Assistance, it went to Forza Horizon 5. Improved Precision, Far Cry 6. And Peer Assistance, It Takes Two.

LARA: Amazing. What a great game.

MELISA: And Remapping, that we were talking, it’s Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker.

ALEXIS: You have so many, you need like 12 or 15 fingers sometimes, who played that kind of game. So, the fact that they can have the remapping.

MELISA: Yeah, the configuration to adapt it.

LARA: Yeah. And having like an award for this is so important. I remember the Game Awards in 2020 when they first introduced the Accessibility Award, because I think it’s like an encouragement for the video game industry and companies.

MELISA: And to keep innovating because it’s a field that there’s so much improvement that you can, you know, and like technology is advancing. It’s amazing the work that is being done.

LARA: Yeah. I remember the first one being The Last of Us, and the latest one, that was last year, God of War: Ragnarök got it. And when the person that went up to the stage to receive the award gave an amazing speech, I actually got in tears because it was, like, so good. It’s like a side of the video game industry that is not competitive. They are all there just to get to one same result.

ALEXIS: To get video games for everyone.

LARA: That everyone is able to play video games. And it was so good.

MELISA: There’s a lot of advances from different companies that they share everything so that other companies can learn from them too.

ALEXIS: Yeah, that’s a big thing. Most companies should share what they’ve been doing, you know, in order to make their games more accessible. Because that’s not happening that much.

LARA: It’s tricky because they all have these secretive kind of stuff.

ALEXIS: I wonder why.

LARA: They wanna be the only one, they wanna be the best one, they wanna be… It’s just like, but in this case, I don’t think it should be like that.

ALEXIS: Or maybe it’s not even… they don’t even realize…

LARA: No, but just make that for your story, for your quest, for your type of video game. But with your accessibility features, please make them available for everyone so other game developers, indie developers can study what you did with your previous video games.

ALEXIS: And how to install them on the engines that they are using, whether it’s Unreal, Unity.

LARA: And make it, like, available for everyone so everyone can learn how to improve their games for everyone. So it’s just like…

MELISA: It’s the whole point of accessibility, right? So it’s great that… I mean, some companies are sharing it, which is great. And of course, you know, some aren’t. But I think it’s, you know, maybe it will help. Like the more we talk about it, it will help bring awareness to this and that companies, like, sharing.

ALEXIS: Yeah, I mean, we’re talking about this, but I think that the question is due. Why is accessibility important and in what levels? Because we’re talking about making the game more accessible for everyone, of course. But if you had, I don’t know, an indie developer that wants to know why make their games more accessible, or even a publisher that wants to further… enhance, sorry, the experience for the gamers, why is it important?

LARA: I’m going to be like straightforward with this. If you have your game accessible for everyone, more people is going to play it, more revenue for you.

MELISA: Yeah, that’s a great point from the business side.

LARA: The straightforward side.

MELISA: And for the more sociological side…

ALEXIS: But please, be straightforward too.

MELISA: No, of course, of course. I think, I mean, we want to be a better society, like a better world, we wanna be better as an industry and we want to, you know, portray video games like everyone can play it, everyone can connect with it and have a great experience and don’t feel that, because you have a disability, you’re going to be discriminated in the video games or in the, like, you know, your possibility to play it. So I think we’re going in the right direction here. We want to see more of it.

ALEXIS: I agree. I agree. I mean, you both make a great point. There are no downsides of implementing accessibility features in your game. You might not know them all as a developer or as a publisher, but it’s a constant in every episode, if you don’t know how to do it…

LARA: Research.

ALEXIS: Research.

ALEXIS: Find a way to do it.

MELISA: We can leave some links below as well, more information of where you can, you know…

ALEXIS: I mean, just from the top of my head, AbleGamers is a company that even assisted I think Xbox in making the adaptive controller, so kudos there. I mean, but I don’t want to leave this aside because we’ve been talking about many different accessibility features that exist, but localization, I mean, is an accessibility feature as well. If you don’t know a language…

LARA: It is. You make your game more accessible.

ALEXIS: I mean, I don’t know English, I don’t know any other language except my own, and I want to play, I don’t know, The Witcher. Or, I don’t know, any game. You name it, it doesn’t matter. And I grab my joystick, I sit down to play and I don’t know how to play it because I don’t understand anything that’s on screen from the story, from what I have to do. And, if you don’t have contact with games that you don’t really know, localization is an accessibility feature as well.

MELISA: For sure.

ALEXIS: Yeah. So, guys, no one likes to feel an outsider. Thank you everyone that is making accessibility features for everyone, no matter what they are. Keep improving. Let’s work towards making a better industry and a more inclusive experience for everyone.

LARA: Yeah. If you have more examples of games that are more accessible for everyone, please let us know down below in the comments.

ALEXIS: We’d love to know more.

MELISA: Or our Discord server.

ALEXIS: Yeah, and share them on our Discord server. I mean, I’m sure that everyone has someone that needs accessible games, so please share. Thank you for your time, for visiting us on this episode, and we’ll see you next time.

LARA: Bye-bye!


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