Gaming has the potential to be a powerful tool for learning, entertainment, and social connection, and it’s important that everyone has access to these benefits. On the Filament Games blog, we explore all sorts of topics that fall into the intersection of video games, education, and technology, and an important topic under this umbrella is accessibility and assistive technology. Today, let’s delve deeper into the topic of accessibility in video games and the ways in which assistive technology can enhance the gaming experience for individuals with disabilities!
Whether you’re a game designer, educator, or simply someone who loves to play games, we hope that this post will spark your interest in the important work being done in the field of accessibility and assistive technology. Let us know on Twitter and Facebook if there are any other recently released accessibility features or assistive technologies we missed in this list. Also, bookmark this list of resources so you can easily reference it later!
Funding for accessible solutions
Disability technology is often overlooked, even though the global disability community is expected to increase by 130% by 2050, and the demand for disability solutions is enormous and growing. Regina “Gina” Kline and Bernard Chiira are two leaders at the intersection of the disability and technology communities who recognized these trends and are working to build an inclusive economy. Kline established Enable Ventures as the first impact venture fund dedicated to closing the disability wealth gap, while Chiira leads Innovate Now accelerator, a major force behind building Kenya’s ecosystem for disability technology.
The Moonshot Disability Accelerator Initiative provides support for ten global accelerators that work with early-stage entrepreneurs innovating at the intersection of disability and technology to prepare them for investment by Enable Ventures and other venture funds. Chiira and Kline are leading the charge to help disability technology builders become part of the core economy, and they have been nominated for the 2023 Compassionate Leaders Circle Awards for their work. Learn more about their work in the video below!
Recently, Sony announced Project Leonardo, a split-design controller created for players with physical disabilities. The controller allows players to customize the shapes and sizes of stick caps and buttons and also allows the overall positioning of each stick on the controller to be adjusted. Since standard controllers impose forced layouts, many disabled individuals with limited reach are unable to properly grip or hold a controller without losing access to key buttons. The split design means players use significantly less energy to move between inputs. The company collaborated with disability organizations, such as AbleGamers, and accessibility experts to ensure the design addressed key challenges to effective controller use.
Enabled Play is an assistive technology created by self-taught developer Alex Dunn, which translates users’ head movements, facial expressions, real-time speech, and other nontraditional input methods into mouse clicks, keystrokes, and thumbstick movements. With a wider variety of inputs, users can connect the assistive device to a computer, game console, or another device to play games in whatever way works best for them. It has been designed to learn how to work with users and not to be a device that users need to learn to work with.
Dunn created Enabled Play so that everyone, including his younger brother with a disability, can interface with technology in a natural and intuitive way. The AI-enabled controller takes into account a person’s natural tendencies, and Dunn spent time making sure Enabled Play was accessible to people who are deaf, as well as people who want to use nonverbal audio input.
Recent accessibility updates to AAA games
Electronic Arts (EA) has outlined a range of accessibility features included in Motive’s Dead Space, which was released in January 2023. The game has been made more inclusive with customization options, including colorblind settings, control customization, and aim assistance. Other features include the ability to have screen reader-like narration of menus, reduce motion effects, enable subtitles for dialogue, and display content warnings. EA said that working on accessibility is about addressing and removing barriers to games and improving experiences for all players. The company plans to continue making Dead Space even more inclusive going forward. Learn more about these accessibility features in the video below!
The God of War series, specifically Ragnarök, is pushing the standard on accessibility in high-budget, high-profile games. This article from The Conversation outlines the considerations that the developers of this game took into account when designing gameplay options for players with disabilities. The developers emphasize the need for adaptation that resolves the mismatch between a player’s capabilities and the game design. The article also explores how developers can anticipate the diverse and unique needs of players while producing game experiences that meet their creative vision. Ragnarök offers more than 60 different options for players to choose from in the game and its interface, aiming to provide an optimal accessible player experience, including “increasing the font size of in-game text and automatic movement controls so players don’t have to press buttons to climb, jump and run.” Check out the video below for more details!
SpecialEffect is a UK-based organization that helps people with physical challenges improve their quality of life through the use of technology. Their work focuses on optimizing inclusion, enjoyment, and quality of life, primarily through modifying gaming controllers for individuals with disabilities. They also use eye-gaze technology to help people communicate and access technology, and telepresence robots to help medically isolated children maintain their education and social connections. They freely share their knowledge and resources online to help level the playing field for gamers with physical challenges worldwide. SpecialEffect collaborates with hardware and software developers to create custom solutions for gamers with disabilities, and they rely on donations and volunteers to continue their work.
Can I Play That?
Can I Play That? (CIPT) is an organization founded in November 2018 by Susan Banks and Courtney Craven, which provides accessibility information on video games and the gaming industry. The organization offers reviews, news stories, and features that exclusively report on the ever-growing presence and adoption of accessibility features within the gaming industry. CIPT’s work has been read and shared internally at studios around the world, with support from Xbox and PlayStation executives. CIPT also provides professional workshops on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessible community management, which are available for studios to book. The organization aims to influence game updates, inform disabled players, educate and entertain players and developers, and provide a voice for one of the largest player bases in the industry. Check out this interview with Courtney Craven below to learn more about their work!
Assistive technology and game-based learning have combined to provide new opportunities for learners with disabilities. We hope you enjoyed reading about some of the latest developments in the field of accessibility! A focus on accessibility is vital in the game development industry so that everyone can enjoy video games.
Interested in creating your own educational video game? We’re an educational game developer with experience in inclusive design, including creating games for international audiences, working on augmentative and alternative communication devices, and more. Contact us today!
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