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What’s New in Gaming Accessibility and Assistive Technology

We’ve covered developments in assistive technology and gaming accessibility previously on the blog, including hardware like the Xbox Adaptive Controller and software like Code Jumper. While accessibility in gaming still has a long way to go, new technology and innovation continue to emerge with each passing day. Here’s a roundup of recent updates and news in accessible gaming!

This Conference Puts Accessibility in Gaming Front and Center (Wired)

Ian Hamilton and Tara Voelker founded the first Gaming Accessibility Conference (GA Conf) in 2017, after years of attending events that did not address accessibility in the gaming industry. This past year’s conference included panels from studios, such as Insomniac Games, as well as individuals, such as Steve Saylor, an accessibility advocate and consultant. Panels had a wide range of topics, from accessible game design to disability representation in the gaming industry. Check out the article to learn about the founding of the GA Conf and the co-directors’ plans for its future. Speaking of the future, keep an eye out for details on the 2022 conference, and check out this panel from GA Conf 2021 we found particularly interesting, all about accessibility in the metaverse!

Microsoft releases free gaming accessibility course (NME)

Recently, Microsoft released a free course on gaming accessibility titled Gaming accessibility fundamentals. This course contains five modules, and includes lessons on community collaboration, best practices for accessible game platforms and hardware, and more. This course is free for anyone interested in an introduction to accessible game design. For more information on the future of gaming accessibility, check out this panel from the 2021 Microsoft Ability Summit: 

7 games that pushed accessibility forward in 2021 (Polygon)

2021 was another year of innovation in gaming – which games from 2021 are the best when it comes to accessibility? This list includes studios big and small and titles both indie and AAA. From subtitle size and contrast adjustment to a game that requires two senses, hearing and touch, these games include features and design that are, as author Courtney Craven puts it, setting “a new standard in accessible gaming.” What games made the list? Read the article and find out! Looking for more of the best accessible games? Check out the 2021 winners of the Can I Play That? Accessibility Awards!

How Xbox Is Advancing Gaming Accessibility on Its Platforms, And, Hopefully, Throughout the Industry (IGN)

As mentioned above, we’ve talked about the Xbox Adaptive Controller before on the blog – how it was built in collaboration with experts from AbleGamers, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect, and Warfighter Engaged, and how this controller set a new industry precedent. However, the controller was released in 2018 – what new accessibility features has Xbox released recently? In October 2021, Xbox announced that accessibility tags would be available on the Microsoft Store, allowing gamers to know if a game has the accessibility features they need to play before they make a purchase. Playstation followed suit with a new website containing accessibility information on Playstation games and PS4 and PS5 consoles. Xbox plans to keep setting new industry standards for accessibility in the future.

Tara Voelker, Xbox Game Studios Accessibility Lead and Gaming & Disability Community Lead (if that name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s also the co-director of the GA Conf covered above!) told IGN, “The Xbox Adaptive Controller is a product that was developed to address the needs of a specific set of gamers, those affected by certain motor disabilities. To really improve our tech, we need to look at gamers that still aren’t having their needs met and ask why. Once we understand the challenges these gamers are having, we can attempt to solve it by creating new, innovative products.” Check out the article to learn more about Xbox’s accessible gaming history, their effect on the industry as a whole, and how they plan to keep innovating into 2022. Tune in below for the 2021 Xbox Accessibility Showcase!

“It’s a true frontier of game design”: How Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games think about accessibility (Eurogamer)

Interested in learning more about how game developers approach accessibility in their games? This interview includes two staff members from Insomniac Games, director of experience Brian Allgeier, and advanced senior user experience researcher, Michele Zorrilla, as well as Naughty Dog lead systems designer Matthew Gallant. Learn more about how these studios work with disability consultants, how they develop accessibility in specific features and overall design, and more, using examples from award-winning titles Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and The Last of Us: Part II. 

This is just a sampling of news surrounding accessible gaming and assistive technology – there are new updates appearing every day! Have more accessible gaming news? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

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