According to the World Health Organization, there are over a billion humans living with a disability, around 15 percent of the global population. With such a high number of people in this group, it is encouraging to see the number of fields that are improving their services to accommodate the differently abled. Video games are one such field.
The disabled gaming community
Microsoft estimates that there are around 400 million gamers with a disability.
Take Carlos Vasquez, a video game enthusiast from Texas that lives with blindness. When playing the fighting game “Mortal Kombat” he has to time his punches, kicks, and dodges purely on sound.
Despite there being extra layers of difficulty for Vasquez to succeed at the game, his incredible skills caught the attention of the game makers NetherRealm Studios. Following his suggestions, the studio has added audio cues to aid blind gamers, allowing the identification of objects to interact with and overall making the playing field more equal.
How are video games becoming more accessible?
Vasquez is not alone in the voice for a more accessible gaming world. The second annual Video Game Accessibility awards showed the growing attention to this important issue. “Forza Horizon 5” made history this year by including American and British sign language for the first time ever in a game. With notable helpful audio and visual features being included in “Last of Us Part II,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Far Cry 6.”
Game makers now consider accessibility when designing their software, including settings for different disabilities, recruiting AI, and special customer support services when required.
Hardware is also being adapted to be more accessible, with Xbox creating a special adaptive control for people with limited use of their hands. French startup Hitclic has also made strides on this front, inventing controllers for people with motor disabilities. These controllers are already being used on a professional competitive gaming level.
There is still work to be done
Despite movement in a positive direction, there is still more work to be done. Even simple adjustments for deaf players, like larger subtitles and visual cue text, could help enormously. The issue of communication with other players is another hurdle. Famous deaf gamers, like Soleil Wheeler, report eagerly waiting for conversations to be converted into captions in real time.
Cyberbullying and online hate is a big issue in the gaming world that also needs to be addressed. For now, features to report people and strict community guidelines are in place which aims to create a safe and enjoyable community.