Accessibility in Gaming
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
In 2011, Terry Garrett started playing the video game, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. At first glance, this may seem a fairly unremarkable feat, given that Terry is but one of 7 million other players to have completed the same game. However, Terry’s playthrough wasn’t quite like the others. What made his playthrough so unique, was the fact that he did it completely blind. By creating an elaborate sound set up, with speakers on both sides of his chair, Terry was able to navigate the adventure game using only sound. Terry’s speaker system coupled together with a modification that let him easily return to his save points enabled Terry to accomplish what had, up to this point in time been thought of as next to impossible, beating the game after 5 years of playthrough.
It is not always often we think of accessibility in gaming. Terry’s story showcases a desire for gaming among disabled gamers that is unfortunately frequently overlooked. In the US alone, over 33 million gamers have a form of disability, and, like Terry, are often forced to come up with their own alternative ways to play videogames. As a result, the AbleGamers Charity arose. Founded in 2004, Ablegamers is the largest nonprofit advocate group for gamers with disabilities, run by fellow gamers who have disabilities themselves. Ablegamers works to create custom gaming setups, modified controllers, and special assistive technologies to try and provide people with disabilities with a more accessible experience.
Since then, Ablegamers has proposed a list of game features that would help make gaming more inclusive, taking into account mobility, visual, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. Entitled “Includification”, this document examines three different tiers of accessibility: Level One describes the bare minimum level of accessibility that should exist in a game, Level Two outlines the best compromise between the need for greater accessibility and the ease of implementation, and Level Three demonstrates that accessibility would look like in an ideal world where the barriers in the gaming space are almost all but gone. Below are some highlighted points from each level:
So what exactly can we conclude from AbleGamers’ report? These modifications are possible, if they are added in as options, they won’t change the game, but will instead create a world where everyone can play; as AbleGamers reports in their conclusion:
“What if the greatest book ever written was not available to everyone? What if we neglected to translate the text into multiple languages, never made large print versions, never made an audio book, or didn’t take the time to make a braille edition? Quite simply, millions of people would never be able to read “The Greatest Book in the Universe, EVER!”
Accessibility isn’t about changing the content of the book; it’s about changing the delivery. While there is no way to make the book available to absolutely everyone, we can make as many versions available as possible to make sure that ALMOST everyone can enjoy it. And did making these different versions of the book take any- thing away from the original? Did we lose something in the translation? Absolutely not. “
The full AbleGamers report can be found on: https://accessible.games/includification/
Liotta, Paul. “Blind Man Uses Sound to Beat 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time'.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 9 Apr. 2018, www.nydailynews.com/news/national/blind-man-beats-legend-zelda-ocarina-time-article-1.2485783.