Tag Archives: Ablegamers

Gaming Companies Making Efforts to Create More Inclusive Games for People with Disabilities

Boy is playing inclusive games on mini computer

More than half of the sixty million people living with disabilities turn to the world of gaming to meet the need for friendship, belonging and self-esteem. According to Mark Barlet, founder of AbleGamers, gaming is a way for them to free themselves from their disability. They can present themselves in a manner that has fewer stigmas.

The reality is, there is a huge market for accessible gaming for people with disabilities and with the advancement of technology, the options are growing. More than ever, developers are considering people of all abilities as they create their virtual experiences. 

PC is the Most Flexible 

While there may be objections amongst the disability community, developers believe that in terms of gaming platforms, the most flexible is the PC (Personal Computer). This is due to the many plug-and-play devices that can be used. While consoles offer more cutting edge games, they are often not suitable due to their closed systems.

There are, however, initiatives meant to make the inclusive games more accessible to a broader range of people, with everyone playing an equally important role; from the developers to the caregivers. This article looks at the initiatives being put in place and how they have helped more and more people with disabilities get into the world of gaming.

man playing video game with hand controls

AMS Vans’ Dallas Crum tests out some hand controls connected to a driving game.

Game Design

Game engines are the tools used in the creation of video games. More and more developers have understood why the element of inclusion should be considered from the beginning; at the game design level. This has been the case recently with specific game engines already encouraging accessibility. An example such as Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, which enables developers to see the appearance of their game with various forms of color blindness, allows developers the opportunity of addressing disability in their game design.

Accessibility Features

Certain major brand consoles have also joined in on the push for more inclusive games. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 accessibility features allow the player to redesign the controller layout to one that would suit their needs.

There is also the Xbox Co-pilot option found on Xbox One. This feature allows a player to pair a second handset to the first one which allows the player to recruit a friend or caregiver to help with certain buttons or with multi-tasking.

With the increased popularity of Virtual Reality, it has opened another alternative to how gamers can enjoy the different products. However, there is still a way to go. Virtual Reality Headsets can be bulky and when they require head movement, that can be a challenge for some individuals. The opportunity they present for vast and diverse experiences for a user with limited mobility, though, can’t be ignored.

man wearing virtual reality headset

Virtual reality could be the future for gaming for people with disabilities.

Disability-Friendly Companies

Companies such as Special Effect are creating inclusive games and developing all new ways to enable people to play. Furthermore, they are crafted on a case-by-case basis to meet the specific person’s needs.

AbleGamers develop solutions that game developers can implement to make their products more accessible. Remappable keys; which would allow users to reconfigure controls, color-blind options and closed captioning are a few recommended solutions. Tutorials are essential for players with cognitive disabilities since they will allow players to learn the game without fear of failure.

AbleGamers educate content creators, hardware and software developers on how to develop accessible games. On top of that, they also teach and support caregivers on the advantages gaming has to those with disabilities. Events such as Accessibility Arcades help show disabled gamers the technology that helps them enjoy gaming like everyone else.

According to statistics, there are roughly thirty-three and a half million of gamers with disabilities in the United States, two-thirds of them being male. Click To Tweet

Find More Inclusive Games

Able gaming can be fun for people of all ages and abilities! The more accessible gaming is made, the more inclusive it will be. For more information on how this is being made possible, head on to AbleGamers.

Speaking of accessible equipment, we install a variety of hand controls for wheelchair accessible vehicles at AMS Vans! You can read about some of the options we offer here.

Xbox Kinect and People With Disabilities

kinect

Where does the Kinect stand in the game accessibility department?  The AbleGamers Foundation took the Kinect into their labs about a week ago to stress test the machine and see if it held up to all the hype it was causing, and if they found it appropriate for a gamer with disabilities.

When a new product is released, they want to present it best as possible and show off the products capabilities. However, all the games designed so far are created to show off the capabilites of the Kinect and it’s games released. All the games require that you stand up or  jump around. Vision impaired players find the Kinect useless because there is an optimal/required distance to play, leaving them unable to see the screen. When the AbleGamers tested the Kinect, they found that gamers in wheelchairs should probably wait to buy the Kinect until they have developed more ablegamer friendly games. There is one game people in wheelchairs were completely able to play which is called Kinect Joy Ride, but only if you can easily control your upper body.

Some Ablegamers were invited  to Microsoft  and given a tour of the new technology. Microsoft set up ten full Kinect stations where they invited the gamers to play many of the games on the market for the Kinect. Located at every station was a Microsoft employee who asked the gamer with disabilities how they would approach the game and what changes could be made. They  took notes of their concerns and noted the pros and cons, asking questions such as, “what would you like to see as an alternative to jumping.”

kinect3

They then  laid out all the notes written from the gamers comments and broke the gamers into groups asking them to discuss ideas and findings that they suggested for Microsoft to improve next on the Kinect for gamers with disabilities as well as able people.

When it comes to Kinect, its very nature leaves a great deal of disabled gamers out of the equation. The conclusion so far; some games for the gamers with disabilities will be fully accessible, and some are going to be out of the question depending on your predicament. Mark C. Barlet said in his article, “Let’s be honest, if you have a severe disability that affects your mobility, playing the Kinect is not nearly as important as getting that Xbox set up with the right accessible technology to give you access to the thousands of games Xbox has to offer, not the tens of games Kinect has to offer. However, there is a very great possibility that Kinect will add the features necessary to improve the accessibility.

One main thing the Kinect does have going for gamers with disabilities is the voice control. Programmers and designers all over the world are looking at ways to improve reliable voice controls.  So far the Kinect has the best voice recognition software on the market, encouraging developers to add the voice control feature. This will help gamers with disabilities have more variety in game choice and gain default accessibility. (control scheme that does not use movement or a controller)

Accessible Game of the Year Award Awarded to Dragon Age: Origins

Ablegamers is a website that reviews and rates games based on accessibility. Recently, it gave EA/Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins the most accessible game of the year award. “What makes this title so exceptional is the level of options given to the gamer to choose their level of accessibility. Options are the key component to adding accessibility without harming the overall gameplay of the title.” said Mark Barlet, the Editor in Chief of Ablegamers.

Dragon Age gives the gamer many accessibility options, such as subtitles, the ability to play with one hand, and options for deaf gamers and colorblind gamers. However, the main strength is in the sheer number of options you have regarding the controls. Barlet says “this is crucial, it is all about the options. Not all gamers will use them, but for those that need to use them it is good that they are there.”

Dragon Age offers subtitles, the characters can be manipulated with a mouse or keyboard (including on-screen keyboards), fonts are improved and easily read, even for those with color impairment. Another interesting feature is that you can pause the game during action packed scenes, and while the game is paused, you can input orders for actions to take place after the pause is over.

The gaming industry is beginning to ask the right questions, and becoming more open to the idea of accessible games.

Gaming has for a long time been thought of as beneficial for rehabilitation, physical therapy, exercising the mind, and of course, fun! A recent study at the Indiana University School of Medicine hooked up gaming systems in three teenager patient’s homes and had them play everyday for 30 minutes. At the end of the study, the kids improved significantly in many areas and could use their injured hands much better. This study is a sign that games may be a great way to administer physical therapy for all sorts of health issues.

If you’re interested in other accessible games, check out Aion by NCSoft, and Torchlight by Runis Games. Both received high marks from AbleGamers in their reviews.
Do you play video or PC games? If so, what are your favorites?

Source: Ars Technica
See our previous coverage of Able Gamers
Indiana University Gaming Study