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Accessibility In Online Gaming: Are We Doing Enough?

For the past few decades, gaming has proven to be a popular pastime among all ages and genders. From the early console offerings, to incredible technology like VR and motion sense that we have at our fingertips today, there have been some awe-inspiring developments in how we game and how accessible it is to people from all walks of life and with a range of different levels of ability – and of course, this includes those with disabilities. Accessibility in gaming is an undeniably important issue to those with or without disabilities. The opportunity to sit back and relax while taking some time out to play should be available to everyone, and we’re exploring just how accessibility needs to be and how it’s growing below.

What Do We Mean By Accessibility?

The term ‘accessibility’ is one that can often drum up images of wheelchairs and access ramps and while these are undoubtedly important, there is so much more we need for a fully-accessible world. The best and perhaps most overlooked thing about accessibility is just how simple it really is. Making sure that things are inclusive of everyone doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take forever to install and so the knowledge that we’re still fighting for full accessibility in all industries can certainly be disheartening.

Even by allowing easy volume adjustments or installing handrails, we can make the world around us accessible to more and more people, but what about the gaming world? Is it really as simple to make our games accessible?

The Current State

One unfortunate mind-set within the community of game developers and producers alike is that accessibility in gaming isn’t a vital issue, when in truth, accessibility in gaming should be the rule, not the exception. Whether this attitude is due to a lack of knowledge or sheer ignorance is something that is up for debate, but fact of the matter is that this needs to change. Gaming has always been at the forefront of many technological advances, gripping onto opportunities with both hands and doing their best to implement them in as many new games and as much hardware as possible, so why is accessibility taking so long?

Assumptions surrounding the cost of accessibility features and a lack of potential audience can harm the development of useful technologies – after all, you don’t need to have a disability in order to make use of accessibility features. An investment into accessibility for a company should never just be about the money– it should be about making their games playable by absolutely everyone.

Why Is It Needed?

The question ‘why is it needed?’ should never be a question that is asked. Accessibility across all industries is always needed, whether it’s ‘vital’ or otherwise, and the vast gaming industry is certainly no exception. From a business point of view, any game that proves inclusive to all groups of people will open itself up to a much  wider audience, but from a disabled gamer’s point of view, something as simple as subtitles whenever a character speaks can mean they can join in on the hype for new game releases.

As early as 2003, a Microsoft-commissioned study completed by Forrester Research Inc. concluded that 57% of computer uses were likely, or very likely to use accessibility features, and with 68% of the same study having a mild or severe disability or impairment, the argument that accessible content wouldn’t sell is, quite simply, just an excuse. The demand for accessibility is constantly growing and this is felt by all in the industry; providing first-person shooter epics narrating storylines which can easily be followed by all, online casino operators intent on retaining customers by means of user-friendly controls, MMORPG providers keen on enabling easy communication by all players involved – the list endless. It’s about time companies started putting more of their resources into filling this demand.

How Could It Improve?

The act of actually making gaming accessible isn’t a complicated one and developing a substantial testing process could be the key to a successful accessibility market. Game testing is already something that occurs with numerous users being able to Alpha test the games and provide feedback, and so companies can undoubtedly bring these tests to wider audiences and to people with a variety of disabilities to ensure that it is playable to everyone. While this may take time to perfect, once a company or designer gets the hang of what does and doesn’t work, they can continue to implement it throughout their future developments.

Ensuring that gaming is accessible to all is something that shouldn’t even be up for debate. From a business point of view, opening up games to all audiences can bring in a higher profit, but from the position of gamers, there should be no reason as to why they cannot enjoy gaming just like anyone else. With more intense testing, and a willingness to learn from mistakes, developers and retailers alike can go on to improve just how they make and sell games to ensure that everyone has the same easy access.

 

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