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Although Vital, Accessibility Isn’t a Selling Point

Reviews for The Last of Us Part I are out, and it scored pretty much where I predicted it would. But there’s one thing that has really bothered me – talk about accessibility features.

Enough people are impressed by the improved graphics and animation that it has been bouncing between an 88 and 89 on Metacritic. A very good game continues to be very good. And while I still feel the original was in desperate need of some modern gameplay enhancements, there will be a lot of happy people come release day tomorrow.

None of this is surprising. I called it a couple of weeks back.

One thing did surprise me. It was the amount of upselling for the accessibility features. Both critics and fans have spent thousands of words saying “FINALLY! Disabled people can play this brilliant game.”

And that is a disgusting point I’m not going to let sit.

Praise and More Praise

I’m going to say this straight out: accessibility features are not a selling point. Let me say it again, in even plainer wording: cynically selling accessibility features as though you’re doing someone a favour is downright disgusting.

I know, I know – this is a business about making money and anything that can get positive praise will be used to do so. We’ve seen worse cases over the years.

But this one sticks in my craw. My question to Naughty Dog, and to every person blindly parroting this ‘feature’, is this: could it not have been added to the PS4 version? Were these accessibility features so awesomely PS5 intensive that they can only possibly work in the remake?

“But Mat,” I hear you scream. “These are engine-specific features that have been added as part of the work done on the remake!”

I don’t care. And neither should you. If these features are worth doing, then they’re worth doing. They should be default. No matter the cost or convenience. You don’t get to use them as a selling point to show how incredible you are as a company, but then complain that it would be inconvenient to bring them to other games.

Good news, disabled people. You get to buy the Last of Us remake for $70. Don’t thank us all at once.

Marketing Accessibility

There was a time not long ago when most games didn’t even have subtitles. The Last of Us deserves praise for pushing the envelope out. The more people who can play video games, the happier we should all be. I can fully appreciate the joy that someone must get to finally be able to play a game that was previously locked off to them.

Believe me, this is not an article knocking the work that has been done there. This is an article knocking the cynical selling of such features. Ever since this blog post from PlayStation, it has taken off. Why? Because it’s one of the few new things coming to the remake. What do you say to someone unimpressed by graphics and minor AI updates? “So what, you don’t want disabled gamers to have access?”

I want disabled gamers to have access to every game, without being part of the advertising. Those who can see, and hear, and who have no movement issues have benefitted the most from these features pre-release, because it has allowed them to make money, or win console war arguments, or show how tremendously open-minded they are. And tomorrow it will be forgotten about by all but those who need them.

I could push further. I could question if there’s compatibility with the Xbox Adaptive Controller in this game, but we know the answer to that. And we know the reason why.

But ultimately all I hope is that these features remain a staple at Sony going forward. And beyond. Anything less is a travesty.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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