Disabled Gamers Deserve More in 2017

Video games are for the masses. There's supposed to be something for everyone. I love role-playing games and sometimes I get a hankering for visual novels. My best friend loves MMOs, my sister plays mobile games, and my boyfriend is a big fan of Bethesda-style RPGs. Hell, my dad still adores playing video games of all kinds into his mid-50s. The point is, video games are meant for everyone. It doesn't matter your age, your gender, or what kind of gaming experience you enjoy. Equally so it's increasingly important for video games to provide inclusion for gamers with special needs.

The absolute most basic example I can give for disability assistance in video games is subtitles. I'm hearing impaired and wear hearing aids. That means I can generally hear volume as well as most everyone else. However, the ability to understand is a little different. I depend partially on lip-reading to be able to comprehend what people are saying in addition to actually hearing them. This isn't as easy to achieve with digital images. That's why subtitles are a crucial part of my life. I started using them when watching television or films on DVD back when I was a teenager. Not all video games had this option when I was growing up, so when I started seeing it more in RPGs I was ecstatic. Nowadays, most every game has an option for subtitles in some way. The best ones are obviously those that have them for every spoken line, but I understand that isn't always possible.


There are many other people with disabilities that can be included into games in a similar fashion. Some great news I saw recently referring to this was with EVE Online. The MMORPG based in space recently started making some changes for players with color blindness! By referring to some of the employees within the office, the developers of EVE have created two preset color blindness modes and a third that allows for custom color settings. They're currently testing the color blind mode on the Singularity test server. Users can take a survey to give their feedback on its effectiveness. And in June, a beta version will go live to Tranquility. These are very small changes to the game that will allow a great many players to enjoy it more fully. Where's the harm or trouble in that?

Another personal experience I can share is virtual reality. Often these demos are given at the big trade events like E3 and WonderCon, where background noise is aplenty. In this regard, everyone is brought to an experience sort of similar to my own. I can't always hear what is happening in the game. Most recently I played the John Wick Chronicles virtual reality game. It's a first person shooter based in the world of John Wick. There is of course a reload sound that plays when you move your hands down to reload. I couldn't hear this, but was saved by a haptic feedback pulse in the Vive controllers I was using. The small little buzz let me know that I had successfully reloaded and I was able to continue the game without troubles.

6-22-17 EVE Online logo.jpg

It's sometimes very small inclusions like these that allow disabled players to fully enjoy video games. While those that are disabled are generally in the minority, the invisible players, we are still here. And it's been fascinating over the years to see how developers are changing their games to include more and more people. Another game I played recently in virtual reality is Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul. The best experience with this game is on the HTC Vive. You have room space that you can utilize, you can physically crouch to look at things and pick them up. However, if you're a player that must remain stationary because of any number of potential disabilities, you could play the game on Oculus or eventually even PlayStation VR. With those two systems, you can utilize in game controls to do all the physical movements which would still allow you to enjoy the game.

Essentially, while disabled players might be a general minority in video games, they are still there. I adore playing video games not only as my career but also because it's just my favorite consumable media. I love being transported to other worlds and living other lives that I wouldn't be able to in reality. That's the point for everyone, but possibly even more so for disabled players. By including them video game developers are making dreams come true in more ways than they ever thought possible. So please, video game developers, talk with those that are marginalized, start a conversation on how you can include them. Most of the time it's very small things like subtitles, or an option for different control schemes. No matter how you include disabled players, it all starts with simple conversation.

Do you know anyone who is disabled who loves playing video games? What inclusions have they noticed that they really enjoyed? Are you disabled and have experiences to share? Let me know in the comments!

April Marie
April Marie

Contributing Writer
Date: 06/28/2017

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