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Accessible Gaming: Who Are The Players?

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This week, I’m writing about some complex technical gaming technology and its accessibility features. This blog will be coming soon. In the meantime though, I couldn’t help but write in response to a fellow blogger and his take on the world of computer game accessibility, as he says, ‘to those with – and without – disabilities.’  

What Does Richard Moss Say?  

Moss begins his article by discussing the 1992 game Mortal Kombat, which is described as an edgy take on fighting classics. Moss references Carlos Vasquez, an avid lover of the game and a devoted fan throughout the franchise, until he began to lose his sight due to closed-angle glaucoma, eventually leaving him completely blind. Moss then goes on to explain that Vasquez competed in the international fighting computer game tournament Evo last year and was a finalist within his pool. Vasquez, Moss explains, is part of a group of gamers who are campaigning for computer games to be made more readily accessible to disabled people, referencing both AbleGamers and SpecialEffect as charities that are helping in the movement towards equality in disability gaming.  

On first reading of the blog, I have to say, I was cynical. I thought that it would be another review into games which are simply disability accessible to visually and perhaps hearing impaired people – however, as I explain further on, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Why This Article?  

Aside from purely interest alone, I decided to blog in response to this article because of its overview of accessible gaming for people with disabilities and how Moss covers a broad spectrum of conditions that can affect a person’s ability to play. Initially, he does appear to have a focus on blind and visually impaired people; however, further on in the article, he goes on to explain other adaptation options and features that are available to those with cerebral palsy, mobility issues, and also mentions those who may be deaf and/or blind and how they could access computer games through sensitivity in the controllers.  Moss even mentions the new version of Call of Duty, which has various colour-blind player options, and that indie adventure game The Last Door includes features for dyslexic players, along with closed captions –  I might have to have a go at The Last Door myself!  I’m pleased that Moss has included both commercial and independent games in his search for disability accessible games.

Who are the Players?

Moss interviews almost every single big cheese in the world of disability gaming, including Ian Hamilton, whom I have referenced in another blog previously. Hamilton explains the various accessibility options for gamers of differing abilities, including the option of playing with accessible mapping options on the games’ controllers, using advanced ‘save’ and ‘remember’ options for those who may have learning and/or neurological disabilities, and using sip puff tubes and blink detectors and headrests on wheelchairs in order to play games using a one-touch switch device.   As a visually impaired gamer myself, I can of course see the benefits of Moss’s report into the subject – I have played Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy on a number of occasions, and The Legend of Zelda avidly as a child (I’d love to meet up with Link – pictured above –  in gameplay again actually!), all of which are vision impairment accessible, for myself at least, as long as there was someone else to read out parts of the game for me!

Moss has written a brilliant article raising awareness of disability gaming. Perhaps one of the most touching parts of the blog for me is when Moss interviews Tara Voelker who is former chairperson of the International Game Developers Association’s Game Accessibility Special Interest Group. Voelker talks about a man whom she worked with who had lost his fingers and used to play videogames with his son, who can now play again thanks to adaptations to his controllers for his videogames. After thinking that he would not be able to play again, this must have been an amazing revelation, shown within the empathy with which Voelker speaks of the case.

Perhaps Moss could possibly mention these disability access options a little more himself as well as interviewing others on the subject – however, he has done far more than other gaming blogs do, in raising awareness and giving an overview of disability gaming which includes gamers  with differing methods of gameplay. My final thought on this is, if Moss can take this brilliant initiative and write so fervently and expertly on the world of accessibility gaming, using research and interviews as back-up, why then aren’t we seeing this same desire to include gamers of different abilities within the major games companies. This is surely something which needs ever more awareness raised, and I am convinced that bloggers such as Moss working alongside games companies, have a huge part to play in this.

Links:  

Richard Moss’s blog: http://www.polygon.com/features/2014/8/6/5886035/disabled-gamers-accessibility  

AbleGamers: www.ablegamers.com  

SpecialEffect: www.specialeffect.org.uk  

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