Playing with Steam – how accessible is it?
This week, I decided to test out one of the leading games platforms available for the computer, for its accessibility, particularly for users with limited vision. A games platform is a gaming centre with a library of games available to buy and download – a bit like iTunes – as well as a community with forums where people can share tips and ideas on different games. Many games now require either Steam, Origin or Uplay so I best find out if I can use them with my screen-reading software.
Now for Steam’s accessibility. I found installing Steam incredibly easy for me – by going to the website and clicking the correct download link for my computer – I used a PC. It only took minutes to install which I was very impressed with and the website is completely accessible with JAWS which is brilliant. I then went on to test out both the library of games within Steam and the community forums.
The games library itself is accessible with JAWS – believe me, I checked! As well as being accessible with speech software, it is also very clear to read – I have my PC set to white text on black background and Steam’s text is white text on a dark grey background which works really well. It also works with Zoom software on the computer. The only one snag I have about it – and it’s only a small thing – is that when you click on a game to buy, there is a pop out box which has the details of the game written in, and this was quite confusing for me and a strain to read the specifics of each game because of my impaired vision. However, JAWS reads all the details out for you – but it doesn’t make for very quick choosing of games if you have to go through every single one!
Downloading a Game
I decided to try downloading a free game, Dungeons and Dragons (Online Version) to the computer. Choosing and downloading the game was very easy – you simply click a download button and you’re pretty much sorted. The only really annoying thing was that it took so long to download that I didn’t actually get a chance to start playing it! We’re talking about 2-3 hours download duration per game which is very frustrating as I wanted to see how easy it was to launch a game . Regardless, I found the download process very easy and will be downloading other games in the future!
I also visited the Dungeons and Dragons online gaming centre to check out the accessibility there as although I couldn’t play the game it was important that I checked out some of the screen shots to see what gameplay was like. I was really impressed with the ‘Getting Started’ page, where there were instructions about how to start playing and also large screen shots to take you through the process, which I could actually see! The font style and size was easy to read, without detracting from the atmosphere of the game. From this, I got the feeling that the game would be largely accessible to vision impaired people, although I’ll have to wait to play to be sure!
The online gaming community centre within Steam seems brilliant. There are a lot of different categories for conversations, both for experienced and new gamers. There are tips about strategy in particular games and a specific area for questions about Steam. The font size and colour is easy to see and again, you could always use magnification software if you needed to – it is compatible with this. In terms of voice narration software, the online community is fully accessible with JAWS – I have the speed set to relatively fast on my system so that JAWS reads out the messages quickly and I can respond more easily.
Steam is great for me as it works with both magnification and speech software specifically designed for blind and visually impaired people. The only snags I would have are that the games take so long to download when I just want to be playing – although this probably applies to all users and not just those with accessibility needs! – and the small pop out windows that are used to give more detailed information about each game. It would be better if you clicked on the game window to find out more about it and then could enlarge the next lot of text as needed, rather than using the magnification software to view about three tiny pop out windows at a time! In terms of graphics and font, the platform is very easy to access and the graphics I could access very easily which is great.
All in all, Steam have done a good job of making their games library accessible to blind and visually impaired people using a PC, as well as making sure that it is compatible with accessibility software. I’ll test it on my Mac next as well as Origin and Uplay.
Tags: Accessible gaming
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