The video game industry is one of the largest and fastest growing, with an expected net value of nearly $183 billion by the end of 2018. Despite its size, a lack of accessibility across the industry means that millions of gamers worldwide are unable to enjoy the same experience as the general gaming population.
Despite an active and growing deaf gaming community, this absence of accessibility continues to create a divide between audiences of gamers around the world.
However, things are changing. New technologies, increased awareness, and a greater sense of responsibility from major players in the industry are helping to create equal opportunities for all gamers.
Here's four new innovations which are helping to create accessibility within the broader gaming community.
1. Xbox Adaptive Controller
Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This controller was designed for gamers who have limited mobility. The controller can be configured in a variety of ways to fit the needs of gamers who encounter unique difficulties based on their disabilities. It was designed using feedback from the accessibility community, and has been met with overwhelmingly positive response.
Here's YouTuber and comedian Zach Anner taking the Adaptive Controller for a test-run!
The use of subtitles in games is not a new innovation. However, new industry standards for subtitles are helping to create accessibility for gamers. A driving force behind this change comes from one of the most prolific and notable developers in modern times - Ubisoft. Ubisoft are incorporating new features into their subtitles to ensure that members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community do not miss out on any of the content. They're using their upcoming epic Assassin's Creed Odyssey to showcase these new subtitle features.
Accessibility advocacy site, DAGERS recently awarded the developer for its subtitles, which "Include nametags for spoken dialogue, readable font size, and a background to ensure the text doesn't blend in with the environment". This is a huge step forward, as many in the deaf community have complained about caption and subtitle quality in the past.
The reasoning behind Ubisoft's decision to make these changes is an obvious one. Project Manager within the Corporate Responsibility Team, Annaïg Antoine, reiterates this: "Around 20% of players have some kind of disability. It obviously makes no sense for developers to unnecessarily restrict their audiences like that if there are easy solutions available... Everybody wins in the end"
3. Non-Visual Cues
Industry powerhouse Nintendo unveiled another party related game for their newest console, the Nintendo Switch, named 1-2-Switch. This multiplayer game sets up two (or more) opponents in a series of themed reaction based mini-games. The best part? Players who are visually or audio impaired can also participate. The game takes into account the varying needs of gamers, using "a lot of audio cues and rumble features in the controllers to tell the user when to react and how well they are doing” (via Media Access).
Although, this game is not perfect. Only 22 out of 28 games are suited towards these cues, without giving unfair advantage. Regardless, Nintendo has made an important step in the right direction.
4. CART Live Captioning
E-sports, and live-streamed gaming events have exploded in recent years, amassing hundreds of thousands, to millions of viewers online. Much like traditional live sports, streaming of games presents an issue to hearing impaired and deaf viewers who can struggle to keep up with live content.
However, new technologies are helping to change this. Communication Access Real-time Translation (also known as CART) converts live audio to text to bridge a gap for audiences who rely on text to enjoy content. At Ai-Media, CART isn't automated. It relies on humans translating live audio, to text onscreen. This results in a high degree of accuracy.
The enormous benefits of CART, like accessibility, comprehension, and even broader target audience have persuaded the gaming industry to adopt this new innovation on a wide scale. Game streaming providers like YouTube, and even Twitch have hopped aboard in hopes of expanding their horizons to new inclusive content.
These technologies which help create accessibility within the video game industry are a huge step in the right direction. As more and more industry players jump on the accessibility bandwagon, the gap between players will continue to shrink.