Disability news

Gaming industry needs to be more accessible

picture of a ps5 and video games characters and a person wearing a virtual reality headset

A disabled gamer has said her hobby is becoming increasingly more difficult, but it's her lifeline to the outside world.

Mollie, a content creator, lives with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which can make playing games quite a challenge due to the physical pain she experiences on a daily basis, but without a console she would be lost.

"I physically cannot leave the house everyday, so it's a huge hobby for me," she told Sky news.

"I've made my best friend through gaming, and we hang out everyday online."

Some games are more accessible than others, but she isn’t just talking about the physical controls.

"If a game makes me motion sick, I just cannot play it,” Mollie explained.

Of course, there’s the added issue of pain, it can be uncomfortable playing when you have a condition such as EDS.

For now Mollie opts for a mouse instead of a joystick, but she understands as her disability progresses the only way to continue her hobby will be to explore adaptive controllers.

There are around 429 disabled gamers across the globe, so you would think developers would bear this in mind - but sadly this is not the case.

Mollie thinks the game industry needs to be more inclusive when it comes to accessibility in the design process.

"If games companies brought on more disabled people in their marketing and content creation, or even as characters in their games, it would help people understand it," she explained.

"And maybe it would help them understand the need for accessibility a bit better as well, because they'll be able to see us in this gaming space."

Carl Watterton is senior accessibility designer at Rebellion, she wants to make games more accessible, but says fellow developers are overlooking “easy wins”.

"It's definitely frustrating when you see some of the really basic things missing - for instance so many games just don't have big subtitles," she said.

"There is no competitive advantage with accessibility. We just want more people to play."

Liam Lawler is partnership coordinator for SpecialEffect, a charity offering equipment to disabled gamers.

He said: "A fully able-bodied person can play games with their children, with their brothers and sisters, they can go out and kick a football and pretend to be David Beckham.

"But, people who have accessibility needs aren't always able to have these shared experiences with families and friends - so gaming opens up a world of experiences."

Brannon Zahand, senior gaming accessibility technical manager at Xbox thinks the introduction of AI may be able to enhance gaming experiences for disabled people.

"If done properly, AI can open up whole new methods by which games can be made accessible. You know, imagine a video game that could automatically adapt its mechanics and adapt its difficulty to a player's individual abilities and skill, no matter what the disability,” he said.

"And that's actually a perfect example of why accessibility is so important.

"Because that technology just doesn't benefit people with disabilities, it benefits everyone."

[ There is a version of Minecraft entirely controlled by eye movement for gamers with a severe disability ]

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