With over 2.8 billion gamers across the world estimated to have generated $180 billion in revenue in 2021, the gaming industry has been growing steadily year after year, and that growth is expected to continue. And—comprising about 20% of the gaming population—people with disabilities are no exception. It’s been reported that the majority of people with disabilities play games despite the barriers and challenges they face doing so.
Fortunately, accessibility in games has been given more consideration and has been improving gradually over the years, but what exactly is the state of accessibility in gaming in 2022?
Awareness and advocacy
2021 witnessed reports and several conversations around accessibility in gaming, both shining a light on the importance of making games more accessible and amplifying the voices of those advocating for better gaming experiences. There are also several organizations that consider gaming in their efforts or focus primarily on equality and accessibility in gaming.
The Game Accessibility Guidelines serve as a resource for designing accessible game mechanics and why doing so matters.
Additional Resource: AbleGamers: Using the Power of Video Games to Combat Social Isolation.
AbleGamers is dedicated to helping improve the lives of those living with disabilities by building inclusive communities and combating social isolation through games. They’ve worked with many game developers to help them come up with solutions and designs for more accessible, inclusive experiences.
They’re also behind the Certified Accessible Player Experience Practitioner (APX) Course, which provides education on approaching game design with a focus on players and accessibility.
SpecialEffect shares a similar vision of helping people play games, combating isolation and using technology to help people overcome other barriers, as well. In addition to working directly with software and hardware developers, they offer a kit for developers to use to improve accessibility in their games.
Can I Play That serves as a resource to gamers and developers alike, providing insight into the accessibility of specific game titles and news on accessibility in gaming overall.
A11yVR holds conversations about accessibility in virtual reality. Though their focus isn't exclusively on gaming, their discussions shed light on how something often associated primarily with gaming—virtual reality—can add value to the lives of people living with disabilities in other ways.
Read More - Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT): Federally Funded Programs for Persons with Disabilities.
Accessibility in games
Game developers and designers dedicated to delivering accessible experiences face the same challenge as those working to reduce barriers in other areas: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So how are their efforts reflected in today’s games?
More games are starting to include features to improve accessibility: better closed captioning, special modes for those with impaired vision, customized controls and other optional settings are some of the features that are becoming more common. There are also more devices to help gamers with disabilities play, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
Some games are serving as an impressible example of just how achievable accessibility is. There are games such as The Vale: Shadow of the Crown and The Enclosing Dark: A VR Auditory Adventure, both of which are audio-based games that are fully playable without relying on any visuals. Mainstream titles like the Last of Us Part II, PUBG and Hades have been praised for their accessibility features, proving that no player needs to be left behind.
There is still progress to be made
Though things have gotten better over the years and things are continuing to get better, there are still improvements to be made. One concern is that progress within the industry has not been consistent across all regions. Despite its global popularity, Japan-based Nintendo is known for being behind when compared to other major companies in the industry. And, even as hardware and software improve, one of the biggest barriers to many gamers with disabilities is cost. As the industry continues to grow, ongoing advocacy, collaboration, and education will be essential to ensure a more accessible gaming future for all.