On Dec. 11, Game Maker’s Toolkit released an 18-minute video on the accessibility of games released this year. Mark Brown prefaces that he played more than 50 of the biggest games released in 2020 to examine a wide range of accessibility options, from controls to subtitles and difficulty. To try and sample the entire industry, he analyzed games ranging from massive AAA blockbusters to small indie gems, including console launch titles, yearly installments, Japanese imports, and more. Lastly, he spoke with “dozens of gamers living with disabilities,” and read articles from sites that critically examine games from an accessibility standpoint.
Brown also analyzed the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which he says are “made with accessibility in mind.” He points to the inclusion of high contrast mode, closed captions, and console-wide controller remapping as some of the reasons why. The new generation consoles most stand out in the accessibility behind their controllers, though.
The PlayStation 5 Dualsense boasts a highly detailed rumble and shoulder buttons that you can turn off on a system-wide level. The PlayStation 5, unfortunately, doesn’t support PlayStation 5 controllers in new games, so custom-made and accessible PlayStation 4 controllers might not work. This is where Microsoft surpasses Sony, for you can use a brand new pad or an old Xbox One controller for the Xbox Series X. You can also “copilot” controllers, and use two controllers for one input. There is also the incredible Adaptive Controller. On Nintendo’s end, the Nintendo Switch has incorporated system-wide button remapping. Full controller remapping is a wonderful accessibility feature that many games released this year have. More than half of the games Brown played with a controller allowed button remapping.
But that’s not enough to make games accessible, especially for people with motor-related needs.
In his video, Brown commends these particular games for the following accessibility options:
- Paradise Killer and Tell Me Why: have open dyslexic fonts.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales: has a pair of shortcut buttons on the left and right D-pads that let the player access some tricky inputs.
- FIFA 21: offers a control scheme that can reduce the game down to just one button.
- The Last of Us Part II, Tell Me Why, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War: have potentially large subtitles that contrast well with the background and include the speaker’s name.
- Ghost of Tsushima: lets you turn on an icon to highlight incoming ranged attacks, which helps those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: have an (at times flawed) captioning system that indicates the location of a noise.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and The Last of Us Part II: have shader modes that can wash out the background and highlight the important characters with bright colorful overlays.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War: lets you build a custom color palette to discern between different people on your mini-map, which helps colorblind players.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Crash Bandicoot 4, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Resident Evil 3, and Hades: let you customize difficulty or have accessible game modes.
- Lair of the Clockwork God: has customizable subtitles, a dyslexic font, the ability to stop speech from automatically progressing, and the ability to disable the puzzles that rely on color.
- Inertial Drift: has an audio page where you can independently tweak the volume of almost every sound source.
These are just some of the games and features he endorses, and he goes into much more detail. Be sure to check out the video for a full analysis.
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Brown also calls to attention games that could have done more, such as:
- Maneater: has ridiculously small text.
- Mafia: Definitive Edition: has smaller subtitles than the 18-year-old game it is remaking.
- Final Fantasy VII Remake: its menus have text that is small and hard to read, could have incorporated subtitles for its barks.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon: text rarely takes up the full space of the text boxes, but there is no way to increase the font size.
- Cyberpunk 2077: an in-game sequence triggered epileptic seizures in a journalist. It has now been modified and the developer has added a warning.
- Demon’s Souls: offers no formal options to change the difficulty.
- Valorant: no subtitles.
Thankfully, accessibility is at the forefront of game development and industry conversations more than ever. This year, The Game Awards introduced the category of “Innovation in Accessibility.” The award went to The Last of Us Part II. Brown calls it “probably the most accessible big-budget game ever made.” In the indie space, he recommends Paradise Killer as a great detective game with many accessibility options.
For a fantastic site that examines the industry and its products from various accessibility standpoints, be sure to read Can I Play That? and its content. It has reviews for some of the biggest games of 2020, such as The Last of Us Part II (mobility, deaf/hard of hearing, and blind accessibility); Cyberpunk 2077; Immortals Fenyx Rising (deaf/hard of hearing and mobility), and much more.