text against a black and white controller photo says Do Accessibility Features Make games... Too easy? The Albinism Up Close logo and text is at the top
Blindness & Visual Impairment,  Disability,  Gaming,  Technology

Do Accessibility Features Make Games Too Easy?

Often when the topic of accessibility features comes up, the backlash from typical gamers and disabled gamers alike is that these extra features take the fun out of the game. This is most definitely not the case. Let me share a different perspective with those of you who may be new to the world of gaming and accessibility.

Gaming is for ALL Gamers

Gaming is an outlet, a hobby, a way to experience new things and environments, a way to test your dexterity and coordination, and so much more for so many people. It is often a means of escaping the everyday mundane world or the struggles that so often come with life. This is even more true for many of us with disabilities. Some of us often feel isolated, and gaming allows us to connect with other people in various ways.

I, like many gamers, grew up playing video games with my siblings. We challenged each other, learned to work together, and learned how to share while sitting around a console together. This theme continued into my adult years where I played with partners, made new friends, and learned to work with strangers in a variety of games over the years.

Now, I am a game streamer on Twitch, and building a community of like-minded gamers has been a joy. It has enriched my life in so many ways, and I believe it does the same for many gamers. This is especially true for gamers in marginalized groups including women, black indigenous people of color, disabled gamers, and members of LGBTQ+ communities.

Different Disabilities Require Different Tools

Disability is a huge spectrum and covers everything from physical disabilities like mobility limitations, visual impairment, and muscle weakness to cognitive disabilities like reading disorders, epilepsy, and more. So, when disabled gamers say they need accessibility for a disability, those needs can look vastly different from gamer to gamer.

Check out: Gaming While Visually Impaired: The Barriers to Gaming

Below, I will include some examples of various disabilities and the accessibility features those communities often utilize. Notice the overlap that occurs in these communities. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

Blindness & Visual Impairment:

  • Scalable UI; font sizing; contrast and color options
  • Menu and UI narration
  • Audio indicators for on screen and visual cues
  • Options to disable quick time events
  • Simple tutorials with both text and image guides
  • Enemy and item highlighting

Color Blindness:

  • Scalable UI; font sizing; contrast and color options
  • Enemy and item highlighting
  • Audio indicators for on screen and visual cues (especially those indicated by color)

Deafness & Hard of Hearing:

  • Subtitles and Closed Captioning
  • On-screen indicators for directional audio cues
  • Volume sliders for music, sound effects, dialogue, etc.
  • Mono audio

Motor Disabilities (muscle weakness, limited or no hand control, missing hands/fingers, etc.):

  • Key remapping; alternative controller support
  • Options to disable quick time events
  • On-screen indicators for directional audio cues

Cognitive disabilities (epilepsy, reading disabilities, memory loss, processing limitations, etc.):

  • Options to disable quick time events
  • On-screen indicators for directional audio cues
  • Simple tutorials with both text and image guides
  • Dyslexia friendly fonts
  • Enemy and item highlighting

Accessibility for One and for All

When building in one accessibility feature with a specific barrier in mind, that feature may in fact benefit people outside of the intended audience. One example of this is providing short and simple tutorial text. Keeping this text short helps those with cognitive deficits as well as those of us who have a visual impairment. There are many more examples of this in gaming accessibility. The list in the previous section demonstrates this well. Crossover exists between various disabilities and barriers in gaming.

Optional Features That Benefit Everyone

The beauty of accessibility features is that they can often be toggled on and off as needed. This is so important, because disability symptoms and severity can shift from day to day. Togglable features also benefit people without disabilities.

Item and enemy highlighting, togglable dialogue timers, subtitles with adjustable size and color, colorblind modes and high contrast, remappable keys, and so many of these settings benefit gamers with and without disabilities alike.

Do you or someone you know without a disability enjoy using subtitles? Are you or an aging loved one noticing that reading is more comfortable with larger text? Are quick time events a challenge while playing in a distracting environment full of people or pets? These are just a few examples of how accessibility features can benefit the masses without disabilities.

Next time you jump into a new game, check out the settings and see what accessibility options you have available. You might find a surprise or two!

Stay curious! Keep gaming!

Here are some guides on accessible gaming:

Game Accessibility Guidelines
An organized set of guidelines put together by industry experts for developers and organized into categories: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Xbox Accessibility Guidelines
Xbox’s set of guidelines to help ensure that the user experience in a game is enjoyable and playable for everyone. “When everyone plays, we all win.”

Library of Congress: Video Gaming Accessibility
Tons of links to accessiblity information, charities, gamers with disabilities, lists of accessible games, and more.

I have Albinism and am legally blind. I have a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I'm currently pursuing my passion of writing through this blog and for the Albinism InSight magazine.

2 Comments

  • Naomi PH

    A great breakdown. What I would add is that accessibility features don’t need to interfere with difficulty settings, and providing the latter gives people an opportunity to decide what kind of playstyle they want and how challenging the game is. The two don’t need to be mutually exclusive!

    • Danielle

      You are exactly right. I agree with you, and I’ve talked about this before. I’m not sure why I didn’t think to include it here. Maybe in another article! Thank you so much!

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