When it comes to accessibility features in video games, things have improved somewhat in recent years, with many developers now consciously providing elementary options that tweak the gameplay experience to better suit players of different abilities and with specific impairments. There remains much work to be done, though, to promote industry-wide understanding and communicate the vital importance of implementing these options for many gamers.
In this feature Isabelle Meyer looks at a handful of the most useful accessibility features already present in many Nintendo Switch games and identifies areas where developers and publishers could make improvements to allow a wider audience to enjoy their output. This is very much a non-definitive list, but highlights options that should really be implemented as 'industry standard' these days.
There are lots of gamers who have disabilities and, depending on their exact nature, face mild, moderate, or severe disruptions to their capability of playing video games. Some people struggle to hold specific types of controller, or can’t complete Quick Time Events due to delayed reactions. As such, buying games as a disabled gamer can be tricky — a section that one player might negotiate with ease could be a major roadblock for another, and one which the developer never intended to present such an insurmountable obstacle.
One way game developers ensure that disabled gamers are able to fully enjoy their hobby is through the inclusion of accessibility features — options that enable players to tailor the gameplay experience to their exact needs and preferences.
Even when games include accessibility features, it can still be difficult for disabled gamers to access and activate them, or get reliable information regarding their existence
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Some games are developed where accessibility features either aren’t included at all (and in some cases even purposefully excluded and replaced with a “git gud” mentality that makes games harder, often for the sake of bragging rights than any specific game design reason.
Even when games include accessibility features, it can still be difficult for disabled gamers to access and activate them, or get reliable information regarding their existence. They're rarely spoken about in reviews making it much harder for those with disabilities to find out if they can play specific games. With some developers who go that 'extra mile' and include a host of accessibility features, these can be hidden away in menus or sometimes for more passive accessibility features, even locked behind paywalls/DLC.
All of this can leave disabled gamers with the dilemma of whether buying a game at all is worthwhile, especially when digital games are not easily returned (and many releases are digital-only). Even with physical returns, it's not like the old days where you could return a game for its full value even if it had been played — these days you're trading for store credit and so you've already eaten a loss just to see if you can play the thing. If the game can’t be played for whatever reason, there's often a feeling of being left out as players are unable to join in with the latest popular title and its online discourse with friend groups or wider gaming communities.
Without risking spending out on a game, a disabled gamer’s only solution is to look up reviews and hope that writers will include accessibility information in their report. This method not only heavily relies on a game being popular enough for review sites to cover, but also a degree of luck that the reviewer comments on those very specific aspects of the game — areas which it might not occur to them to highlight, but which are vitally important to some potential players.
More coverage of what's included would be a start, then, but for developers there are certain features that should really be in there from the beginning in most video games. Here are five accessibility options that we'd like to see implemented as standard (where appropriate and applicable) across any new title.
#1 Difficulty Options That Can Be Changed At Any Time
One of the simplest accessibility features that can be employed to assist disabled gamers with all manner of impairments is an adjustable difficulty level. Difficulty options have been present since the earliest video games, but not in every game — and the tendency for developers is to add more challenging modes for once you've mastered Normal.
Easier modes have slower moving enemies, higher main character HP levels, or remove Quick Time Events that are mandatory to pass certain stages. Any or all of these examples may offer disabled gamers a less taxing gameplay experience and enjoy the narrative more fully — if the game has a story, that is.
More granular difficulty options are becoming a lot more common. Even better are those games which let you alter difficulty settings at any time with no penalty rather than locking you into a fixed one-time selection — this is something that the Ys series does well. The option to change your mind during a playthrough if further through the game there's a spike — or if with the unlocking of power ups something physically hard to complete at first becomes significantly easier — is a boon for all players. An adaptable gameplay experience can also benefit those who have 'good' and 'bad' days, enabling them to make adjustments as needed so that gaming doesn’t have to be a 'good' day experience only.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes this further and allows a custom difficulty level to be built, letting players craft their own challenge to an extent. Alternatively, some games have a “Story Mode” which tones down difficulty and can even remove gameplay obstacles entirely so that players of absolutely any skill level can enjoy the narrative. These Story-focused modes generally assist through altering player/enemy health bars, offering immunity from enemy attacks or adjusting movement speed. It may offer more signposting or guidance, or activate automatic grabbing of platform edges or highlight jumping routes for players, or offer bonus items to assist in the early game, or aim assists — it all depends on the game.
A story-focused mode which de-emphasises skill-based gameplay allows players of all ability levels to enjoy a game's narrative journey. The destigmatisation in the wider player base of needing to play on such a mode would make the gaming community a much more welcoming place for more players.
#2 Platforming Assist Options
Platforming of some sort crops up in games across all genres, and this is a common area that disabled gamers can struggle with, particularly those with motor difficulties or issues with depth perception.
Some games such as Super Mario Odyssey include shadows to show where you will land in order to mitigate this — an invaluable tool for all gamers navigating a 3D space on a 2D screen. However, these shadows are not always easily visible, which somewhat defeats the point of their inclusion. One excellent example of an optional assist done right can be found in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, which has an option to add a coloured ring to surround those shadows. This ring makes it much easier to differentiate from the background environment.
Again, including the ability to add a clearer landing position indicator is a relatively easy feature for developers to implement, and it could help many types of players. Such a simple feature could open up quite a closed-off genre to more players who would normally have been unable to engage with platformers.
#3 Alternative Colour Display Options and Filters
In-game colours can have a huge impact on people with a variety of different disabilities. The ability to adjust some aspects of the colours on display using preset filters has been making its way into some games such as Immortals Fenyx Rising and the aforementioned Crash Bandicoot 4. While these colour filters are really great for mitigating issues for some players, they do not constitute a one-size-fits-all solution for colour vision variations.
Some combinations can make it harder for players with certain types of colour-based vision impairments to differentiate the hues on display. I have encountered vision modes that put items highlighted in orange against a blue backdrop, for example, which for those with a more standard colour perception may be a great combination, but for others actually makes the differentiation harder. While pre-set alternative colour options mark an improvement to games where no alternative is offered, colour selection features can be vastly improved by allowing the gamer to select the colour choices themselves opposed to only allowing for pre-determined options.
Colours also have an impact on text readability, with black-on-white text often being a barrier to text-heavy games. Like colour vision, there is no one-size-fits-all option here. Games can be made accessible even further by including other options such as adjustable fonts, backgrounds and the ability to switch font sizes.
#4 Character and Ability Customisation
A more passive accessibility feature you'll often come across is character customisation that allows players to alter their character avatar's appearance and attributes. While this is often included as a fun option for all gamers, it also has passive accessibility benefits as it typically allows colourblind or vision-impaired gamers to amend character and clothing colours to help them stand out better.
In many games, character customisation options are either included as unlockables later in the game or can be locked behind DLC paywalls
Adjustments to a character's appearance is not always an immediately accessible option, though. In many games, character customisation options are either included as unlockables later in the game — rewards only made available after the player makes progress — or can be locked behind DLC paywalls. For example, in YS IX: Monstrum Nox, costume customisation is available as an option as the game progresses, however, only specific colour options are available and even then this requires significant story progression to unlock them as purchase options. Alternatively, other DLC costume options are made available for use at the start of the game with some colours being exclusive to the DLC.
Another example is Monster Hunter Rise, where — pleasingly — colour customisation of armour is available without DLC. This, however, is unavailable at the start of the game; instead the player needs to be a specific Hunter Rank and even then, only specific types of armour are able to be colour customised. Arguments about locking costumes and cosmetics behind microtransactions aside, this makes playing much harder for players who either can’t afford to buy additional DLC or manage to unlock new customisation options through gameplay.
With colour in gaming, it is also important to bear in mind that some with photosensitive conditions including those that trigger seizures may have trouble with specific colour ranges, as well. The option to tweak colour and brightness/contrast values across the board — characters, environment, menus and UI — might make the game more accessible to these kinds of players.
It is also worth noting that those with photosensitive disorders also have to pay closer attention to frame rates (although let's face it, there's no shortage of gamers preoccupied with that particular topic!) because some struggle with repeating colour patterns flicking by at higher frame rates. At lower frame rates, that same colour combination may not lead to difficulties, meaning that — shock! horror! — a lower frame rate may be desirable in certain situations. Screen flicker rates may not affect the average player but for those with photosensitive disorders they can cause activation of conditions even if the flicker isn't consciously perceptible.
Unfortunately, as hardware develops further and further, and the general expectation is that games must have as high a frame rate as possible, this could unfortunately result in certain players being excluded due to the hardware only offering refresh rates above those they can tolerate. OLED screens can help offer a more stable image, although again, there is no one-size-fits-all adaptation and OLED technology may not help with every photosensitive gamer — indeed, it comes with issues of its own.
#5 Button (Re)Mapping and Expanded Controller Options
Button mapping in games is more often associated with 'pro' gamers on PC or for using specialist controllers but can also help with accessibility opportunities for some disabilities. The prevalence of button mapping has grown a lot over the last few years — indeed, Nintendo integrated system-level button remapping on Switch in the 10.0.0 firmware update. More games than ever now offer some degree of button mapping or different controller layout options.
There are usually two main aspects to button mapping: adjusting input options for easier reach on standard controllers, or adjusting to a specific controller that better suits gameplay. Adjusting for specific controllers means custom controllers built to support specific disabilities can easily be used in game. With the Switch, button mapping features can also be used in conjunction with custom Joy-Con grips to allow for one-handed playing.
Beyond the games themselves, between first and third party manufacturers, there is a whole host of types of controllers that can be attached to the Switch, with some of these being specifically built with the aim of helping those with disabilities.
A lot of controller manufacturers (particularly those for other platforms) often focus on building bigger and bigger controllers — with more buttons, extra programmable paddles, and so on — which certainly assist some gamers, such as those whose fine motor skills are impaired and struggle with small controllers and buttons. However, some people equally need something smaller and easier to hold. Similarly, there is the issue that some bulkier controllers and consoles are simply too heavy for certain players and as such they cannot be safely used for any meaningful length of time.
Nintendo's Hardware - How Could Switch Be More Accessible?
Many alternative controllers are wired and often suffer the loss of other features that standard/Pro controllers carry, including haptic feedback. The Joy-Con are a welcome change not only due to their small and compact design, but the number of both licensed and unofficial grip peripherals into which the Joy-Con can be placed. With that said, it might be nice to see Nintendo itself produce an official small Pro Controller with more reliable analogue sticks. More options is rarely a bad thing, especially in this case.
For some, holding the Switch in handheld can be too cumbersome or weighty to be practical, especially with the slightly heavier Switch OLED. However, the Switch Lite is one of the lightest gaming devices and surprisingly weighs less than the 2DS XL and ‘New’ 3DS. Crucially, the Switch Lite doesn’t suffer a major loss in graphical fidelity compared to the standard Switch — in fact, the greater pixel density of the smaller screen arguably makes the image more pleasant, albeit significantly smaller and dimmer than the OLED screen.
A Switch Lite OLED, then, would certainly be a popular addition to the Switch line up, as it would allow photosensitive players to feel the benefits of an OLED screen as well as being able to use a small device.
The Nintendo Switch is a very versatile console that has allowed many players to explore gaming who may previously have been unable to do so, or enabled them to sample new genres that were perhaps inaccessible to them previously. The Switch has already demonstrated its unique ability to draw many people together through its games — just think about the huge Animal Crossing phenomenon during the global lockdowns. With the help of developers, the hybrid console has arguably made gaming more accessible to those with both social and physical disabilities than any system previously. It would be fantasticto continue this trend and encourage developers and hardware manufacturers to consider the positive effects of including accessibility features and the improvements they offer gamers of all skill levels and abilities.
Which of the features above do you make most use of when they're available? Let us know in the poll below and tell us which other accessibility features you'd like to see as standard across all video games. Also, let us know which Switch games you'd be interested in hearing more about with regards to their accessibility options.
First thing I thought was button re-mapping, yet what annoys me the most is Nintendo is actually one of the biggest culprits in this. Yes you can change buttons at the system level, but then have to revert it for another game where you are fine with the controls.
My personal top 5?
1. Difficulty options in-game, for every game.
2. Colorblind options.
3. Text size options.
4. Button mapping in-game, for every game.
5. Pronoun settings for games where you choose or customize your own character.
BUT DARK SOULS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD.
lol, that aside, anything to do with flashing lights needs to be either disabled or toned down. The last two bosses in Elden Ring are blinding to me, with all the bright yellow lightning they poop out.
Bigger controllers! Not all of us have tiny hands!
I voted for difficulty options, although always to make it harder rather than easier.
Button mapping is great as long as it can be tuned to multiple players and not just the primary player. Like whenever my buddy comes to play Smash, he has to use my button scheme and it screws him up.
Not all of those are accessibility features - stick to ones that are important or it diminishes the push for accessibility.
Button mapping is a great idea though!!!
I think all RPGs or games themselves can learn from DQ11's draconian mode, it lets you customize the difficulty of the game with a multitude of settings such as making enemies strong, getting reduced exp, no armor or shops allowed etc.
Pause and save anywhere!
The ability to adjust the text size is something that doesn't seem to be included in many games, but I feel it would make a massive difference to a lot of people.
I've come across quite a few games where the text size looks fine in handheld mode, but viewing from a distance on TV mode is difficult unless you're pretty close. I've found Resident Evil games to be especially bad for this
Game Levels difficulty settings helps non-hardcore gamers figure controls and gameplay and enjoy gameplaying. While button mapping helps those with disabilities to map buttons to enjoy the games more or those wanting to better coordinates their controls.
@FX102A and it doesn't make it much more viable to play one handed, as you've still only got half the buttons. A real commitment needs to include accessible peripherals.
Button remapping is the most important one for me
My fingers hurt from the standard 2D Mario button layout
I don't have a full on disability but I wholeheartedly hope that Nintendo continues with the Joy Con type controllers. My right elbow has little to no cartilage left and I have severe osteoarthritis at an early age which makes holding any type of normal Switch Pro/Playstation/XBox type controller extremely painful not only while playing but also for hours afterwards. Being able to place my hands in any position with detached Joy Cons allows me to keep gaming. Not sure what I'll do if this changes.
I would also like more options for audio setting customization. Toggling off sounds or music and/or adjusting the volume of each of these settings independently.
Nintendo loves to make you deal with their control configuration and assume that what they’ve whipped up for you is best. 3DS Kid Icarus, Platinum’s StarFox and Metroid Dread come to mind. Not being able to adjust the configuration is a borderline sin. Yeah, cut that out Nintendo.
@Hams96 Yep, text size adjustment would certainly be top of my list. Didn't seem to be a problem with GBA/DS games, but the increased resolution of the Switch has allowed the text to become too small. Off the top of my head FE3H suffers from this, put me right off the game. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples.
If your game options don't allow you to fully remap the controller then you shouldn't be making games.
It's just getting embarrassing how behind Japanese games are in accesibility. Heck, Nintendo often doesn't include volume controls
Being able to change the text size for me... I've definitely given up on a couple of games because the text was too tiny.
Difficult options. That one reason I don't like games like Dark Souls and will pass on Elden Ring. I understand those games are meant to be hard but ones got to wonder how many more sales they can make by having a difficulty option for more casual players.
I just wish the button remapping they added could be setup on a per-game basis and also allowed for inverting the control stick axis for games that don't properly offer those options.
Changing difficulty on the fly is a great one, and l guess, can be implemented in any game with variable difficulty.
The button mapping is essential, and by having it at system level, ensures that any game that doesn't have this can be played.
But yes, that does mean messing around with system menus when changing games. Maybe some sort of feature tying a system-level button remap to specified games?
Could colour filters be applied at system level?
Edit: oh and text size.
I’m deaf in my right ear, so SUBTITLES are always on for sure.. always been grateful for those 🤘🏻
@Hams96 text option would be number 1to 3 on my list
Text size adjustment is definitely my most needed accessibility feature. I sadly haven't managed to play Fire Emblem: Awakening due to contrast/text size. Octopath Traveller was a struggle. I'm debating whether or not playing Triangle Strategy will be worth the struggle.
I'd also like:
Various other thoughts:
I don't have issues with hearing, but I remember reading something about someone's tinnitus being triggered by, I think, Horizon Forbidden West, which made me more aware of other accessibility issues.
I think Celeste is a good example when it comes to difficulty. Those who could play it without any assistance weren't affected by the developer providing a range of difficulty features up to making the character immortal for those who needed it.
Apple's done an amazing job of providing dynamic text, contrast controls, colour filters, voiceover, etc. I know games are more difficult, but game engine developers and platform vendors could do more. Accessibility should be considered at the foundations, not added at the end when it's hard to impossible to make changes without huge and expensive changes.
It's unfortunate that accessibility is considered too expensive given a it isn't needed by almost everyone since everyone will need accessibility features eventually: the people who can currently play games will eventually be older and have worse eyes, ears, or reactions; or might injure a hand playing sport; or might have a friend or child they want to experience a game with.
There are so many things that aren't considered and reviews rarely cover these issues (which is fair enough given how diverse issues can be).
Perhaps there should be a certification for games that do well on accessibility.
Yeah I’m not surprised that no one wants #2
Isn’t the main complaint about games nowadays is that they’re too easy?
I definitely agree that not every game is for everyone and that there is a place for games like the soulsborne ones but as you said things like controller config and the like are very important, making it so everyone can physically play the game.
it does feel like the majority of the time accessibility comes up is whenever a from software game is launched though i feel like one of the most hellish eras of gaming for less physically able players was the motion controls era, with the wii, kinect psmove etc, even the switch had some games with mandatory motion controls such as some of the shrines in botw and certain actions in mario odyssey.
I feel like the switch is nintendos most accessable console in a while due to how it lets you choose how to play, i really hope the hybrid model continues going forward since i feel rather than trying to "change how people play games" it would be better to let the player themselves decide.
there are other things that are natural accessibility features such as subtitles or colour options.
Really just give players the tools needed to actually play the game and people can do amazing things, i remember reading about someone who plays street fighter at a competitive level despite not being able to use their arms thanks to a custom controller, something which would have been difficult to do with something like the wii or wiiu which were designed around specific controllers.
For me, button mapping and other control options are the only accessibility options that really matter. Nintendo is really the worst culprit when it comes to this because certain games like Super Mario Party or The World Ends With You force certain control schemes that make it virtually impossible for me to play. I beat Demon Souls on PS3 without any accessibility options so I’m not asking for a lot here.
As I'm deaf on both ears I love subtitles and I also love that on some games I have haptic feedback when I'm close to something important - for example Yoshi's Crafted World . Itll beat for the flowers , barks for the poochies - different haptic feels that are VERY close to the real thing . I wish more games included that ! I always keep the volume off bc I don't need it
The only one of these that sounds like an unambiguously good idea to me is the button mapping.
The biggest problem I have with Metroid Dread is the fact that there are no remappable buttons. This is a problem with practically every first-party Nintendo game, though. Remappable buttons should be a standard in every game.
From software could learn a thing from #1
For me, being able to remap controls off of the joystick buttons (L3/R3 for PlayStation players) is huge. Those tend to be harder for me to press with constantly tired hands and past wrist injuries, plus, putting those controls on regular buttons takes a bit of wear and tear off of the sticks.
@tgt Horizon Forbidden West actually has an option to turn off tinnitus sounds, which are triggered by certain enemy attacks. It also has fully remappable controls and a slew of other accessibility options, pages and pages of options to customize. It’s pretty cool.
@Deady Ah, thanks for the correction. Perhaps I read someone complaining about another game and praising Horizon. Good to know.
Remappable buttons and text size would always be nice. Xenoblade Chronicles X is unplayable to me no matter which tv I use or how hard I squint haha.
I am not a fan of ALL games having an easy mode. I don't think every single game should have to bend to the will of the unskilled, or those that are too busy to master it.
If all you want is story then go watch a movie.
Being bad at a video game isn't a disability, thus difficulty levels and auto-play modes are not an essential accessibility feature. Remappable buttons, colour options for dichromats and anomalous trichromats, and specialized peripherals are good ideas.
Being bad a computer games isn't a disability. Not having the fine motor skills to press buttons fast enough to defeat a baddie to progress in a game is.
Most of those things are just standardized things that are in most games anyway. I'll keep thought of that towards the end of development of my game.
LOL- thank you!
I think difficulty is given too much importance in these discussions. It can be an aesthetic choice, as long as most players have a similarly brutal experience.
(Hypothetically, since video games are an art form, you could create a game so difficult no one can ever beat it, to make a point about the ruthlessness of war or whatever, and that'd be a valid artistic choice. Maybe not a wise economic choice, but that's on you, the game designer, to decide whether or not your artistic vision is worth the low sales.)
Now, if your game is not supposed to be impossible, then, for people with disabilities for whom picking up a controller is already a challenge, you might need to add accessibility options to level the playing field. That might mean granular toggles and sliders for specific gameplay elements (like in Pathologic 2 and System Shock). Or it might mean embedding difficulty options (or paths) into the game world itself (like in Star Fox 64). You can also have an Assist Mode (like Celeste). But whatever you do, I think clear labelling is important, so that the canon experience is obvious to everyone.
(Labelling is also important so your accessibility options are easy to find. My personal experience, as someone who's hearing-impaired: Final Fantasy 7 Remake has an extra layer of subtitles for random NPC chatter on the street. This allowed me to pick up on a massive amount of world-building that I'd otherwise have ignored as barely-audible background noise. However, on the menu, it shows up as "Chat Log" and, on my PC version, was off by default. Needless to say, I spent about 10 hours assuming the game didn't have subtitles for NPC chatter, because "Chat Log" wasn't a clear description of that option.)
But I don't think Easy Mode is always the answer. Because the problem is that easy games aren't necessarily accessible. I'm not sure Mario Odyssey is any more accessible than Elden Ring. It might even be less accessible, because at least in Elden Ring you can grind, use magic, or summon help. But since Odyssey isn't "hard," it doesn't come up as much in discussions. (It's mentioned here, but in passing and only to talk about tell-tale shadows under the character.)
there are other aspects related to motor skills which are outside of the system level aspects such as changing the controller inputs for certain actions such as the option to replace button mashing actions with holding down a button, or other aspects which change how a player interacts with the game.
there are things like adaptive controllers which are definitely a big step forward in terms of accessibility and the switch does have at least one of those (the horii one iirc) i feel like this is why having a "standard" control scheme as the base one is good since it allows for the experience to be very customisable, plus there is still a place for creative peripheral based gameplay as long as the systems "base" controller isnt effected, for example having games like ring fit is great, but if the ring fit controller ended up being the base switch controller then it would run into similar problems the wii and wiiu did.
@Hams96 totally agree, there are top class games i literally refuse to play because of subtitles being too small. Console games are being played from your sofa, not by sitting behind a desk with a monitor right in front of you.
Dread's lack of remappable controls is wild when you consider Super was already giving us that option almost 30 years ago. (And thank Samus for that, because I never use the standard configuration.)
As mentioned i feel like the motion control aspect of odyssey adds its own layer of issues when it comes to accessibility, though i havent played elden ring so i dont know if that has its own issues regarding controls (i assume you can remap them)
I think I heard that snk compilation had it, but an option in the menu or a button where the game plays itself and u jump back in where you want. A friend of mine loves Zelda games but just cannot do bosses whatsoever and gives up at them. I think it would add more to the experience than take away xxxx and bigger subtitles too! Xxx
A pause function would be a nice standard. Oh wait, it already is, minus like one specific franchise that for some reason thinks it's doing some revolutionary thing by excluding it.
I'm colorblind, so I really appreciate Nintendo adding shapes to most of the color coded puzzles nowadays.
My thumb gave out last year, I can't play with it anymore. So now I need to use my palm, and I need to play in bursts.
So pro controller and more save options are great too!
@Yorumi apologies for the ambiguity in the article. Character customisation can be an accessibility feature for some disabilities. For example in Ys Monstrum Nox the main character is red, and while red is great against some of the gray and dark backgrounds unfortunately it is not so great against the green areas. I have red green colourblindness and can’t actually see the characters location in some areas due to the background. Being able to change the colour of the character to a different one that works in both types of areas makes a big difference. I’m sure other types of colourblindness may have different colour preferences and difficulties. The ability to choose a suitable colour here is how it can be framed an accessibility feature while not being created solely for the purpose of aiding accessibility for disabled gamers. That’s what I meant by the difference between active accessibility features that are created for the purpose of aiding disabled gamers and passive accessibility features which are those features that already exist in games that also aid disabled gamers. I hope this clears up the ambiguity for everyone.
With elden ring being toted as one of the best games ever made accessibility doesn't seem that important
I don't belive the difficulity setting needs to be changeable in all games, not every game 'need' to be for everyone. Some games are hard, some are easy. At worst, maybe add the kinda save function Virtual Console games have maybe.
Out of these, the only one I personaly use as a accessibility thing would be button mapping.
I do custmize characters, but that has nothing to with making the game more playable, its more for fun for me.
I want more games with in-game achievements option! For example, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition have in-game achievements.
Yeah when it comes to accessibility Sony’s first parties are the cream of the crop.
I still say that The Last of Us Part II has the most diverse set of accessibility options of any game ever made. I didn’t use any of them but it was impressive going through the list.
Yeah, that's partly what I had in mind, too.
I have no idea how button re-mapping isn't like a thing that is in all games by now? Its so odd, I would just like to change to controls to fit my taste, or maybe some part of my controller is broken.
And no, I don't think every game needs a difficulity setting, i'm sorry, but it just doesn't.
If a dev adds it thats cool, but some games want players to overcome things, some games want players to master parts of a game.
Crash does this, cuphead does this, all the fromsoftware games do this, and the reason why there is to option to turn it down? its because they don't want to, and I get it, there is hard, and then there's unfair, but none of these game I listed (Unless you count crash 4) Is unfair in a sense, they ask you to improve by learning what the boss can do.
And from the interview I read about Elden ring, they want players to learn, and they want players to overcome the hardship.
But all thats just my opinion. (BTW if your having a hard time in elden ring you can summon a player for help)
@Yorumi Thank you, this is well written and seems to understand how it works, I didn't understand the coding part to much, but what you said about game not being for everyone, spot on.
I don’t think they are.
I think people have rose colored glasses in regards to the difficulty of classic games from the 80s and early 90s.
Yes some of them (such as Conta or Battletoads) were truly difficult games, but for most of them it wasn’t a natural difficulty like we have now. It was artificial difficulty caused by limited continues and limited pools of lives. A relic of their arcade roots.
Sonic 2 isn’t the most challenging game in the world by any means. But it’s difficulty balancing was twenty levels of wrong. Limited continues and no save system made that game arbitrarily harder because 90% of your deaths were caused by stuff you could not see or predict. Losing all of your lives and then forcing you to restart the game from the beginning wasn’t good difficulty balancing; it was the game punishing you for not being able to memorize all the bull crap deaths (like off screen crush blocks) on your first time through the level.
Celeste on its “meant to be played” difficulty is a MILLION times harder than Sonic 2. The later half is brutally difficult to maneuver through. Yet it is less frustrating and has far better difficulty management thanks to unlimited lives and continues.
Modern games are still challenging. I just played through Horizon Forbidden West on Hard. It’s a challenging game at that difficulty level (I’ll admit that it’s far too lenient on normal) and on Very Hard (which I’ve fooled around with) it’s old school Nintendo Hard. On Very Hard even with the best equipment in the game (like I have) you get constantly one shotted by the more powerful enemies you face, like Apex Thunderjaws or the Apex Spinosaurus Plasma robots. On hard, almost every enemy has one attack that will one shot you that they use as part of their toolkit.
Returnal is an even better example. That’s a truly difficult game but the key point of my post is that it is a FAIR challenge. When you die and have to restart, it’s your fault. Not the game’s. Returnal gives you every tool you need to survive on every run. It’s up to you, the player, to use those tools.
I think difficulty should be separated from accessibility. They are two very separate things.
Just because a game is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t accessible.
Difficulty and accessibility are completely different things. Having an easy mode doesn't make the game more accessible to anyone, it just makes things less demanding to master/complete. You can have extremely difficult one-button or two-button games that can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone at any age range, regardless of physical or mental limitations. Older NES games are great examples. Getting frustrated because you can't reach the credits screen has nothing to do with a game having accessibility options or not.
I don’t think most NES games are good examples. Most of the difficulty was arbitrary, caused by limited continues and limited lives. The games punished you for having to learn how to progress.
The Genesis and SNES library did a much better job balancing difficulty. They mostly did away with limited continues (with a few exemptions, looking at you Sonic 2) and gave you a lot of lives to work with. So even if some of them were frustrating, they didn’t punish you for trying to learn how to beat a level.
Returnal is the same way. I’ve heard people badmouth it’s difficulty, but they don’t take time to consider that the game gives you the basic tools needed to survive each run. What it asks of the player is to find ways to use those tools.
Yeah, there was definitely a conceptual shift in the 80s and 90s, as developers came to grips with how and why console games were different from arcade games. Stuff that's valid in an arcade setting is awkward in a domestic context. I think some of Nintendo's own games for the NES were partly responsible for this shift: Zelda lets you save, Mario has warps, Metroid has passwords, Kirby automatically saves after every level, etc.
TEXT SIZE is several games has bee a real issue for me.
Never had this problem with 3DS because the games were designed for a portable.... most Switch games are designed for huge tv screen.
The Zoom function sucks and I think all games should have had mandatory text size options.
As a dyslexic person voice acting really helps me with long, story driven games. I love RPGs but really struggle if the are text heavy. I know smaller companies may not be able to afford voice acting. I just really appricate it when it's there.
I agree, Nintendo theirselves made huge advances on difficulty balancing during that era.
Capcom also did some major heavy lifting. Megaman 2 a good example of difficulty balancing done correctly for a console setting. It’s brutally difficulty in every way imaginable, but it gives you unlimited continues. You don’t have to replay the entire game for dying to one invisible block set piece 5 times in a row as you try to learn the pattern.
While not all books appeal to all readers due to content, complexity, or philosophical bent (say), they are accessible.
You can get large print, braille, audio books, and also translated from one language into another.
The only reason these are not carried out for all books is cost.
@marktornits Which are you claiming aren't accessibility features?
@Realness You can change any controls at any time at a system level and save a preset for it on the Switch and change it for whatever game suits you best, so you can adjust it.
System level rebinds are a fudge. Sometimes you want different control options for different games and having to swap them over in the menu is a hassle.
The article is right: every game should have key rebinds on the same level as, say Fortnite. A control layout that works on one console doesn’t work on another. A good example of this is Final Fantasy XV which has important controls on R1 on the PS4 and this is an easy key to hit but an absolute pain in the ass on the Xbox One.
I've got tinnitus in my left ear and stereo sound can trigger it to be more noticeable. An integral mono mix for the audio would be great (using a hardwired mono mix usually causes the dialogue to be overly loud and instruments disappearing due to phase)
I’ve been button mapping since the SNES.
I have Hard attacks on Y and B in Street Fighter games instead of L and R.
And for Mega Man X, I assign dash to R so I can dash, jump and shoot at the same time. Dash being on A makes it very awkward to press Y, B and A simultaneously.
All games should have font select and font size select. Sometimes text is way too tiny in some games.
@CharlieGirl TEXT SIZE! This is far and away my #1 that almost no game has.
@UltimateOtaku91 They don't have too. They create the game the way they want too and the Souls-series of games still sell well regardless.
It's just that western gaming journalists have an unhealthy obsession with telling gaming publishers and developers what too do and to lower their game's difficulty, even if the game already has an option for that.
Whatever the case, sometimes this obsession with difficulty leads developers towards making easy games by default or not having a difficulty mode for an easy game, or even making the game's difficulty unbalanced even on harder modes.
Either way, I'm glad Fromsoftware makes somewhat difficult games though there needs to be a fine line between making a game difficult but fair and making a game that's just unreasonably tough like some old-school arcade games.
And also, as great as the Souls games are, it would be nice if so many indie game developers stopped copying the formula of those games just because they're popular. It really stifles the creativity of the industry if everyone just makes the same Dark Souls clone but with minor tweaks to the gameplay. I'm getting annoyed of seeing those gloomy 2D style games pop up on the Eshop.
@TheRedComet Yes! I don’t know what people don’t get tbh.
If a game has a brightness setting, I'll generally turn it up as high as I can without ruining the image, because I can't see well in the dark. Also, I don't really like the way the title's written. I have poor fine motor coordination, which doesn't get in the way most of the time, but I can't aim well in shooters, pull off tilt moves in smash, or do anything else that requires precise mouse/joystick movement. Sensitivity settings, gyro aiming, and button mapping options all help with that, but I still rarely do more than break even in competitive games even if I put hundreds of hours into them. That being said, I don't expect games not to require precision just because I'm not capable of it. If a developer goes out of their way to make a game playable by as many people as possible, that's something to be applauded, but they shouldn't be expected to shoehorn in features that clash with their original vision or invest time/money they might not have trying to accommodate for everyone.
Yes - I was thinking of this with computer chess. Obviously you have variable difficulty levels with a computer chess application, but a reasonable adjustment here could be an extended time to take your turn. The difficulty level could still be (incredibly) high, but if the player needs more time than average to take their turn, then they can.
One accessibility feature I make extensive use of it subtitles. It's not that I can't hear the voices, it's that I often times have trouble processing some of the sounds fast enough. Easier for me to read.
I don't agree with the first two at all. Hard mode should be "once you are in you are IN." No going easy mode chump.
And for #2? Every game has it's nuances - don't like the function of a particular game's platforming don't play it.
Easy mode switching isn't a necessity.
Currently developing 3 retro-style games for Switch with my business partner (one major longterm project for physical and 2 simpler ones in an arcade/score attack style to release sooner to sustain the bigger one).
As an old fashioned hardcore retro gamer I was very stuck in how games should be to feel authentic to the 8/16bit and golden age arcade style. However, we have a friend who is colourblind, and there's a major colour matching component in one of them - this lead to us using optional visual overlay prompts so he could play the game. Another friend is registered blind but can see high contrast images for short periods of time and enjoys certain retro games that he can see, but can't play modern games because the colours blend into one another - this lead to us adding options for high contrast modes, outlines to major elements, options to remove decorative background details.
These kind of things lead me down a route of making things as accessible as possible, and thinking of exactly who might be playing our games, and how to make it fun for all, whilst still satifying experienced, hardcore gamers, without any special accesibility requirements.
Previously I'd generally been against changeable difficulty settings during gameplay and assists like rewinding, skipping sections etc, as this could render high score tables pointless, and the old part of me is "well I learned by practiscing and getting good". However, my partner remarked to me that surely we want as many people as possible to enjoy the games, for them to be fun and welcoming for newcomers (especially when there are so many more options for entertainment nowadays) and also the fact that not everybody, for whatever reason, is even physically or mentally able to "git gud" but we still want them to be able to play and have fun. This completely changed my way of thinking, and now, I'm totally for those kinds of options. My compromise on the highscore stuff? Have a separate table for each difficulty setting, and your score doesn't count if you change partway through or use assists. Not everyone cares about highscores, they should be allowed to play and have fun their own way. And for the super hardcore who want a real challenge? Set an achievement/reward for people who complete the game with no assists. Simple.
Remapping controls is a no brainer, obviously. As someone who owns a tonne of different controllers, the fact so many games still don't let you do that drives me insane. And by adding that, you make things open to controllers for differently abled people etc as well? Thats awesome.
(p2) Subtitles for dialogue (even when there are voice clips) is also something I included by standard - not everyone plays with the sound on, and as a fast reader its also good to be able to skip through it if you want. Of course, it also means that hearing impaired people can play, and makes it easier to prvide translation options for different languages. But as a further accessibility feature, making the subtitles (and menu text) be able to be increased in size, changed in colour/contrast, and for important stuff, pause for a button press rather than automatically continuing when the audio finishes playing, are all things we've added.
I saw a couple of people mention inclusivity. For games where you can choose your own player, and for all games with multiple NPCs, we have 5 skin tone levels based on the 5 standardised by the emoji updates, the thought being that those were designed to be used worldwide and were obviously designed with a lot of time and research by those smarter than us to be a simple way to still represent all people with a simplified cartoon style and colour pallette. Obviously genders, body types, pro-nouns etc where relevant are selectable, and not locked to specific combinations. I don't feel that any of that is a "political" stance, just making sure that the games represent society as it exists IRL. That shouldn't be controversial, it just makes sense.
(p3) Our main game has a mascot (the little girl in my avatar, Hazel) and it doesn't make sense to have her be customisable with different skin/body types from the start because we're creating a specific character, animated cut scenes, physical merch etc. But all NPCs in the game are fully representative, as above, and one of the post game rewards is that you can create your own character and play the game through again / explore the game world as them, and in all multiplayer modes, minigames when played separately etc you can use custom characters too.
Its also a 2d side scroller, with what I feel are fairly standard controls for jumping (variable height), running (variable speed), charge attacks, wall jumps, double jumps etc. If you're experienced with 2d platformers, especially if you grew up with them, its second nature. But then my partner, who is younger than me and who's first console was a PS2, and is an absolute beast at certain modern games, streaming them on Twitch, had no little to no experience at all, and suddenly what I thought was "obvious" was actually something learned slowly over time. I'm extremely proud of our main game - frankly I can't imagine it getting anything but rave reviews, as a gamer for well over 30 years its like the ultimate 16bit 2d title to my tastes. However, if it gets any complaints, I can imagine that experienced gamers may dislike the opening section tutorial explaining things like tapping to do a little jump or holding to do a higher one - some gamers may find that pointless or insulting, or a "slow start", but thats the experienced player speaking. The tutorial stuff is completely skippable, so hopefully it won't annoy too much. Its important for me to keep in mind that there is a chance that for some people, this may be the first game of this style they've ever played. We can't assume that people who grew up with Minecraft and COD have played 2D Mario, let alone something more complex controlwise. Lets make it fun for them, whilst also making it challenging and fun for experienced players too. Optional tutorials, assists, and difficulty levels allow that - and also allow you to add REALLY tough difficulty levels, one hits, permadeath etc for the absolute hardcore. No reason why you can't have both (and more balanced options inbetween), and hopefully please everyone
I've actually saved this page as a bookmark, I think it will be useful to come back to and read all the comments and get more sugegstions and ideas. This has recently gone from being a topic that I kinda dismissed as a minor afterthought ("I'll design the game that I want!"), to one that is really interesting and actually pretty darn important. I love gaming. Why shouldn't I want as many people as possible to enjoy the games I make? Most of this stuff is very minor to implement from a programming standpoint and has little to no memory/performacen hit. I hope these kinds of things are considered by more games in the future and I applaud articles like this for raising awareness / validating the efforts of teams that do so.
No gamer left behind! Accessibility for all!
@braincandy101 You can assign individual control schemes to different names in Smash.
I was thinking if you have a cognitive impairment
For example, if you have dyslexia, you get extra time in an exam, rather than a paper that has easier questions.
@Lyricana thanks for the reply!
Games with no button remapping are evil.. especially games where jump is not the b button.
the run button should always be R, because that way you can move the camera whith your thumb while you are moving!
Option for the Difficulty mode Paid $
Breath of the Wild
Age of calamity
Difficulty is totally an accessibility thing. When difficulty comes in the form of physical skill, there are some people who are just physically incapable of doing it no matter how hard they try, and will still find the game challenging even on an easier setting.
Celeste did this perfectly: the easy mode settings are behind an “accessibility” menu and when you go there it says “Celeste is intended to be difficult.”
Nobody is going to be confused and think those settings are the intended way for an abled player to play.
From can do this too.
@itslukec I recently bought a much bigger TV and now that I’m replaying XCX being able to read the text makes it quite a different experience.
But even with a 55” TV the text is still very small. How did this make ever get released in 2015 when the average TV was significantly smaller?
Most of these are common sense, but there is a significant problem with this:
"One of the simplest accessibility features that can be employed to assist disabled gamers with all manner of impairments is an adjustable difficulty level."
Nothing about balancing multiple difficulty settings is easy, nor is it necessarily easy for a new player to know which one is best for them, nor is it straightforward to adjust if you find a game is too easy but you've played a lot of it already. The idea it is easy to implement and purely beneficial is a false assumption, and sometimes a game's artistic vision is only achieved when players are intended to die a lot (Hades is a good example).
Difficulty level discourse is not cut and dried or as simple as you make it out to be. The reality here is likely to make the choice regarding difficulty settings obvious to the customer before purchasing, NOT to make literally everything accessible to literally everyone. The latter is much harder, and will often result in worse products for many.
A Performance & Quality Mode would be very welcoming.
I don't think difficulty options for games should be mandatory.
Just like horror films are not for the faint of hard, difficult games are not for those who cannot overcome their challenge.
I have no sense of rythm so most rythm games are far beyond my grasp, even on easy a hatsune miku game kicks my ass.
And I am fine with that, people should shake the idea that every game needs to be for everyone sometimes a game is just too hard or time consuming etc. then just don't play it.
It's just like people, you can try to get everyone to like you but that will never happen and that's ok.
and if a developer, who ofcourse is free to put in their game whatever they like, decides to put one in it should be so that it does not take away from the intended game design philosophy.
A game that comes up a lot in this is Dark Souls a game that can be incredibly unforgiving but is not exactly hard just has a steep learning curve but it will lose it's meaning if you can just faceroll your way trough the game.
Besides, DS games start on their easiest difficulty because it can only go up from there.
@riki_sidekicks Can, but are in no way obligated or owe anyone to do it.
I like Building sims in their concept but I have no concept of finance so none of these games are 'accesible' to me so I just play them casually till I hit my bottle neck or avoid them.
It's not hard to just admit defeat and look for some other game to play there is plenty to do after 3 decades worth of development.
@okeribok This! I love games that don't use saving as a gameplay mechanic. If I cannot save freely, I'm much more likely to abandon a game…
Examples of games/series with near perfect saving options: Pokémon, Ace Attorney, Zelda: BotW, Uncharted, anything with frequent auto-saving
Stinkers: New Super Mario Bros., Shin Megami Tensei V, older Dragon Quest games, Persona 5
That this list doesn't feature anything pertaining to hearing loss or deafness is disappointing. Fortnite, for example, has on-screen sound indicators, something that other shooters should adopt.
Subtitles should be mandatory in all games, with toggle-able options of course.
Furthermore, any captioning should include sound effects and music cues.
Only one of these that matters in the slightest is remap controls. ALL the others are a waste of time for the developers. Especially character customization which is VERY dependent on the game itself. Some games want to tell a story about a main character, it's not all about you.
Anything that follows an "every game should have" statement is objectively an impossibility and potentially a bad hot take. Not every game has to be for everyone, obviously.
Maybe before giving advice to game developers, you should first improve your own articles to not be so absolute. It is a lot easier than implementing any of these features, believe me.
I voted for color options. Being colorblind, turning on colorblind modes in online games helps me distinguish teammates and enemies because their names will be in two different colors I can tell apart.
I like playing on easier difficulties as a personal preference. Sometimes, you just want to relax when you enjoy a game. If I feel up to it, I may crank it up to normal.
Love this, and love that it's becoming more and more of a talking point.
While I don't doubt some of these options aren't easy and could cost a decent amount to implement, I think it should become more standard in the extremely popular and profitable franchises. This way it'll get out to many many people quicker — and in theory they can afford it. I'm thinking Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon as easy targets on Nintendo systems. And once it's been done, they have a strong base to tweak in the future as opposed to having to build an entire accessibility package for the next game.
I don't know the slightest about coding, so I'm sorry if it doesn't work quite like that.
But especially for these large franchises, I'd like to see more options included in every game. It's only going to help then sell more anyways.
I'm pretty sure providing left-handed controls and simply mirroring the whole game of Skyward Sword HD isn't very difficult. I found that exclusion to simply be inexcusable.
@ModdedInkling Right, you don't know absolutely anything about game development but you are just assuming it isn't difficult and therefore is inexcusable that this very specific thing wasn't included. What a baffling thing to say, honestly. Blows my mind.
I wish monster hunter was easier, especially when not online, when it can't be considered cheating. I wish Celeste allowed me to skip the bits I find impossible. These games are supposed to be hard I know, but I want to play them and can't.
Twilight Princess on the Wii, Ocarina of Time 3D Master Quest, Twilight Princess HD Hero Mode. All they did was mirror the assets and textures. They've done it before, so there shouldn't be any difficulty doing it again.
They also have experience with left-handed controls.
These all seem reasonable. Accessibility should also include younger players. A few things I’d like to see are some type of screen reader for all those games with only text and the young kids can’t read. Also a profanity filter would be great, just **** and mute that tiny section. It would be great when the kids are around while playing.
Our youngest ( 3) has CVI ( cortical vision impairment) and a combination of hyper and hypotonia which causes motor control issues.
He watches his older brother play games and I can tell he wants to play, but most games are out of his reach as far as we can tell. He can play simple I pad games.
We do worry when he’s older, how he can play games on switch or onex, especially with the hostile attitude some gamers have with expanding accessibility options.
Really need to be more text to speech options too.
@ModdedInkling Just because they've done it before doesn't mean it's a trivial process and that it should be there out of the box by default for every game. Also, you realize double the assets means double the storage needed for them, right? If it's even done that way, because it might not be.
The ability to pause the game, especially if it's a single player game. I just don't understand why it's impossible to pause Elden Ring. That said, I haven't bought or played the game. But it baffles me. It's not like it's an MMORPG or an online shooter. It's a single player open world adventure, why isn't it possible to pause the game?
But I'm talking exclusively in the case of Skyward Sword, a game that is built around motion controls.
Twice the assets may mean twice the storage used for said assets, but that doesn't necessarily make such a huge impact on the overall file size. 7.5gb may already be a lot, though it wasn't that big of a jump looking back to the Wii version that used up 4.25gb.
@ModdedInkling My point is simply that it isn't as trivial as you think. It would be nice, but not a given, by any means. It's one thing to ship a game with a flipped world and another to support both.
@Xiovanni They work for this person.
So many games rely on musical cues that often kick in even before enemies make a sound or come into view. This part of the experience heightens the tension and when creators don't account for the needs of their fans, they are diminishing the potential enjoyment of their own product.
Controller Re-mapping should be in literally every game ever. What if I want to use ZL to jump in a game that isn't Balan Wonderworld?
@ThePirateCaptain Super Mario Party had a garbage control scheme, but TWEWY’s controls were meant to represent the struggle of connecting with someone. And that game also had the option of making the partner character automated.
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