Around this time last year, I made a seriesof videos called Designing for Disability, where I looked at the options and design decisionsthat developers could employ, to make their games more accessible to players living withdisabilities.
So I looked at colourblind palettes, audiovisualisers, customisable controls, and optional assist modes.
It was fascinating to see the ways that gamescould be tweaked to be more approachable – but also sad to see when games dropped the balland shut certain players out.
But now, 12 months on, I thought it was agood time to check back in and see how the industry was doing.
So, over the last few weeks, I played 50 ofthe most noteworthy games that were released in 2019 – from massive new blockbusters likeDeath Stranding and Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, to indie titles like Overland and UntitledGoose Game.
I wanted to see where they succeeded, andwhere they struggled in terms of accessibility.
And this is what I found out.
Part 1 – Auditory The first huge game of 2019 was Capcom’sterrifying remake of Resident Evil 2 – which spooked a whole new generation of players, with the aid of this bulky bloke in a Brony’s hat: Mr.
You’ll spend the majority of the game onthe run from this unstoppable, unkillable nightmare – only able to predict his positionby listening out for his clonking great footsteps.
Unless, of course, you’re deaf or hard ofhearing.
That’s because Resident Evil 2 offers novisual reinforcement of Mr.
X’s footsteps, making him near impossible to track for thoseliving with some auditory disabilities.
com dubbed the game “virtuallyunplayable very early on for deaf/hoh players, ” and a “complete failure in accessibility”.
Other games this year went some way to helpconvey sound effects to those who can’t hear them.
Far Cry: New Dawn offers sound subtitles forthings like gunfire and explosions, with little arrows that point to the sound’s source.
And in Gears 5, that iconic musical sting thatsymbolises that all enemies are dead, is subtitled as “music settles”.
Plus, in that game, enemy bullet trails are- by default – shown as clearly visible yellow lines to help you see where shots are comingfrom.
Another game worth mentioning is Apex Legends, and its clever ping system.
This lets you highlight areas, enemies, andobjects to team mates through both a subtitled voice line and a visual indicator – allowingplayers to communicate important info in a multiplayer game, but without audio.
Of course, a really important feature fordeaf and hard of hearing players is subtitles for spoken dialogue.
And this year saw some really good exampleswith nice big fonts, speaker names, and high contrast backgrounds.
Remedy’s mind-melting shooter Control hasvery readable subtitles.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order offers massivegreat subtitles if you want them.
And Metro Exodus also employs black backgroundsand speaker names.
Most of these let you customise the subtitlesyourself, through a menu of different options.
Also this year, Ubisoft experimented withhaving subtitles on by default.
And discovered that, in Far Cry New Dawn, a whoppinggreat 97% of players kept them on.
Other games offer subtitles as an option beforethe game even begins.
It’s also of note that every game I playedthis year actually has subtitles.
Which shouldn’t be noteworthy, but at thetail end of 2018, Activision released the Spyro Reignited Trilogy without any subtitlesat all in its major cutscenes.
Thankfully, they were added in a patch thisyear.
But still, there’s plenty of examples ofless-than-ideal subtitles.
Many games fail to include the speaker’sname through labels or colour coding.
Games like Borderlands 3 and Rage 2 put waytoo much text on one line, forcing you to scan across the entire screen to read thesubtitles.
Some games mismatch the text and audio, likein Planet Zoo where the actor says “Trade Center”, but the subtitle says “AnimalStorage”.
Games still fail to include subtitles forevery part of the game.
In FIFA 20, the commentators aren’t subtitled, this opening cutscene in RAGE 2 has no subtitles, and Breakpoint doesn’t transcribe certainenemy barks, which lets them get the drop on you.
Also, some games still use on-brand fontsinstead of plain, sans serif text.
And while games like Devil May Cry 5 and Sekiroaren’t bad, Blasphemous’s pixelated gothic font is, well, blasphemous.
And finally, there’s the all-too-familar, too-small subtitles.
Crackdown 3 has teeny tiny text to read whilepunching up bad guys, and The Surge 2 has microscopic subtitles.
But subtitles aren’t the only place whereyou’ll find small text.
Which brings us onto part two.
Part 2 – Visual Text size is the area where games most frequentlyfail, in terms of accessibility.
Not just in subtitles, but across user interfaces, in collectible documents, and on your heads-up display.
So The Outer Worlds continues to be a squint‘em up, thanks to minute words all across its user interface.
The text in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is smallon your TV, but minuscule on your Switch.
And Death Stranding tries to look cool withits sleek UI, but it’s a struggle to parse at a distance.
The worst perp of 2019, though, is the tacticalBaba Yaga simulator John Wick Hex, which writes some critical information in text that’sonly 12 points big.
Luckily, other games use a far more readablefont size.
In Outer Wilds, the rumours on the computerare nice and legible from most distances – and it’s the same with the user interface inKingdom Hearts III, and the translation screens in Heaven’s Vault.
Other games offer the option to choose yourown text size: such as the existential detective drama Disco Elysium, and the gothic horroradventure Sunless Skies.
Planet Zoo, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and Borderlands3 let you scale the entire user interface, making both text and icons easier to see.
And this isn’t just important for accessibility- because as we move into a future where the same game can be steamed to your big TV oryour tiny phone screen, scaleable user interfaces are going to have to become the norm.
Another area where some games have shined, is in offering players the option to switch out special fonts for plain, easy-to-readtext: Untitled Goose Game lets you change its cursive to-do list to a more basic font.
And Overland is one of the only gamesthis year to offer a font choice that’s designed to aid those with dyslexia.
A number of games this year also use built-inscreen reader tech, to have the game speak its text to you.
Here’s how Eagle Island sounds when clickingthrough the menu SCREEN READER: “Controls.
Use right stick.
” And Apex Legends can turn text chat messagesinto voice, and voice chat messages into text, so you won’t miss people talking about yourlow level profile SCREEN READER: “TADEthePRO says 'Level 2' 'omg' 'why'.
” And finally, more games are giving playersthe chance to read text at their own speed.
Bloodstained won’t go to the next line untilyou press a button, and Tangle Tower lets you pause the dialogue at any moment.
Time’s always ticking by in the clockworkspace sim Outer Wilds, but you can have the game pause while reading text.
And Kingdom Hearts III lets you slow downtime when clicking through menus.
Another key area for visual accessibilityis colourblindness.
And this year saw some great approaches tothe problem.
The Color Dungeon in The Legend of Zelda:Link’s Awakening DX wasn’t much fun for those with Deuteranopia – but this year's Switch remakeadds things like distinct shapes on the enemies and unique cracks in the floor tiles, to helpdistinguish between the different colours.
Far Cry New Dawn has another simple colourblindmode, which makes key on-screen elements become pink and yellow.
Total War: Three Kingdoms lets you switchthe colour scheme of the game’s different factions.
And Resident Evil 2 lets you pick the laserdot colour of your weapons, to help it stand out from the background.
Apex Legends has one of the better features, with three distinct palettes, and a preview of what those new colours will look like rightthere on the menu.
And The Outer Worlds doesn’t confer informationsolely through colour by design, because one of the company’s directors is colourblind.
Some games, though, are still using thesefull-screen filters, which often don’t work as intended and only really have the affectof making the game look ugly and gross.
The full screen Protanopia filter in ModernWarfare, for example, doesn’t stop red enemy names from blending into the background atkey moments.
Thankfully, the Call of Duty series has longsince switched from red and green teams, to red and blue ones.
And some games do still use colour as theexclusive way to convey information.
In Death Stranding, the labels on your packagesgo from yellow to red to indicate how beaten up they are – plus some tiny scuffs and scratches.
Those labels are practically identical tothose with certain types of colourblindness.
Thanks to Twitter user RazorBeamz for pointingthat one out.
Providing more visual clarity is a good wayto alleviate the problems of colourblindness – and help with other visual disabilities.
In Eagle Island, you can dim the backgroundto make the foreground layer easier to see – plus, you can put outlines around enemiesand objects to help them pop out.
In FIFA 20, you can boost the size of theplayer indicators.
And in Ghost Recon Breakpoint, you can notonly boost the size of the user interface – but you can put shadows behind indicatorsand markers to ensure they stand out from the background.
Part 3 – Motor One of the most requested features, when itcomes to accessibility, is the option to remap a game’s controls.
This lets players with motor disabilitiesput all of the key functions in easy-to-reach places, or avoid using difficult inputs liketouchpads or the buttons under the analogue sticks.
Unfortunately, some games still don’t offerany controller options whatsoever, including the Zelda remake, the avant-garde PostmanPat episode Death Stranding, and the zombie biker game Days Gone.
Other games make do with presets.
Crackdown 3, The Outer Worlds, Resident Evil2, and Wolfenstein Youngblood just have you pick between a few developer-made layouts.
Not bad, but not good enough.
But I’m really pleased to see just how manygames this year let you pick your own button placement.
The Surge 2, Team Sonic Racing, and Sekiro:Shadows Die Twice have full remapping.
And Devil May Cry 5 shows how it’s importantto provide this on a game level, rather than relying on the system-level remapping, byletting you independently wire up the inputs for the game’s three distinct characters, Nero, Dante, and V.
Apex Legends and Borderlands 3 go a step further, and don’t just let you pick your own buttons, but give you really in-depth control overthings like camera sensitivity and dead zone options.
Plus, there are aim assist and aim snap optionsto help you pick out targets.
Also of note is Overland, where the entiregame can be played with just a mouse.
Or just a controller.
Or just a keyboard.
Those are really strong options that shouldopen the game up to a wide range of players.
This year’s MVP, though, is Gears 5.
Between controller remapping, the abilityto make the camera follow behind your character, and the option to use the left stick for aimingwhen your gun is raised, you can basically play the game with one hand.
Tricky, but possible, thanks to a wide rangeof accessibility options.
Pokémon Sword and Shield is notable, too, for its casual control scheme that maps all important buttons onto one Switch joy-con, making it possible to play the game with just one hand.
This thoughtful option is especially welcomeafter the disastrously inaccessible Pokémon Let’s Go, which forced players to use cumbersomewaggle gestures to throw Pokeballs.
Toggles are key, too – as seen in Crackdown3’s lock-on mode.
In Borderlands 3’s aim, sprint, and crouchoptions.
And in Yoshi’s Crafted World, where hastyand patient egg throwing is basically just about toggling or holding the aim button.
These stop players from needing to hold abutton down for great periods of time, which can be impossible with some motor disabilities.
Unfortunately not every game got the memo:you need to hold down the lock-on button in DMC 5, and Team Sonic Racing should have just nickedMario Kart 8’s generous auto-drive option.
Most games also let you turn off these button-bashyquick time events these days, but there’s sadly no such option in Jedi: Fallen Order.
Part 4 – Difficulty Finally, let’s take a moment to talk aboutdifficulty settings in games.
Offering more lenient challenge levels cangive players with disabilities more time to deal with threats – but also allows playerswith all sorts of skill levels to get into games.
This year we saw lots of games with plentyof difficulty options to pick from, and the language used on these options is much better.
Instead of patronising players who chooseto play on easy, this year’s games talk about wanting to feel like a badass – or justfocus on the storyline.
The exact nature of these difficulty modesis often described to the player – Astral Chain’s Unchained mode will do the hardcombos for you, but won’t give you a letter ranking.
And Resident Evil 2’s assisted difficultymode replenishes your health.
Some developers note which difficulty levelis intended by the designers, which is great.
Super Mario Maker 2 continues Nintendo’scampaign for assist modes, with the option to bring up a palette of blocks and itemsthat you can place inside levels to help you out.
And Yoshi’s Mallow mode gives you infiniteflight to breeze through stages, which is perfect for really young players.
And also on Switch, there’s the rhythm actionroguelike Cadence of Hyrule which typically expects players to move to the beat of themusic.
I don’t know if having no sense of rhythmcounts as a disability, but I personally really appreciated the game’s fixed beat mode, which lets you move without conforming to the beat of the song.
But then there’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Yeah, you saw it coming.
I don’t want to replay the conversationthat the internet had back at the game’s launch because there’s more than enough articles, videos, and tweetstorms out there about easy modes and whatnot.
But it is worth noting that From Software’slatest game is actually less accessible than the notoriously tough Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
And that’s because it takes out key featureslike the ability to level up your character, or invite a friend into your game to helpout with bosses.
Sekiro does offer some accessibility options, like full controller remapping and toggles, but there’s nothing to make the game lessgruelling.
And I think that makes Sekiro stand out ina year where developers have typically tried to make their games as approachable and accessibleas possible – and often through completely optional tweaks and modes that don’t affectthe experience for the able-bodied or hardcore player.
That’s not to say there aren’t missteps.
It’s clear that games still have a longway to go with accessibility, with annoying oversights like too-small text, features that don’t work if you’recolourblind, and silly stuff like how boosting both the UI and the subtitles in Borderlands3 makes the text fall off the side of the screen.
And it’s especially aggravating when a gamemakes big strides in one area, but stumbles in others – like Control with its huge subtitles, but small UI text.
Or publishers that aren’t consistent acrosstheir games – most notably Nintendo, which has great features in some games, but a completelack of options in others.
Plus: we’re seeing a number of games whereimportant accessibility options are being added to the game months after release indownloadable patches.
Better late than never, of course, but it’snot a good look when players with certain disabilities have to wait ages to play a hugeSony game like Days Gone.
But still, I’m actually really impressedby the strides we’ve seen in 2019.
Ubisoft continues to be the industry leaderin this space with amazing features across Far Cry New Dawn, The Division 2, and GhostRecon Breakpoint.
Microsoft’s doing great too: Gears 5 hasan enormous selection of options, from colourblind settings to controller remapping to buttontoggles to gore and language filters, making it one of the most feature-packed games ofthe year.
Respawn works really hard, with great optionsin both Apex Legends and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Borderlands 3 has lots of thoughtful options, which is good for a series that has struggled with this stuff in the past.
Overland and Eagle Island are jam packed withaccessibility features, despite being made by tiny indie teams.
And hardcore, ultra-challenging games likeDevil May Cry 5 and Astral Chain want everyone to join in – and so offer practice areas, assisted combos, and easy difficulty settings.
But those looking for a challenge will notstruggle to find it.
But most of all, it’s just impressive tosee how almost every major game this year includes some kind of accessibility option- or a full accessibility menu.
And how studios like Microsoft, Ubisoft, andEA are publishing info on their accessibility options online so players can make betterpurchasing decisions.
How Microsoft dedicated its 2019 Superbowlcommercial to its adaptive Xbox controller.
And how the Fortnite clan FaZe enlisted thedeaf player Ewok – who can tear up the competition thanks to the game’s clever audio visualiser.
Because games are for everyone.
It’s just that developers might need toprovide a few extra options.
Hey, thanks so much for watching! And cheers to accessibility specialist IanHamilton, once again, for his assistance and wisdom.
This was probably the most expensive videoI’ve ever made – and it’s about.
accessibility options? What is wrong with me? But this is totally possible thanks to GMTKsupporters who back me on Patreon, or buy GMTK merch from my Teespring store.
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