Video games are one of my favorite forms of entertainment, and I love that so many people get to enjoy the medium that I care deeply for. That’s why its frustrating to see games that cap their potential player base by not being more accessible. From issues with separating colors to just being too difficult, there are a lot of games that are just a few tweaks away from being enjoyed by more people.
Here are five different ways that gaming can become more accessible in 2016.
1 – Subtitle Standardization
Gaming has a big problem with subtitles. While we’ve moved past the point where notable games are lacking subtitles (although there is the occasional exception), no developer can figure out where to place subtitles in the settings menu. It’s always a pain trying to find where to turn on subtitles, as they can be under labels such as ‘Game’, ‘Sound’, ‘Video’, or elsewhere.
It’s time that developers get together and decide on where subtitles are going to be placed. If there was any sense of regularity then it wouldn’t be a problem any more. I would suggest placing it under ‘Sound’, personally.
Another way that developers can combat this problem is by making it so players can toggle subtitles on and off during cutscenes. It’s a simple solution that has been used in the past, but one that hasn’t caught on. It saves gamers from both digging through the options and they can turn them on or off at their own discretion.
While we’re talking about subtitles, it is also important that developers start adding their own annotations to their game trailers on YouTube. I recently noticed that Turtle Rock Studios started doing this for their new Evolve trailers. It’s a small step that doesn’t take much time, and allows more gamers to enjoy the hard work that was put into the video!
2 – Additional Difficulty Settings
Games need to start respecting that players with handicaps, or just players new to gaming in general, are playing their games, and offering up a wide array of difficulty options. It’s perfectly fine to design a game around being challenging, but it’s also cool to allow players to see all of the content in the game without locking it away behind a skill barrier. An easy mode for a game like Bloodborne wouldn’t take anything away from the game, instead it would just allow more people to get into the game.
While we’re at it, games like Wolfenstein: The New Order need to stop mocking players for choosing an easy difficulty setting. If the player chooses the easiest setting, which is titled “Can I Play, Daddy?”, the game literally puts B.J. Blazkowicz in a bib. Why they thought it would be a good idea to make fun of the players that bought their game and are trying to enjoy it, I’ll never know. Nobody is more of a gamer just because they play on a hard difficulty setting, and there isn’t anything wrong with playing a game on easy.
3 – Colorblind Settings
Last year I reviewed a fun stealth game called Spy Chameleon. It’s a lot of fun, and the main mechanic involves switching between multiple colors (red, green, yellow, and blue). A reader of mine ended up purchasing the game, and couldn’t fully enjoy it due to being colorblind. This left me severely disappointed for a number of reasons.
Not only did I fail as a critic for not noticing that the game was virtually unplayable for about 5% of men and .5% of women, but the developer never thought to add a colorblind mode to their game despite it being based around color. It’s a huge oversight on both of our parts, and it’s something that can be easily fixed on the developer’s end.
Video game artist Lee Bretschneider recently posted a wonderful blog about the subject over on Gamasutra on how he tackled the subject for his game TEMPLE OF YOG. Just a little bit of extra work can make a game go from unplayable to being able to be enjoyed by all.
4 – Control Customization
While thankfully button remapping is becoming a system-level operation on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it’s still important to offer up remapping on a game-level. This way gamers don’t have to dig through a series of menus to change how a specific game plays, and then have to change it again when they go to play something else.
Every game should feature customizable controls, and the ability to save those settings.
5 – Volume Control Settings
The audio mixing in games can sometimes make dialogue or sound effects difficult to hear even for those with perfect hearing. This is very detrimental to those with limited eyesight who can sometimes rely on sound cues to play games. Being able to manually adjust not just a master volume setting, but individual options such as dialogue, sound effects, and music, will help out a lot. While this is a standard in some games there are still far more games without it than with.
While there are many other ways for games to become more accessible, these are five good goals to start with. If developers can implement all of these features, then 2016 can be the best gaming year ever, and make it so that everyone can enjoy video games.