If this is your first visit, check out the community guide. You will have to Join us or Sign in before you can post.

Accessible gaming Q&A

OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
edited November 2016 in Guest Q&As

Your accessible gaming questions answered

Hi, my name's Barrie Ellis, and all this week i'll be answering your questions about accessible gaming. Simply post your questions in the comments below.

I've been working in the field of accessible gaming since 1994, and love finding and sharing solutions in this area. 

Due to me being quite old, I do remember when Space Invaders was brand new and very exciting. At first, I frustratingly couldn't play it, because I was too short to see the bottom half of the screen. I wasn't alone, and soon I discovered my first piece of assistive gaming technology: a drinks crate to stand-on.

Accessible gaming Boy playing on arcade machine while standing on crate
In my work and spare time, I specialise in adapting game controllers and one-switch accessible games, but I'm keen to help anyone who is facing barriers to being able to play.

I'd be happy to try to answer any questions you have, and am equally interested in anything you might like to share in this area.

Name: Barrie Ellis
Twitter: @OneSwitch

Replies

  • Chris_ScopeChris_Scope Posts: 695Member Chatterbox
    Hi Barrie, thanks for taking the time to answer questions from our community members. I'll get the ball rolling -

    What would be the most important piece of advice you would give to a disabled person who would like to play video games but currently feels unable to?
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    You're welcome. :)

    Great question to kick off with. Three things....

    1. Don't give up. There are many possibilities for all kinds. Finding them is the trick.

    2. Do some research before you buy: Ask around. Ask people who might be in a similar boat to you. Search Google/Bing images for things like "adapted game controllers" and "accessible games". Ask some of the experts in this field for advice on suitable games (there's an incomplete list here of accessible gaming advocates). Ask me this week! Don't take one answer. No one knows it all.

    3. Don't be afraid to ask for better access if you can't find a solution: Contact Sony, Nintendo, Xbox, SpecialEffect, AbleGamers and so on. Ask them what they're doing to make the games you want more accessible. Tell them what barriers you are hitting and what might remove them for you. Everyone has the right to play.
  • Scope_PhilMarshScope_PhilMarsh Posts: 9Member Whisperer
    Hi Barrie,

    Can you give any examples of video games where they've got accessibility really spot on (or really wrong!)? I did a piece around Uncharted 4 not long back which really struck me as an industry leader for accessibility in gaming.

    Also, are there any factory made pieces of hardware which offer good accessibility, or does everything need to be custom made?

    Many thanks,
    Phil
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    Hi Phil,

    Some Games with Great accessibility:

    Unchartered 4 has some very nice accessibility design, I agree, although it does require very precise control I found to leap around from building to building.

    FIFA 16 football has some fantastic features (at least in the off-line modes). The "two-button" (ish) mode makes controls far simpler, and the ability to make your opponent a lot easier to beat is crucial with a ton of difficulty adjustment sliders. I think EA got it wrong in not allowing people to use the two-button mode on-line. That seems unfair to me.

    Everybody's Gone to the Rapture a "walking simulator" interactive story on PC includes subtitles and visual representation of sounds (such as a phone ringing that you need to answer). It also has a simplified control scheme to get around the problem in the PS4 version where you needed to tilt the controller in very precise ways. The nice thing about this game is that there's zero pressure on the player. Explore at your will.

    Access Darts (iOS) is a brilliant free darts game from Cognable. What I really like with this is the "free play" free practice area. This means you can make your own games up, and easily use it to play against people using the real thing in a pub or home setting. Alongside this the game can be played with a single switch (push button / sound switch / etc.). It can also be played if you can't see, thanks to some smart audio design.

    Lots of driving games are good now, with free practice areas, and "driver assist modes" to make play far easier. 


    Games that get it really wrong are still common. The Wii got it frustratingly wrong accessibility wise with the launch "Wii Sports" game. If you couldn't use the very precise bowling action, you could not play it, which felt so unfair at the time for such a popular machine. If they'd only allowed people to use a standard controller if they wanted, it would have been possible to adapt this for such a wide range of players. This physical barrier lead onto the Kinect and up to date with current Virtual Reality today. I do worry that VR will cut a lot of people out unnecessarily for a lack of options for alternative ways to play / better access options.


    Hardware:

    Yes there are some great off the shelf devices that can be used. The Mayflash Arcade Fightstick F300 is pretty good, and will work on a wide range of consoles out of the box. 

    The Titan One adapter allows you to use a wide range of controllers on modern consoles. For advanced users, if you search their library for "accessibility" there are a lot of helpful ways to make a controller much more powerful (e..g latching triggers, more sensitive controls and so on).

    There's some nice joystick extensions on eBay, to make sticks a bit easier to use for some.

    The Xbox Elite controller for the Xbox One has a good range of ways to reconfigure the controller from the operating system (and basic ways for the PS4 and standard Xbox One controllers).

    There have been a range of One Handed Controllers, mostly from Japan by companies like HORI and ASCII which can be very useful. I've just recently built one handed controllers around the old PS3 Navigation Controllers, using the Titan One to make them much more powerful. Kind of off the shelf.

    Quite a lot of stuff at the Accessible Gaming Shop, links off to other factory manufactured stuff.

    Hope that's helpful, and not just a tidal wave of info. :)





  • Colin1993Colin1993 Posts: 4Member
    Hi, my name is Colin. I work closely with Barrie Ellis with one switch games and I would highly recommend PGA Tiger Woods 16 as an easily accessible addition to your gaming library! Also another one is Everybody's Golf, if you are just starting to play games. Also I would recommend Tekken 6 as the controls are relatively simple and easy to program into Joy2Key.
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    Thanks, Colin. You know your stuff. They are great games.

    BTW, Colin set-up a really useful Facebook page: Games for the Disabled. It's a fine place to share accessible gaming info, talk to others and ask for help.


    On the subject of those games, they have been adapted using free "One Switch Pulse" software to make them playable with one or two buttons. 

    There's a great picture here of Tekken 6 being played head to head (literally) with one-button each: https://www.facebook.com/wmdlc/photos/a.1010574639013422.1073741840.741369059267316/1010575792346640/?type=3&theater

    And here's a video of Call of Duty being explored using a single button.


    That principle is possible to apply to many games, whether you typically use a single button, or more complex controls. 
  • ianhamilton_ianhamilton_ Posts: 3Member
    Hey Barrie! Game accessibility has obviously come on a long way in recent years, are there any recent advancements that particularly stand out for you?

    Also any further progress that you would like to see, or any current barriers to progress that could be removed?
  • WhiteCaneGamerWhiteCaneGamer Posts: 3Member
    Hi Barrie 

    I think this is an awesome idea for a Q&A as I'm a legally blind gamer, so have a huge interest in this subject. One question that comes to mind;

    Do you think that the introduction of a certification to easily identify how accessible a video game is would be a good idea? Similar to the PEGI rating that indicates the age suitability for games and films.

    If you do think it is a good idea, what are your thoughts? If you don't think it's a good idea, why not?.   
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    edited November 2016
    Hello Ian,

    "Game accessibility has obviously come on a long way in recent years, are there any recent advancements that particularly stand out for you?"
    1. The Titan One adapter: such a clever device, allowing all kinds of controllers to be used on a wide range of machines, with lots of useful boosts for physical accessibility. It's been a revelation.
    2. The charities SpecialEffect and AbleGamers becoming so well known in gaming spheres, making such a difference in the UK and USA. Would love to see this spread to many other countries.
    3. Microsoft, Apple and EA becoming so active in courting the accessibility communities and in improving their devices. This follows in the lead of many indie developers, and is so great to see. More needed though.
    4.  The growth of the game accessibility movement. Hugely helped with the likes of GameAccessibilityGuidelines.com.
    5. People like Colin McDonnell pushing for better access for one-switch gamers, and the brilliant Universal Controller Remapper project by Clive Galway.

    "Also any further progress that you would like to see, or any current barriers to progress that could be removed?"

    • Remapping: I'd like to see Sony and Microsoft greatly improve controller remapping options on their consoles for all. I'd like game developers to include remapping options in their games too.
    • Nintendo: I'd love to see Nintendo add accessibility options in their consoles.
    • VR: I'd love to see thought given to those unable to wear headsets, or use complex precise controls.
    • Ease of finding games: It's not very easy to find suitable games these days. A centralised database, that's easy to search of highly / specifically accessible games might help many people.
    • More demos: People waste so much money on games that may or may not be accessible to them. I'd love to see many more games have demos so people can avoid this deep frustration.
    That's just some.... Thanks for the questions, Ian. Food for thought for sure. What about you?
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    Hi WhiteCaneGamer,

    Thanks for your excellent question: 

    "Do you think that the introduction of a certification to easily identify how accessible a video game is would be a good idea? Similar to the PEGI rating that indicates the age suitability for games and films.

    If you do think it is a good idea, what are your thoughts? If you don't think it's a good idea, why not?".   

    I think it's a great and needed idea, but would need a lot of thought to get working well. It would be wrong to slap a single icon on a game and declare it as "an accessible game". What's accessible for one person, might not at all for another.

    Many years ago, Atari had a "Special Feature" bear logo, that indicated if there was an easier play option, back then aimed at a game "for children". That was a very useful way to spot if a game would have some consideration for players with slower or less precise reactions. I did like that, but maybe not ideal for these days.

    I think some features would warrant an icon/label of their own, such as if a game has full subtitles/closed-captions and colour-blind access. 

    I would really like access features to be made clear, alongside a demo version so people can try before they buy. I formed a system and linked "Game Accessibility Information symbol". You can view it and see what you think here: http://http//www.oneswitch.org.uk/game-access.htm

    Additionally, if there was a neutral database, that helped people to sift through games to find ones that are quite likely to fit their needs, that would help enormously, tied to a labelling/ratings system for accessibility. 
  • Colin1993Colin1993 Posts: 4Member
    •  I would love to see Nintendo add accessibility options in the nintendo switch 
  • WhiteCaneGamerWhiteCaneGamer Posts: 3Member
    Thank you for your answer Barrie .

    Coming at you from a slightly different angle, do you keep an eye on, or get involved in the gaming accessibility scene of the Tabletop variety. It's easy to only think of video games when you think of gaming but from a financially accessible point of view, tabletop games are the most accessible of all, as there is no console or PC required. 

    I have recently started paying attention to the tabletop scene myself after thinking pixels were the be all and end all and I'm glad I did, it's broadened my mind to what tabletop games can offer. Or do you think the best way to make these tabletop games accessible is to play the digital versions of them through  games such as tabletop simulator or mobile apps. 

    I'd like to hear your thoughts :)
  • ianhamilton_ianhamilton_ Posts: 3Member
     OneSwitch said:
    Food for thought for sure. What about you?
    A really important advancement for me is the shift in attitudes amongst the gaming community. It wasn't all that long ago that any gamer posting about an accessibility issue on a game's forum etc would be set upon with a pretty huge amount of vitriol, told to go elsewhere and stop trying to ruin everything for everyone else. But now I think there's far far greater understanding that actually accessibility isn't some evil thing that's going to dilute and harm games, and that through sometimes even just some really trivial design decisions you can open up the same enjoyment to more people. So now those posts are usually met with outpourings of support and agreement. Gives you faith in online communities in general :)

    And for future advancements, what I'd most like to see is the current lack of screenreader compatibility in game engines fixed. That's hands down the biggest barrier to blind accessibility in games, that the code frameworks that game developers use to build games with do not communicate information in a way that can be understood by the tools that blind and low vision gamers use to operate tech. If that could be fixed there would bean explosion in the number and range of games available to blind gamers, and often for little or no effortby developers. 
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    ....coming at you from a slightly different angle, do you keep an eye on, or get involved in the gaming accessibility scene of the Tabletop variety. It's easy to only think of video games when you think of gaming but from a financially accessible point of view, tabletop games are the most accessible of all, as there is no console or PC required. 

    I have recently started paying attention to the tabletop scene myself after thinking pixels were the be all and end all and I'm glad I did, it's broadened my mind to what tabletop games can offer. Or do you think the best way to make these tabletop games accessible is to play the digital versions of them through  games such as tabletop simulator or mobile apps....
    I'm not really involved in the tabletop scene, but I'm all for everything becoming more accessible for all. 

    Years ago, I remember setting up switch accessible electronic dice, and using a video camera hooked up to a large TV so people could better play and follow snakes and ladders and we tried Monopoly too. I also used to make use of a Yes/No and Dice programmed to support people in playing adventure game books. It's good to have as much variety out there as possible for accessible gaming and leisure.

    There's definitely something to be said for technically simpler things that will just work for ever more almost, with no worries about emulation.

    Obviously, for people unable to physically manipulate/recognise game pieces and rules, computer technology can help with this for anyone. Although I do remember being quite annoyed with computer versions of Draughts (aka Checkers) when they didn't stick the rules I'd invented with my brother. It tends to be easier to bend rules with tabletop games too, which can be essential for access too.
  • OneSwitchOneSwitch Posts: 8Member
    Thank you everyone for your thoughts, questions and views.
  • Colin1993Colin1993 Posts: 4Member
    hope we could answer all your questions successfully, if you have any further questions then please don't hesitate to contact us on https://www.facebook.com/groups/124439264281270/
  • ianhamilton_ianhamilton_ Posts: 3Member
    edited November 2016
    Whitecanegamer and anyone else who is interested in accessibility of tabletop gaming - check out https://twitter.com/64ozgames and https://twitter.com/meeplelikeus
  • Chris_ScopeChris_Scope Posts: 695Member Chatterbox
    Thank you very much to Barrie for taking part in this Q&A, and to all who contributed questions and answers. Though the Q&A is now closed to further questions, I hope that the information and resources on accessible gaming above will continue to be useful to anyone looking to get involved in playing computer games.
This discussion has been closed.