How the Gaming Industry Is Adapting - AbleGamers

#SoEveryoneCanGame

How the Gaming Industry Is Adapting

How the Gaming Industry Is Adapting to the Needs of Gamers With Disabilities

The gaming industry has long been a powerhouse of entertainment, reaching audiences worldwide with ever-evolving technology and storytelling. Yet, for many years, a significant portion of potential gamers — those with disabilities — were often left on the periphery. Today, the industry is making strides to become more inclusive, recognizing that video game accessibility is not just a niche requirement but a crucial aspect of video game industry growth.

Importance of Accessibility in Video Games

Adapting to the needs of gamers with disabilities is essential for several reasons. Economically, it expands the market reach for developers. According to some video game industry statistics, it’s estimated that there will be nearly 3 billion gamers worldwide by 2029. While estimates vary, some studies show that individuals with disabilities make up around 20% of the gaming population, while others suggest over 30% of gamers have a disability. It’s also estimated that around 45% of individuals with disabilities play video games.

This reveals that the potential audience in the disability community is vast, with millions of people worldwide who could become active participants if given the chance. More importantly, making games accessible is a step toward equality, ensuring everyone can enjoy the pleasure and benefits of gaming, regardless of physical or cognitive challenges.

Pioneering Accessibility: The Role of AbleGamers

A leader in championing accessibility is AbleGamers. Our organization has been at the forefront of educating developers on creating accessible games through initiatives like Accessible Player Experiences ® (APX) and our Certified APX Practitioner Training. For developers looking to enhance their games’ accessibility, AbleGamers’ Player Panels provide invaluable feedback, featuring hundreds of registered playtesters with disabilities who evaluate games’ accessibility features and barriers.

AbleGamers uses tools like the Accessible Prerequisite Evaluation (APRE) and Accessibility Playthrough (APLAY) — based on the APX approach mentioned above — to analyze player feedback, focusing on game accessibility in control, presentation, and gameplay challenge. These evaluations help pinpoint necessary improvements, guiding developers in creating more accessible games.

The Vital Role of Player Panels in Game Accessibility

Player Panels are a pivotal part of AbleGamers’ strategy to improve video game accessibility. These panels consist of 744 registered playtesters with disabilities who provide essential feedback on accessibility issues within games. Here are some of the major benefits:

  • Function and Impact: Player Panels allow developers to gain direct insights from gamers with disabilities, highlighting usability issues that may not be apparent to those without disabilities. This process is crucial for identifying and rectifying barriers in games, making them more inclusive. 
  • Collaboration With the Gaming Industry: Feedback from Player Panels is utilized by both software and hardware companies in the gaming industry to test and improve their products’ accessibility. This ensures that games and gaming hardware are not only functional but enjoyable for all users.
  • Benefits of Player Feedback: The direct feedback from Player Panels is invaluable, leading to better-designed products that cater to a broader audience, thus enhancing market presence and product usability.

Through these panels, AbleGamers effectively bridges the gap between disability and digital entertainment, ensuring that video games are accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

 

APX: A Game Changer in Accessibility

AbleGamers has revolutionized video game accessibility with Accessible Player Experiences ® (APX), a program that educates developers on integrating 22 design patterns for enhanced accessibility. APX not only accommodates but actively enables gamers with disabilities by empowering the creators of games to find accessibility barriers that might impact gameplay, creating opportunities for them to add features and options that allow players to tailor a game to their needs. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Educating Developers on Best Practices: APX provides a comprehensive framework for developers, emphasizing specific design patterns to address auditory, visual, cognitive, and motor disabilities. This approach helps create games that are accessible to a broader audience, ensuring that everyone can enjoy gaming.
  • Enabling Flexible Gameplay: The APX methodology promotes flexibility in game design, helping developers add game options that ultimately lead to more flexible and customizable experiences for players, such as adjustable controls, scalable difficulty levels, and customizable cues. This flexibility makes games more inclusive and enjoyable for all players.
  • Shifting Focus Toward Inclusive Design: APX encourages developers to shift from meeting minimum standards to prioritizing inclusive design from the start. This perspective change is vital for creating genuinely accessible games that are engaging for players with diverse abilities.
  • Industry Impact: The adoption of APX principles by major developers has improved the accessibility of mainstream games, making gaming more inclusive and fostering a culture of inclusivity within the industry.

Big Names Making Big Changes

Major studios like Activision Blizzard have seen considerable improvements in game accessibility. Titles such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare III and Diablo 4 have been recognized for their accessibility features, many of which were developed following guidance from APX training sessions with AbleGamers. While not all features can be directly attributed to APX, Activision Blizzard’s commitment to these practices highlights a significant shift toward more accessible gaming experiences.

How the Video Game Industry Is Adapting

The video game industry has started to embrace several strategies to increase accessibility. Here are some of the key adaptations:

  • Inclusive Design Consultations: More companies are working with organizations like AbleGamers to ensure their games are accessible from the ground up.
  • Customizable Controls: Many games now offer customizable control schemes, which can accommodate a wide range of physical disabilities.
  • Visual and Audio Adjustments: Games are incorporating options that help visually or hearing-impaired players, such as text-to-speech for menus, high contrast modes, and subtitles.
  • Gameplay Adjustments: Many games allow players to adjust various aspects of gameplay to make them more accessible to players with disabilities. This allows players to fine-tune many aspects of difficulty to meet their own needs and wants, and ensures games can go from “impossible” to “playable”.

Continuing Challenges and Opportunities

Despite these advancements, the problems in the gaming industry regarding accessibility remain. The issues in the gaming industry include a lack of universal standards for accessibility and sporadic implementation of inclusive features. However, the trend toward a more inclusive approach is evident in recent developments and the rising discourse on accessibility and video games.

As the video game industry continues to grow, so too must its approach to inclusivity. The efforts by organizations like AbleGamers, along with the increasing number of accessible games, signify a positive shift towards embracing all players. By fostering an environment where every player can participate, the gaming industry not only enhances its market potential but also supports a more inclusive society.

At AbleGamers, our mission is to create opportunities that enable play to combat social isolation, foster inclusive communities, and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. We know that video games can be the perfect gateway to community participation, lifelong friendships, and unforgettable shared experiences. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure these experiences are developed with accessibility as a priority and inclusion as the goal.

We are working daily to ensure people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else for positive experiences through play. With nearly two decades as pioneers in inclusive play, thousands of hours working with people with disabilities, and leading developers and engineers, we create opportunities for players to find inclusive places to play and connect with family and friends. Learn more about what we do here, or help continue our crucial work by making a monetary donation or purchasing something from our shop