Game developers are passionately dedicated to pushing the boundaries of accessibility in gaming.
In recent years, the gaming industry has made significant strides in promoting inclusivity and accessibility for players of all abilities. While video games have long been regarded as a visual medium, game developers and designers have worked to break barriers and create gaming experiences accommodating the visually impaired.
For instance, Microsoft-owned video gaming brand Xbox has implemented a policy emphasizing accessibility from the inception of game development. This proactive approach makes integrating accessibility features much smoother than in previous decades, where such accommodations were often hastily added as an afterthought at the end of a game’s creation.
In addition to the efforts made by brands and other developers, there have been notable advancements in technology to enable visually impaired individuals to play racing video games. One such innovation is the racing auditory display (RAD), developed by a PhD candidate Brian Smith. By creating an auditory representation of the game, RAD provides constant auditory signals that convey vital information about the player’s position on the track, speed and proximity to corners. This innovative technology effectively paints an auditory picture of the game, empowering visually impaired players to navigate the virtual racing environment and enjoy the gaming experience.
In this article, we will explore a selection of top games specifically designed to cater to individuals with visual impairments’ unique needs and experiences. These games empower visually impaired players by providing them with inclusive gaming experiences.
The Last of Us II
The Last of Us Part II Image courtesy of PlayStation website
The Last of Us Part II is a widely known video game developed by Naughty Dog and launched by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed action-adventure game “The Last of Us.” What sets it apart is its notable achievement as one of the first big-budget games to prioritize accessibility. The Last of Us was later adapted into a TV show.
The game follows the journey of Ellie, a young survivor, as she navigates a world filled with infected zombies and hostile humans. As the immune protagonist, Ellie’s mission involves evading or eliminating these threats to protect herself and potentially find a cure. In addition to its captivating visuals and landscapes, the game goes above and beyond by providing a comprehensive set of accessibility features. For instance, all on-screen text has text-to-speech functionality, allowing visually impaired players to engage with the game.
Apart from that, the game offers an extensive range of accessibility options, totaling around 60 in the game’s menu. These options cover controls, visual aids, audio cues, navigation, traversal and combat. In addition to common accessibility options, like resizing the user interface (UI) and modifying subtitles for color-blind users, the game offers more intricate customization features to cater to individual preferences and needs. For example, it features a high-contrast mode for low-vision players, alters the visuals and distinguishes allies as blue and enemies as red.
The Vale: Shadow of the Crown
The Vale: Shadow of the Crown Image courtesy of Falling Squirrel
Developed by the video game studio Falling Squirrel, The Vale: Shadow of the Crown is an audio-based action-adventure game that puts players in the shoes of a blind protagonist Alex as they embark on a journey through a captivating world. Falling Squirrel collaborated with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind during the game’s development.
The game relies on audio cues for navigation, interaction, and combat, with minimal visual elements. It incorporates light RPG (role-playing game) elements, which means the players can choose from various combat styles as they guide their fully-voiced hero.
The menu is presented in text and through audio description. Besides that, the other visual element is colored specks (colored particles or dots) that interact with the environment, such as falling during the rain or imitating fiery sparks in a burning village. The specks serve as visual indicators in an otherwise predominantly audio-based game experience.
The game utilizes immersive 3D audio and haptic controller feedback, making headphones necessary for players. You navigate the landscape by following clanging metal to discover the smithy (a blacksmith’s workshop) or listening for squeaks and nibbles in the inn’s basement. You respond to directional audio cues during combat, raising your shield or swinging your sword by keeping your ears open for the enemy.
The Vale is accessible on Windows and Xbox consoles, and Xbox users can easily download the game through the Xbox Store.
God of War Ragnarök.
God of War Ragnarök is an action-adventure game developed by Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed game God of War (2018). It continues the story of protagonist Kratos and his son Atreus as they navigate the treacherous world of Norse mythology.
The game—designed for partially blind individuals—offers visual adjustments that enhance the gaming experience. These adjustments include the ability to apply color-coating to various elements such as characters, objects, enemies, bosses and backgrounds. Players can enable captions specifically for important gameplay information, assisting with puzzles and enhancing narrative understanding. They also have the option to blur the background behind subtitles and captions, ensuring improved readability even during visually complex scenes.
Additionally, players can customize their gaming experience through controller remapping. This feature enables you to personalize your button configurations by choosing from various preset layouts or creating three custom layouts. Furthermore, a navigation assist feature provides guidance for visually impaired players, indicating the direction to turn at specific moments.
God of War Ragnarök is available for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles.
The games mentioned above demonstrate the efforts being made in the gaming industry to create accessible experiences for individuals with visual impairments. By incorporating various accessibility features such as audio cues, visual adjustments and customizable controls, they open up new possibilities. This progress marks a vital step towards a more diverse gaming landscape, breaking barriers and ensuring that everyone can participate in the gaming community.
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