Ableism in gaming is an issue many of us face. The team at Accessible Gaming United have made their mission to raise awareness and open up honest, informative conversations around the topic and they’re smashing a number of unfair stereotypes as they do it! This article was guest written for us here at Light & Nerdy by the project’s founder, Daniel Gilbert
Before I dive into the subject of Ableism in the gaming community, I think it’s important to provide some background on my experience as a disabled gamer. Because of the progressive nature of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, I was unable to participate in a lot of the activities other kids participated when I was growing up. Naturally, I gravitated towards video games since they allowed me to escape the struggles of feeling left out. It’s a community I have been a part of since the 90s. This is a conversation that is vital if the gaming community wants to be more inclusive.
Often when discussing accessibility in gaming, the conversation devolves to, “Devs do not need to make a game easy for you.” This response to the discussion of accessibility greatly misses what we are advocating for. Generally, a game being challenging is not the issue. The issue is when game features prevent individuals with disabilities from even playing the game.
For example, God of War on the PlayStation 2. I am physically able to accomplish everything in the game, other than opening a door or a chest because they require me to button mash. It’s frustrating when you can’t get past the first level of a game because you can’t open a door. This issue is very similar to barriers in real life; physically disabled folks had issues with opening doors, society addressed this problem by implementing automatic doors.
Accessibility should not be confused with difficulty. This is why we must continue to advocate and push for accessibility options. Developers do not need to sacrifice their vision in order to increase accessibility.
Another position that I have seen when discussing this topic is that people like me should “get good or find a new hobby.” This is an extremely dismissive position and it assumes that disabled folks are entitled because they want to play video games. We are asking for inclusion, not pity.
I need to also point out that sometimes lack of accessibility comes from lack of experience, or just not realizing a game design decision is excluding people, which is why activism and raising awareness is vital. Game Development is all about working around challenges. Issues arise, and game devs try to solve them. Good developers learn from experience, so if we explain our issues they can and have come up with creative solutions.
Naughty Dog addressed some of these issues with Uncharted 4 by adding an accessibility menu, that allows the user to select options and customise game mechanics based on the player’s needs. Sony and Microsoft both added system-wide button mapping because a lot of games lacked the ability to change the buttons from the game menu.
This is a wonderful time to be a disabled gamer; our activism is finally paying off. Developers are thinking about this topic more and more. We still have a long way to go and we need to keep being vocal.
In summary, Ableism in gaming is still a serious problem, and most of it comes down to a misconception about disabled gamers. Fortunately, we have seen developers in recent years take accessibility more seriously. A lot of games still lack basic accessibility features, but the future is looking brighter!
A huge thank you to Daniel and his team over at Accessible Gaming United. If you’re looking for more cutting edge content on accessibility in gaming be sure to head over to accessiblegamingunited.wordpress.com and follow @AccessibleDan on Twitter for more!