Accessibility in gaming has been gaining more and more traction over the last decade. While there isn’t much of a debate on whether or not videogames developers would do good to add ways to accommodate for differently-abled gamers, such as thinking about modes for color blind players or close captioning the game whenever possible and so on, there has been a bit of a debate when it comes to games difficulty levels. Should difficulty be considered when speaking about accessibility? Is it an imperative that every game caters to every single demographic? Will there ever be a game that is 100% accessible to everyone? The reality is that these questions will invariably fall into the realm of the rhetoric, since the variables from one person to the next are as infinite as they can be.
When it comes to recent games making a difference in regards to accessibility, Forza Horizon 5 comes to mind, with its myriad of accessibility options, ranging from simple things that we’ve come to expect from most AAA games such as a variety of languages to experience the game in, to new ways to tweak the game that are not as popular, such as being able to personalize the sound you hear with granular volume sliders, opting out of the cockpit drift camera, the inclusion of ASL and BSL support, screen reader narration and even the ability to slow down gameplay, among other several options. No wonder Forza Horizon 5 won the Innovation in Accessibility award at last year’s The Game Awards.
We at KeenGamer ran our own little survey, containing 8 questions over a few months for our readers and their opinion on accessibility issues. A couple thousand responses later, here we are we the results of the survey for us to dissect. let’s dive in.
These were the results of the KeenGamer survey on accessibility. From them, we can see some answers than may seem contradictory at a first glance, since they could indicate that the respondents are saying that they both care about accessibility while also not caving when it comes to seeing difficulty as an accessibility issue. For instance, when faced with the question about whether or not they agree with the existence of invincibility modes, only 41% of them responded positively. However, the question about having difficulty sliders saw a 68% support. I don’t believe these are necessarily contradictory, but rather that they show most people are nuanced when it comes to complex issues. KeenGamer’s readers consider accessibility important while not forgetting that the challenge is part of what makes gaming engaging and fun. Complex results to surveys provide an interesting perspective on things.
Main Question – How Important is accessibility to you in Gaming?
The burning question in this particular survey was also probably the less complicated one. Just how important do our readers consider that games should have accessibility? is it even important? We provided three options for this question: Not important, somewhat important, and very important.
The vast majority of our readers care to some degree about accessibility. Between the two positive answers “somewhat important” and “very important”, we find 84% of responses, with the remaining 14% from those that find it to be not important at all.
Are More Difficult Games Better Than Easy Games?
Finding a balance between a difficult and an impossible game can be an art. The relationship between difficulty and enjoyment of a game is a highly subjective matter, but we thought we would ask our readers if they thought harder games are better in virtue of their difficulty over simpler games.
With a not so close result, turns out that 62% of our readers do enjoy difficult games over easy games.
Are you irritated by Small Subtitle Text in Games?
I am one of those players that enjoy always having subs on, even if I can’t say exactly why. I’ve never personally thought about the text being to small, but I can see how some people could have that problem. Maybe games should have font size options, and I’m sure some do. we asked our reader if they are annoyed by subtitle text size.
Should Games Have Difficulty Sliders?
Difficulty sliders are useful to tweak different aspects of a game and how different things work to affect your character and game experience, in case you are only struggling in one or some areas, but not all. They also add a level of complexity to the accessibility debate.
Two thirds of our readers do favor difficulty sliders. I personally think they are great for 2nd playthroughs, to be able to manage the parts that were most challenging for me, for instance.
Are You in favor of Invincibility Modes?
The good ol’ invincibility modes are not new to being debated. They can be fun for replays and as cheats, but some may argue that you aren’t supposed to be able to just breeze through a game with no challenge at all. To each their own, but we thought it would be interesting to see how divided our audience.
This is one of two questions with the least distance between a positive and negative response. 41% of our readers support invincibility modes and 59% oppose them. Goes to show just how divisive something like this can be.
Are You in Favor of “Story Only” Modes?
The debate regarding Story Only Modes is that by choosing it, you are electing to decrease the challenge to an absolute minimum in favor of the story. Some games have amazing stories and characters and are well-worth putting out with other aspects that aren’t as refined like gameplay. If you hit the jackpot, you’ll have a game with great story and gameplay and everything will work together in harmony to deliver a great experience. But what if you are only there for the story? Should you have to suffer through game mechanics and grinding just to be able to enjoy the story? As Videogames evolve, I can see how Story Only Modes will be more prevalent. We asked our readers if they like the possibility of choosing a Story Only Mode.
Three fifths of the votes supported the existence of Story Only Mode. I can’t say that I’ve ever used the mode, but if I ever want to replay a game solely for the story and didn’t quite enjoy the other aspects of it, I can see how it can come in handy. I have seen video reviews and analysis of books I’ve loved in the past, and I don’t see this as too different from that.
Should Mature Games Provide Trigger Warnings?
You know trigger warnings. They have been gaining popularity in media over the last half-decade. Some people may feel they need a warning if the content they’re about to watch may have something violent, disgusting, sexual, or any other thing they may find distressing. At the same time, some people may find that trigger warnings can spoil the fun of the content. It is certainly a fine line to walk, if they are to be implemented. We asked our reader if they thought that mature-rated games should offer trigger warnings.
This question was answered in the same proportion as question number 5, except that this time the lion’s share of the votes went towards the yes, with 59%, leaving the remaining 41% to the no.
Will the Games Industry Eventually Become Totally Accessible to All?
Quite a dream, to be able to be accessible and inclusive to absolutely anyone. This particular question poses some problems, depending on whether you consider the terms “totally” and “all” in their literal meaning or not. I personally think that it’s an impossible feat to accommodate for absolutely everyone, but I like to think that a very high percentage is attainable. We asked our readers their thoughts on this.
Two thirds of our readers are optimistic that the games industry will indeed become accessible to all. The remaining third seems to be more skeptical, which is always healthy.
We could see here what our readers think about these matters, and can appreciate how they aren’t always straight-forward, or black and white. As I stated at the beginning of the article, polls with seemingly contradictory responses are always interesting, since they show nuance. Any thoughts you may have about these results will be welcomed in the comment section, if you want to join the discussion.
(Video from Game Maker’s Toolkit)