• November 30, 2021

More Accessibility Options Only Make Games Better

Outriders, developed by People Can Fly & published by Square Enix, and recently released to pretty positive reviews, is another prime example of a game with remarkably useful accessibility features. When you select a quest to track, you can simply press up on the directional pad on the console (the Tab key on PC), and you see a white line on the terrain in front of you that leads to the destination or quest objective. The area maps are small and show travel points with large flag markers, and there’s an icon to let you know where you are currently on the map. If you play with friends and break off during battle, you don’t have to worry about looking for loot that dropped closer to them or your share of any iron they may have harvested. Pressing down on the directional pad (the H key on PC) will make the game automatically pick up items no matter where you are.

Mechanics like these make it easier to navigate the game area, pick up items, reduce the amount of time you spend backtracking, revisiting places you’ve already been, and do other tasks that are challenging when you have memory issues. When confusion sets in and you begin to forget where you have been, these types of simple options become a saving grace. Path markers are critical for memory loss, and it makes the game much less exasperating to have a guide to help travel from point A to point B, with frequent map checkpoints that make fast travel easier. I have spent too many hours to count in games like Borderlands going in circles trying to figure out where I need to be. The marker can literally be just around a cliff, and yet I find myself staring at a wall for 30 minutes trying to remember, and another two hours trying to navigate to whatever destination I’m headed to.

How Developers Can Help

Beyond these examples, developers can go a bit further by having a message pop up with something like “We see you have been in this area for a while. Do you need help on where to go?” or “Would you like to enable auto-route to your next quest objective?” Hints are critical in helping gamers figure out what to do. Developers can also assist by implementing a detection method if you have been searching for items for a while by adding arrows or hints to help pinpoint said items. A number of games do something like this, where if you spend too much time looking for something, it starts to sparkle or makes a sound the closer you get to it. This also could be a toggled menu option for those who choose not to utilize it.

Controls can be yet another obstacle. When your character appears stuck or you lose repeatedly to an enemy, it would be helpful to get reminders as to what the buttons on the controller do, or which common key bindings may be useful but buried in the controls menu. For games with complex combinations, it is always a great idea to make sure that there are reminders easily accessed via the pause menu. It is often difficult—for any gamer, not just one with memory issues—to return to a game and remember how it’s played, or what the control scheme is. It becomes even more confusing as levels advance and button combinations evolve in complexity. Just imagine sitting and thinking, “What was I supposed to do again?” while trying to enjoy your current game session, or even “Where do I go from here? I’m lost.” When your mind plummets into confusion and defeat sets in, the first thing that comes to mind for me is to simply shut the game off.

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Accessibility Isn’t the Same as ‘Easy Mode’

These accessibility options do not necessarily make a game easier. It simply gives people like myself with cognitive challenges the ability to look forward to having fun while gaming.

Sure, some people may say that not every game is for everyone, but in this regard, it doesn’t have to be the case. Developers should ask themselves if they incorporate accessibility, will it truly affect the underlying mechanics of the game? Inclusivity and accessibility shouldn’t automatically be associated with the notion that it devalues the quality and overall enjoyment of a game.

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