by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
While video games are not a completely visual form of entertainment, often using audio cues and even haptics to give player feedback, they still rely primarily on visual information, like graphics and text, to construct gameplay. Most games have had little in the way of customizing visuals beyond increasing or decreasing brightness, generally with no support for text-to-speech for text not already accompanied by voice-acting, rendering menus and text boxes largely inaccessible. With more than 250 million people with visual impairments worldwide and an estimated 40 percent of the world’s population playing video games, this lack of accessibility is likely affecting millions of people. However, a positive trend is emerging in the industry. An increasing number of developers are offering more comprehensive options in games to improve accessibility, including many for those with visual impairments. A recent example is The Last of Us Part II, a very high-profile, critically acclaimed game developed in 2020 by game studio Naughty Dog. Among many features for accessibility are text-to-speech for all text, a high contrast mode, navigation assistance, and sound cues, allowing players who are blind and have low vision to have much closer parity with fully sighted individuals. Another example, God of War Ragnarök, released in 2023 by Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, includes similar features, as well as the option to increase the size of all text and icons. Both games have sold millions of copies and signal a strong effort in the gaming industry to increase access for those with visual impairments. To learn more about the current state of accessibility in video games, read this article from Wired, Games Are More Visually Accessible Than Ever.