The video game industry needs to fix its relationship with disabled gamers

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Despite the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller, the video game industry’s relationship with disabled gamers is still a problem. In my article from last week, I mentioned there are still barriers within the industry despite Microsoft’s new peripheral. Before I discuss what these barriers are, let me be clear about something first. I think Microsoft has done a tremendous job in making games more accessible to those with disabilities. As I wrote last week, the Adaptive Controller made me feel as if the industry was doing something about this issue for the first time in my life.

For that, I am truly thankful, and I still get emotional while talking about the controller itself. But unless other companies join the initiative, those with disabilities will still feel left out and confined.  Why? The truth is not everyone is a fan of Halo or Gears of War, and being able to only play one type of console still carries a sense of negativity.

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People with disabilities have friends and if their friend(s) have a Switch or PS4, then the person (depending on their disability) cannot partake in the creation of a memory through gaming with them. When it comes to making a decision in regards to a purchase people want options. It is a major part of why I think Microsoft should share its Adaptive Controller blueprints with other companies. If the video game industry wants to make its products more accessible and inclusive, its companies should be inclusive with each other on how to better serve the community.

It took Microsoft three years to develop its Adaptive Controller. I understand the industry (like all others) is comprised of businesses who want to make money, but making games both accessible and inclusive should be a swift united effort. In an interview with Waypoint in June during E3, Nintendo of America President and Chief Operating Officer Reggie Fils-Aimé was asked about what the company is doing to make its products more accessible.

Fils-Aimé replied, “The conversation around accessibility is significant and it’s happening at the highest levels of the company from the development standpoint in terms of how do we make sure that every player who wants to engage with our product can. So it’s it’s a huge topic”.

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“I was over at the Microsoft booth yesterday. And we had some hands-on time with the Adaptive Controller. And this is an area where I believe it’s in the best interest of the industry to have the conversation and to think about the longer term solutions because this is not… I would argue this really isn’t a platform specific issue. It’s an industry issue of how do we make sure that our content and the ability to play our content is as inclusive as possible,” said Fils-Aimé.

Something that could make Nintendo a major contributor in the disabled gaming community is the portability of its consoles. Imagine being someone with severe cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair. Nintendo could use the Switch’s portability to create a device that holds the console up at eye level while you use head controls to move the character(s). Allowing you to play the console on the go, and the device could be used for various Gameboy’s as well if it were made adjustable.

PC companies and software developers should want to find ways to make gaming more accessible. I have one arm and I struggle with playing League of Legends because the attack keys are too close to one another. So a controller that allows me to play PC games like it would be fantastic.

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The possibilities to make games more accessible is nearly endless. But how do you make the games more inclusive?  Well, developers can start by making more protagonists with disabilities and making them playable. Next week I will be writing and publishing an article on how to create the perfect disabled protagonist and I am excited about it!

It is great to see the industry start to take steps to ensure those with disabilities can join others in the fun that is gaming.  But there is still work that needs to be done and we still have a long way to go. I am confident we will get to a day where everyone can partake in what the video game industry has to offer and feel represented, but the conversation cannot be internal amongst the community and the companies that make up the industry. We have to talk to each other openly, it is the only way real progress can be made.

That being said, I am looking forward to seeing what steps are hopefully taken in the near-future.

Nick Battaglia
As a gamer with one arm, Nick strives to inform and showcase what it is like to play games from his point-of-view.  While his love for RPG's, fighters, and everything Nintendo is strong, the only thing stronger is his want to become the live-action version of Mega Man. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MercWithOneArm.