Accessibility as an on-disc issue
- May 29, 2019
Grace is a freelance journalist that can be seen at various places on The Internet, writing reviews, news or opinion pieces about their passions regarding diversity in all its forms, how they can be better, why they’re great in places and also cats. Grace is queer, disabled and refuses to stop petting random cats on the street.
The ability for developers to supply patches for their games across all consoles was and still is groundbreaking. Bug fixes. Extra content. More options. There’s so many things available to us now that may not have been available years ago. But for some of us, for various reasons, these options aren’t available and we’re left with whatever is on the disc at launch.
In most cases? Sure! Okay, that’s fine. The game is usually playable and there’s nothing to worry about. Again, in most cases. Increasingly, though, this isn’t the case for disabled folks.
One example of a recent AAA game I bought and noticed this problem with was Spider-Man for PS4. Now, I don’t have an internet connection for my PS4 because the console refuses to connect me at a reasonable speed. This is fine. I can live with this. But when I noticed everyone posting from the Spider-Man photo mode, I was a little sore. I missed out on a huge feature. Curious, I decided to check out what else I missed out on.
I was stunned to find that one of the day 1 patch notes was ‘accessibility options’. The base game comes with some very basic options, sure, but it’s also wild to think that in this day and age ‘accessibility’ is something the developers thought was suitable for a day 1 patch as opposed to shipping with the content on the disc.
Again, another major release was the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. I could probably write another lengthy piece complaining about the fact that almost two entire games were missing from the disc, but I’ll focus on something else. The fact that it took four months for Toys for Bob to begrudgingly add subtitles to their game. One of the most absolute basic features that able-bodied and disabled folks alike turn to for a variety of reasons.
All in all, it presents an increasingly worrying trend that developers are starting to view accessibility as one of the things that can be ‘cut’ from day 1 launch. It can be added in later, it’s fine. The causes for this, perhaps, could be attributed to the awful realities of crunch culture and forcing developers to choose what matters. Perhaps in other cases it’s just an oversight, thinking that it’s still getting added in some form, that most people have a stable internet connection and it will go unnoticed.
The reality is, for one reason or another, accessibility isn’t at the forefront of design for some developers as it should be in a time where more gamers of all abilities are demanding more options. While I admire patching more options in, perhaps the real solution is to work with disabled gamers from all backgrounds to ensure that these options are there from day one.
Disabled gamers are not an afterthought. Accessibility is not a patchable issue. It’s an integral part of any game, because if someone buys your game and can’t play it out of the box for any reason, it’s not a finished game.