Accessibility: Video games designed for everyone

Our resident tech expert Andy Robertson outlines some of the key things that can be applied on video games to make them more engaging for families with keen gamers who may have additional learning needs and disabilities.

As regular readers of Internet Matters will know, the site provides extensive and flexible accessibility settings to enable you to adjust contrast, text, cursor and page structure. This kind of provision on websites has come on leaps and bounds.

Lesser known is the progress being made by video games to offer inclusive design or setting that enable more people to enjoy these experiences. Video games offer difficulty settings, the ability to adjust how the game is displayed and how it sounds. They can also offer different ways to be controlled, including schemes that can be used with reduced motor function.

The challenge can be finding which games offer these settings that are useful to you and your family. The Family Video Game Database provides a way to search for games that meet your specific criteria. This could be games that don’t require reading for a younger player, games that offer subtitles or games that have high contrast modes.

Level of difficulty of the game

These settings adjust not only how hard a game is, but the way that challenge is presented to the player. Some games enable you to select from pre-set difficulty levels while others provide a customisable series of settings and assistance modes.

Amount of reading in-game

The amount of reading in a game can greatly change the experience. There are a number of criteria in video game design that offer an experience with different amounts of reading. Equally, games can provide this narration and dialogue as fully voiced or subtitled. Where there are subtitles, some games also provide a caption indication of who is speaking, their tone and other sounds in the background.

Controls available to play the game

Games are, by their nature, interactive. How these interactions are achieved depends on the control scheme they offer us. These may be designed to be simple or complex. They may also provide settings to ensure that things like holding down buttons, or rapidly pressing buttons aren’t a barrier from proceeding.

Accessible video game image design

How a video game looks is an important way for us to understand what is happening in the game world. Different visual styles and techniques may achieve this in different ways. How a game signposts interactions or the way forward is important if you have a visual impairment, motion sickness or colourblind sensitivities.

Audio controls

Video games also use sounds to signpost what is happening in the game. Whether this is a background ambience that sets the scene or hearing the footsteps of another player around a corner, audio is a crucial element of a game. Being able to adjust the audio for your requirements, as well as a provision of visual cues that highlight when key audio is played, is also useful.

Communication options in gameplay

Of course, video games are often online and played with other people, not in the same room. Communicating with them effectively is often a critical element of being able to play a video game. There are a number of features and settings that can aid this interaction.

With this information in hand, you can find games that are more accessible to a wide range of people. Combine this with information about the appropriate PEGI ratings and which System you have in your house, and you can find a set of games that are a lot of fun and will work for the ages of your children.