Accessibility: Video games designed for everyone

Artistic image of first-person shooter game, which may have accessibility video games settings to make gameplay easier.

72% of children aged 8-17 play video games. As such, more accessibility in video games settings opens doors to opportunities for children with additional learning needs or disabilities.

Get advice on the right games for your child as tech expert, Andy Robertson, explores the available accessibility options across gaming.

Accessibility in the online space

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. See the accessibility icon to the right of your screen to enable these features. This kind of provision on websites has come on leaps and bounds.

Progress towards accessible video games

Lesser known is the progress being made for accessibility in video games. Companies are working to offer inclusive design or settings that enable more people to enjoy these experiences. Video games offer difficulty settings as well as the ability to adjust how the game is displayed and how it sounds. They can also offer different types of controls, 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
  • offer subtitles
  • have high contrast modes

Types of accessibility in video games

There are various settings players can use in-game to make playing video games accessible for those with additional learning needs or disabilities. The following are some examples of these video games settings, including links to the games that could be appropriate for your child.

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.

Boy improving literacy through reading on a tabletLearn different strategies to improve children’s reading stamina and overall media literacy.


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. Additionally, these designs may be simple or complex. Accessibility in video games means providing 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 including visual cues that highlight when key audio is played, is also useful in video game accessibility.

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:

Creating greater accessibility in video games

With this information in hand, you can find accessible video games that support 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.

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