On her left arm, Twitch streamer LittleNavi has a tattoo of WASD, the four keyboard keys PC gamers typically use to move their characters. “It’s ironic, though, because my left hand is the hand that has lost the most function over the years,” says Lorelei, who goes by LittleNavi online to preserve her anonymity. She was diagnosed in her 20s with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, a chronic condition that affects her central nervous system. “I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe I got a tattoo of the WASD keys, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to use the WASD keys again.’”
A digital accessibility specialist from Ontario, Canada, Lorelei is one of 15% of people in the world living with disability or chronic illness, according to the World Bank. However, 30% of US gamers identify as disabled, as do 20% of gamers in the United Kingdom, per research firm Newzoo. While much progress has been made in the gaming industry in recent years, there are still barriers preventing the most inclusive experience for those living with disabilities, from a lack of basic in-game features to a broader ignorance regarding the community. Disability means something unique to everyone, and no individual experience, even within the same diagnosis, is the same. In order to move the needle toward greater accessibility in gaming, we must continue to create (and play) games with assistive technology, dismantle stigmatized perceptions of disability, and challenge ableist beliefs surrounding gaming.
Accessibility starts with the development of games themselves, and thankfully certain studios from major and indie developers are prioritizing inclusive features today more than ever, often with the help of hired accessibility consultants. Ubisoft Toronto’s Far Cry 6 boasts an expansive accessibility menu of audio and interface options, from enabling closed captioning for all in-game sounds to outlining certain enemies and items in different colors for people with visual disabilities. Eidos-Montréal’s Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy offers a custom difficulty mode of gameplay, which allows players to tailor specific aspects of the game to their needs, from adjusting how much damage they deal to …read more