We've all been there before. You've been anxiously awaiting this game for months, following the developer’s twitter feed, hungrily devouring every screenshot, video and piece of information you can get your hands on. Maybe you've had to suffer through a delay or two, but none of that matters now because the moment you've been waiting for has finally arrived…it’s release day. You make your way down to your favorite game store and complete the transaction, maybe trading in a game or two to bring down the price and then the excruciatingly long trip home until you can finally rip off the plastic, fiddle with those annoying security seals and then pop that game into your system of choice. Everything is going as planned and the excitement is building as you watch the opening cinematic.
Then it happens in a manner of moments, everything comes crashing down as you enter the options menu and realize the developer has neglected to include a southpaw control scheme and you’re left handed. Maybe it isn't that, but rather they haven’t included a subtitle option and you are hard of hearing. You and I may not face these obstacles personally, but those and many more exist for a surprisingly large number of gamers. The question is do developers have an obligation to make their game accessible to everyone?
The game buying experience is different for everyone, but one thing it should never be is unpleasant. The Playstation and Xbox controllers have roughly 18 controller inputs that can be assigned including analog movement. The developers should allow the paying customer to reassign those in a manner that is comfortable to them. Are you shipping a game with tons of dialogue? Allow us to turn on subtitles. One instance comes to mind is the 2007 Ubisoft Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game whose final boss required you to switch between the turtles on the fly based on their colors. A colorblind friend was unable to complete the game due to not being able to distinguish between the colors quick enough. If your game relies on color heavy QTEs (quick time events), allow us to add a number or letter to the colors to differentiate.
Realistically developers are not going to be able to cover every circumstance or disability, however by providing reasonable accommodations and working with charities such as the folks over at www.ablegamers.com they can raise awareness and eliminate barriers to gaming. The more people that have access to purchase and enjoy a game will go a long way to ensuring that the industry we know and love continues to thrive. After all, we love gaming because it can provide truly amazing experiences that no other medium can and we should all strive to remove as many barriers to entry as possible and hold developers accountable to do the same.