I am a gamer. I log far too many hours playing Minecraft, The Elder Scrolls, and Halo. Gaming accessibility has never really been an issue since I’m perfectly capable of sitting on the couch, smashing buttons. But when Xbox announced the Kinect a few years ago, I had serious concerns. A couple friends I considered knowledgeable brushed them off saying it wasn’t really an issue. How can it not be an issue when all the promos look like this?
If this is the future of gaming, I’m going to be relegated to the position of party-pooper. Not an entirely unfamiliar feeling and an extremely unwelcome one.
Now, the Xbox One is on its way, which includes the Kinect as part of its hardware, meaning game producers can use its capabilities whether you want to use the Kinect itself or not. Part of me sees how cool this could be: zipping through menus with my hands, voice recognition during movies, wielding a sword in an RPG. But if I have to stand up and balance while wielding said sword…Game Over.
I’ve done a little researching and found some promising information. Gaming accessibility for people who are blind is something I never really thought about until reading The Fault in Our Stars, but there are developers out there working on it. Pricing is still the biggest limitation but it’s a start. As for the Kinect, it looks like there are those who share my concerns and are working toward accessibility for all users. “Seated users can enjoy several features and games developed for Kinect for Xbox 360. Currently, the ability for Kinect to work with seated users is largely dependent on the actual game itself. Some games are more accommodating of seated users than others. Game developers do have the ability to design their games in such a way that activities that some users have trouble with can be skipped or completed in a different way.”
“Some features and games” and “Skipped or completed in a different way” doesn’t sound particularly ideal to me, but at least I won’t always be stuck in the corner. And I’m happy to see Fable: The Journey, Skyrim, and Mass Effect 3 on the list of “seated friendly” games.
I just hope Microsoft will continue to educate game producers and challenge them to create versions of their games that are just as enjoyable sitting down, or with prosthetic limbs, or limited vision. Hopefully a controller will always remain an option. It just seems a little counter-intuitive to some of us that you now have to be physically capable to play a video game.