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Developers and Accessibility Consultants Highlight Game Accessibility at Recent Abilities Expo

Feivor sits at an outdoor table with a blue cloth playing a dice game.

From Celeste and FromSoftware to recent releases such as Cyberpunk 2077, gaming accessibility is a growing topic of discussion for developers and players of our favorite RPGs. It’s such a broad concept, though, that it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, games were a key topic in panels at the recent virtual Abilities Expo.

The Abilities Expo exists to connect those in the disability community with all the resources they may need for their daily lives, and games are no exception: they delivered a panel with representatives from across the industry (including Square Enix and Ubisoft) as well as a panel of some of the top consultants responsible for a host of helpful features across many titles and, most recently, for making The Last of Us Part II one of the most accessible games to date (for details, see the last video below).

The developer panel covered how studios approach accessibility in both hardware and software, and why it’s important to design for the greatest number of users possible. They describe accessibility as a set of tools so the greatest spectrum of people can play a given game from the start. The representative from Square Enix, Améliane F. Chiasson, ended with a powerful message for developers hesitant to incorporate those tools: even if there’s a risk of offending or failing, it’s necessary to try. Furthermore, accessibility occurs at all levels, from PR to art and level design. This highlights Square Enix’s recent commitment to accessibility.

Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers Screenshot displaying color filtering and visual alert accessibility options
Final Fantasy XIV offers configurable visual alerts for sounds, and multiple color filtering options.

One of the most immediate takeaways, however, is that these companies have started recruiting at events like Abilities Expo and are looking for user testers, especially in the disability community. You can have a say in the trajectory of your RPGs (and other games) as they are developed!

The consultant panel introduced the workflow and how consultants work with developers to suggest adaptations, as well as a discussion of Brandon Cole’s consultation with Ubisoft — they asked for general guidelines which were applied to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla in the form of increased narration and audio cues. At the end, the group also weighed in on how their consultations should support the developers’ vision and whether FromSoftware games should have an easy mode.

Whether you’ve only heard the term “accessibility” or you’ve been following the discussion and want to meet some of the folks in the industry, these panels provide a unique opportunity to understand accessibility and how these teams are working to improve games for everyone.

Watch the full developer’s panel:

Watch the full consultant panel:

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Hilary Andreff

Hilary Andreff

Officially, Hilary focuses on proofreading and QA here at RPGFan and has been with the team since early 2017. You can also find her on the occasional podcast, doing a music review, or helping make a news post once in a while. Unofficially, she responds immediately to any talk of a Quintet game or the Shadow Hearts series and is known for pushing RPGFan's graphic adventure coverage. She may be one of the most likely staff members to make a friendship speech.

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