There’s no question that video games are an integral aspect of global entertainment. Hardware and software releases for gamers are a billion dollar industry, and the most highly anticipated new titles often post larger grosses than the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. With each of the largest computer companies boasting significant gaming divisions and more corporations turning to this market to make up for lackluster computer and television sales in the recession economy, what could possibly keep gaming systems out of every home in America? One obvious issue is how those coping with disabilities are limited in the popular titles they can actually play. While home entertainment systems will always be an option, many disabled gamers have been unable to enjoy the communal experience of an arcade. Thanks to the nonprofit organization The AbleGamers Foundation, that is no longer the case.
Gaming fans of all types will be able to enjoy a permanent arcade that AbleGamers just opened in Washington D.C., but the real winners are disabled gamers. This new installation is described as an accessibility arcade, bridging the gap between communal gameplay and the fairly significant disabled gaming community. How significant? According to AbleGamers it could be 33 million potential customers, and that is just within the United States alone. All of them are gaming fans, but all deal with some sort of disability that requires alterations in either gaming titles or the systems themselves. This permanent accessibility arcade will directly address this problem, and will remain a visible solution game companies can look towards when trying to discern how to best serve this community. Look for this new arcade at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library.
The best part of this recent announcement is the clear communication that AbleGamers isn’t stopping there. While one arcade will certainly cause an impact in that community, the company’s goal is to create change across the board. Hence the publication of a unique document they call “Includification”. Though that’s quite a mouthful, the discussions held within are hugely important. AbleGamers suggests how new games can be engineered with the disabled in mind, and points out current success stories. Some suggestions include a remappable set of keystrokes, so an individual could change the gameplay to fit their needs, and asking that game designers attempt to devise their games so they can be played with one hand if necessary. Other aspects of the document lay out various ways today’s gamers overcome their disabilities in order to play along. They profile one particular disabled gamer’s 3500 DPI mouse, which allows him to play with just the subtlest of motions. Another highlight is how games like “Max Payne 3” allow players to change the color of the target, so those who only see particular aspects of the color spectrum can still blow away baddies.
Other unique developments AbleGamers profiles in its document show that the future of gaming for the disabled is only improving. The hit game “Bejewelled” has made considerations for all comers right from the outset, by differentiating each jewel by color and shape. And a new piece of software called SmartGlass, recently released by Microsoft, may make it possible for two people to play the same game together even if they are at far different ability levels. While video games will never reverse disabilities, and 1800wheelchair and other services will always be required, anything that helps close the gap between people is a very good thing.