Xbox new accessibility features for disabled game players
Microsoft has announced some new accessibility features coming to Xbox. There are currently more than 400,000 video games for disabled game players, but it’s easy to overlook some of the ways that simple additions can make their gaming experience more enjoyable or possible at all. It can also be difficult for game developers to pinpoint a set of basic accessibility features that encompass the needs of the majority of disabled gamers, because disabilities vary so widely in type and severity.
Microsoft began taking strides to improve accessibility for gamers as far back as 2010 with the Kinect peripheral for Xbox 360, a motion sensing device that allowed players to control Xbox consoles with their bodies or voice. The Xbox Adaptive Controller was created with input from the disabled community and released in 2018, drawing further attention to the importance of making gaming accessible to all players and spurring discussion about what else could be done to bring the fulfilling pastime to everyone. This resulted in the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines and features like Copilot, which enables two controllers to function as one.
Microsoft has released a showcase video that reveals some of the new accessibility features the company has been working on for Xbox gaming on console and PC. These include some simple but useful additions, like putting metadata tags on games on the Microsoft Store so players can ascertain at a glance whether a game has the accessibility features they need to play.
The Ease of Access section of the Xbox’s menu has been renamed Accessibility and already includes a number of features, with more incoming. Night Mode filters out blue light, reduces brightness on both the display and controller, and can be customized to personal preference. There are also adjustable color filters to assist players with different types of color weakness, like deuteranopia or tritanopia, making games easier to view for everybody.
The video shared a number of testimonials from disabled gamers who shared how accessibility features can change their gameplay experience. For many people, disabilities can bring social isolation, and playing video games can be a welcome method to interact with others. So it can be frustrating when games or even the console itself don’t provide the necessary means to facilitate their ability to play. As one person in the video stated, “To me, gaming accessibility is about enjoying a game with no barriers or struggling.”
Xbox also supports game developers who want to incorporate more accessibility features into their games. This includes providing resources to understand what accessibility is and how to create accessible experiences from the technical side of things. The Xbox Accessibility Guidelines is a list of best practices that covers everything from UI navigation, haptic feedback, difficulty options, screen narration, and visual distractions.
Microsoft’s efforts to be more accessible to disabled people extends beyond the gaming platform. Some people find it particularly challenging to “sell” themselves in a traditional interview setting. So the company now has a Neurodiversity Hiring Program that allows job candidates to demonstrate their qualifications and strengths from within Minecraft, letting applicants in the final round of interviews play the game together to showcase their skills and how well they work in a team.