by Mike Shea on 18 June 2003
This article on video game accessibility is a great read. Video games have very poor accessibility for those with disabilities. If you think about it, the very idea that you have to be 12 to 18 years old to really play a video game is a problem all itself.
Games like Everquest offer a whole new world of social interaction with people who not only treat people with disabilities the same, they wouldn't even know you have a disability or not. Unfortunately, Everquest is a very hard game to play for non-gamers. It has a huge amount of different controls, many of which could be reduced or removed. While not requiring the reflexes of Quake or Doom, it still requires an element of speed and reaction time for certain classes.
The best thing Sony could do is begin to make Everquest and Everquest 2 games that are playable by non-gamers as well as gamers with visual, hearing, or motor disabilities. Everquest is a true blessing for people who are unable to meet people through "normal" means. By improving it's accessibility, it could be a blessing for many thousands more.
What Sony should do to make Everquest accessible:Hire an accessibility engineer and involve them in the interface design Work with accessibility hardware manufacturers to find out how their game works with non-standard interfaces. Design the game to be more flexible for user preferences. Increased font-sizes for example. Test Everquest for users with particular disabilities including visual, hearing, and motor disabilities. Release a newly designed user interface for users with various disabilities. Build Everquest 2 from the ground up as an accessible game.Some specific examples of how this could work. One element in the article above had a good point. If you are making a 3d virtual world that mirrors a real world, you just have to put in the same metaphors that disabled people use. For example, a cane, seeing eye dog, or a guide could help a blind person navigate. 3D audio cues could help them determine where they are in relation to other people or objects. Audio descriptions could be used for spell casting, targeting, direction, and inventory descriptions.
The idea of playing Everquest while blind seems rediculous. However many everquest players stare at the floor or at a wall during the heaviest combat because framerate drops make it impossible to play while looking at the battle. They do all of their targeting, casting, blasting, and movement while not actually seeing what they are fighting. As a cleric, I can see who's hurt, target them, heal them, and sit, with nothing but a small menu that could easily be transferred to audio tips.
It isn't impossible to make a game like Everquest for disabled people, but it would take some work. This is one way to prove to people that games like Everquest are a benefit to society, not a detrement.
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