by Joe Lonergan
The Game Accessibility Conference (GAconf) Awards acknowledge and applaud individuals and studios pushing the boundaries of accessibility in gaming. The awards took place last Wednesday the 24th of January and featured a day of talks, networking, and exploring accessibility for disabled gamers. They also had an awards ceremony as part of the gaming conference.
The 2023 edition of the Gaming Accessibility Awards once again recognised and celebrated the efforts of people across and around game development to raise the bar for accessibility. They had 19 categories, shortlisted by an expert panel, with winners decided on by a combination of public and jury vote. We now live in an era where accessibility is celebrated. This is especially true now in the world of Gaming as shown by some popular games getting released on PlayStation and Xbox, so people who are blind and have low vision do not have to restrict themselves to word or sound games. There is a whole lot more out there now.
This is proven by YouTubers like the popular Ross Minor who has a YouTube channel dedicated to gaming accessibility. He has thousands of followers and puts out regular content of him playing video games as a person with sight loss, one of the most popular videos is of him driving in Forza Motorsport. Accessibility in Gaming cannot be mentioned without saying the name Steve Saylor, a major advocate in the field of accessible gaming and you can read more about him on his website https://stevesaylor.net/accessibility-consulting. He had a massive input into the sixty different accessibility options built into the game, The Last of Us on PS 5.
The popularity of Blind Gaming is also helped by PlayStation and Xbox consoles both having fully functioning screen readers built in. This also allows the user with sight loss to access other media on the console such as YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming apps. Going back to the Gaming Awards, while it is fantastic to have 19 different categories, we will focus on the best.
Blind/Low vision category
Each category had 3 different nominees. In the Blind/Low vision category of accessible gaming, the Nominees were Forza Motorsport, Mortal Combat 1, and Stories of Blossom.
All the above games were totally accessible to blind players and also had audio descriptions. The overall winner in this category was Forza Motorsport. You might think wow how can they make a Motorsport game fully accessible but with a series of beeping sounds and engine noise as well as some voice commands and audio description it is made fully accessible. Of course, there is a big learning curve to a game like this, but when you fully learn the game, it is very rewarding and stimulating and a great challenge if you like your car games. It is also one way someone can experience a driving simulation game. Some vision-impaired gamers have stated it is the nearest they have come to driving a car since they had lost their vision. Forza Motorsport is available on the Xbox gaming console.
One of the main objectives of the Gaming Awards is to put developers who make their games accessible in the spotlight with the hope of getting other big game developers to do the same. If you want to read more about the gaming accessibility awards check out https://www.gaconf.com/ and enter on awards.