People who say accessibility will ruin the difficulty of a game are probably not entirely aware of what accessibility is. (Here’s a handy primer.) Unless, of course, all of them are super smart and realise that an inaccessible game can be super difficult for a person who is physically or mentally impaired in some way.
A lack of contrast in a game for someone who’s color blind? You bet their difficulty level is much higher than someone with “normal” vision.
No subtitles for someone hard of hearing? No visual indicators where the action is happening? You got it. Much harder for that person to play the game.
From my perspective, being a largely able bodied person myself (with the exception of a vision impairment, I’m half blind on my left eye), accessibility is not about making a game easier for a certain group of people. It is about evening out the playing field. Some people start at a disadvantage. In some cases that barrier or disadvantage is big enough that the person can’t play at all.
What we’re really saying, and doing, when we’re complaining about accessibility features is to gatekeep and deny access to players. Some of you might be totally fine with that, but I am not. If we can make a game playable by allowing someone to increase contrast, allow single press instead of button spamming or showing audio as directions, we should. Anything else is jealous gatekeeping, and not to mention ableist othering of individuals who are usually prevented from participating in society on an equitable footing.
Accessibility is not just about game design though. That wheelchair ramp at the back of the building? That’s an accessibility feature that could just as well have been at the front of the building if the architect had thought a bit about it before designing the building. Those heavy doors that require fully functioning arms to open? What if they didn’t. What if someone who for some reason is in pain or has less mobility could open them? What if we, instead of highlighting ANOTHER area where someone with an impairment is restricted and othered, simply made sure our games are as accessible and welcoming as possible? To all players?
We keep talking about fairness. “How is it fair that aim assist helps a player to be better at aiming?” How is it fair that no aim assist makes the game impossible to play for someone with a tremor or arthritis?
A lot of gaming culture is built on what Amanda Philips calls the Tough Baby persona. A person speaking (angrily) from a position of power, while at the same time painting themselves as victims. Have you head this before? “Accessibility is bad because it let’s people reduce difficulty and people like me won’t be able to play on equal footing! Poor me!”
Accessibility is only superficially related to difficulty. It probably won’t impact, or very rarely impacts your enjoyment of a game, unless you are disabled, in which case it may the the line between playing and not being able to.
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