The Many Responses on Accessibility From Indie Game Developers

/ October 5, 2018

The featured image is of a red backlit keyboard with a hand resting on it in dim lighting.

I’ve reached out to four indie game developers (so far) asking about the accessibility in their in-development Kickstarter games. One of those developers was Kitfox, and I wrote about my experience with them previously. The other three I’m not going to name yet as they have not yet given me permission to do so (I’m not a jerk, honest.)

The second developer that I spoke with had not considered accessibility at all in their game, but they are extremely enthusiastic about implementing it now. They didn’t have the accessibility features to start with but they are willing to learn and to change and to add them and they’re just as enthusiastic about this process as Kitfox is. Suh-weet!

Developer number three informed me that they had accessibility features in place. Among them are an upcoming colorblind mode for the UI and required mechanics (yet it seems not for the monsters and terrain), their controls are fully remappable, and they offer partial controller support.

What exactly is ‘partial controller support’ anyhow? I see it all over Steam and I’ve never really see it explained anywhere. I assume it’s up to the individual game to determine if they were willing to spend the time to program for that hardware. So I asked the developer what ‘partial controller support’ meant for them and what it was going to mean for hardware like the Xbox Adaptive Controller. They responded that a controller should handle 99% of the game but that a mouse/keyboard may be needed for certain tasks, like installation. I’m not sure if installation is under the developer’s purview, is it? Wouldn’t that be Steam’s wheelhouse? Regardless, they seemed confident that the game would be playable without issue, and they felt that the XAC would have no problems.

The coldest developer of the four, when asked about the ability to remap buttons, said that they “don’t see a need for remappable controls, as everything is intuitively mapped already.” While the developer did acknowledge that the concept could change after beta tests, the ableism caused me to audibly hiss at my computer screen.

But this story has a good ending. When I (politely) pointed out that not everyone is able to utilize the same control set and gave some examples, they changed their minds and stated that they would support keybind remapping!

At the end of the day, all four developers either had basic accessibility features implemented or were willing to consider them. Their enthusiasm varied, the amount they were on-board or willing to be varied. But at least some of the basics were there.

I’ve learned a few things, too. There are going to be different attitudes and different approaches to accessibility and to my inquiry, so I’m going to change my dialogue when I speak with developers. But I’m definitely going to speak with more developers. We need more games to be accessible to our community so that we can all enjoy our pastime, and all it took was asking a few questions for two more games to gain features that will make them available to us.

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