I, like many other gamers last week, have been immersed in a particular game. Uncharted 4 has been a long time coming and I’m happy to say it’s absolutely beautiful and has been a blast to play through thus far. This obviously isn’t an Uncharted 4 review, though, as I’m sure you guessed by the title at this point. No, this is about their option menu.
Games have never really had a huge array of Stuff to help disabled gamers. Subtitles are thankfully the standard, but even that has become an issue as they’ve become smaller and smaller to read. While I make do as someone with your typical sort of bad eyesight (I wear glasses, like a ton of the world does), I still have played games where I had to squint to read just the dialogue text, nevermind the huge amount of text some games boast. It always seemed like an easy fix to me, especially when I actually saw a game do exactly what was needed.
What was the fix? Give the player the option to pick their damn size. Tales of Vesperia and I’m pretty sure most Tales of games of late have at least one ‘font’ choice that is easier to read than its already fairly readable default. Life is Strange and The Walking Dead: Michonne upped the ante and gave the actual ability to make subtitles bigger as needed. Keep it as default or not, the point is, the choice exists for you to take it if you want to. It may seem inconsequential to people who don’t need it, but choice is vitally important to many that want to join in but may be blocked by some of the design decisions these developers have made. The fact they should technically exist for those same gamers to begin with makes the lack of customization even more hard to fathom.
Colorblind options have also become a thing that has recently become standard. I don’t remember when Blizzard finally implemented it in all their games – it feels like it wasn’t always there, but the company definitely has them in now – but I imagine it has really changed the game for people who have problems with it. Color is so important in games like Overwatch, something I found myself conscious of when playing during the beta. Having the option to turn on a mode that aids you in seeing the differences, in that case, can mean the difference between getting great at the game or not being able to follow the colored cues it gives you. While I’m sure people make do, the point is, they shouldn’t have to.
So we spin around back to Uncharted 4. Here’s their accessibility menu.
This thing actually made me stop and pause when I first saw it. While this genre isn’t my usual, I do play a lot of games, and I do know this is…well. A lot of freaking options! I only intended on finding the subtitles option (which I turn on in all games), which I’m used to finding in the Audio section. I hadn’t even noticed the Accessibility section until I saw it wasn’t there and was wondering if they really didn’t have subtitles. Opening this up, I realized they had that and a lot more.
This is what all companies from here on out should strive to give. Uncharted has proven you can make a game and make it good and give people the ability to change little things to make it more playable to people of all levels. You may notice I turned off the repeated button presses. Otherwise known as quick time events, the game expects you to button mash at points to get out of holds or do something like push up a door. Some games are almost completely quick time events, or QTE for short, and let me tell you…they are hell on my wrists.
I don’t even have carpal tunnel, mind you, or don’t have it severe enough to find it stopping me from living day to day life or needing to do much more than not pissing my wrists off by repeatedly smashing things. That said, if I play a game long enough and with enough QTE and I come out of the game session feeling pretty sore in that area. It’s something I sort of just Accepted, but I realize now how bad a mentality that is. Some people don’t have that luxury. Some people have to pass up entire games unless they want to flare up their condition, and that’s terrible, especially when the game isn’t entirely that to begin with but a small section.
That’s just one option, though. Through this one screen, so many small tweaks to game play is available not only to allow people with disabilities to play but also allow people who might not be Amazing at this kind of game to get the experience by tweaking it just enough to make it a little easier. Yeah, I can see you hardcore players sneering at ‘easy’ mode, but with games becoming more and more a cinematic experience, it’s no real shock to me that some want to play to enjoy the story more than anything else. As a test, I turned some of the easy mode options on and still could easily die if I wasn’t careful, so it still has a challenge.
This is how a game should approach this. This right here. Give the players choice. Turn things on and off depending on how you want the game to play. Honestly, this is such a huge step in the right direction, with my only complaint being that I wish Naughty Dog would’ve give the ability to blow up their subtitles a bit (the actual spoken text in game is small, but at least the stuff you find, like letters and Nate’s journal entries can be blown up to be read easily). They did a really solid job accounting for all sorts of people. It’s something I feel we need to commend as much as possible so more companies do it. It’s not just ‘throwing a bone’ to these gamers, it’s literally opening your games to people who may not have been able to buy and play the game otherwise. Gaining a wider audience is never a bad idea. There is even groups and people dedicated to helping developers make their games the best and most widely accessible they can be (here’s an example of some guidelines right here). There’s no excuse anymore, not really.
I’ve been spotting more and more people talking about this topic, which makes me happy. There’s even a pretty big charity now called The AbleGamers Charity, who are focused on both education and finding ways to bring the joy of games to people who might not otherwise be able to play at all. As someone who has gone through rough patches with my own mental illness and finding solace in gaming, I can attest to the positive stuff that can come from being able to play. Here’s to more developers following in Naughty Dog’s example. They already have me hooked as a player for a while now, but I’m never against them finding new ways to impress me.