The blind also want to play ‘Minecraft’: accessibility grows in video games | Babelia

“My mission, basically, is to help users.” Daniel García was speaking from the ONCE headquarters in Madrid, where the Tifloinnova fair was held last weekend, focused on technological innovations to facilitate accessibility (from smart canes to reading glasses or improved orientation systems), which in This latest edition had a space reserved for a market that is increasingly in demand by people with visual or hearing impairments: video games.

García, responsible for training at Microsoft for Spain and Portugal, watched the visitors who came, cane in hand, to test the improvements in accessibility offered by the latest consoles on the market. His intention, he explained, was to listen to real people, to talk to those who pass by to try the games and collect their demands, ideas or requirements. What could facilitate the experience of him. What would help them play better? He was in charge of the three Xbox Series available. At the next table, three Play Station 5s were waiting in front of whose screens there were also people sitting familiarizing themselves with the controller.

On the Microsoft table, the ubiquitous construction and adventure game was available over the weekend Minecraft, which, as García explained, takes advantage of all the accessibility applications for the blind inherited from Windows and also includes several mods that facilitate gameplay; and the ForzaHorizon 5 and the Gears of War 5, whose accessibility adaptations are designed for people who have residual vision. These applications not only involve those affected by blindness: the force It has the possibility of adding a small screen with a sign interpreter that narrates all the voices and sounds of the game for those who suffer total or partial hearing loss.

Image of the accessible and adaptable Xbox Adaptive Controller.Image of the accessible and adaptable Xbox Adaptive Controller.

As far as development is concerned, Microsoft provides all its studios with an accessibility development kit for future games. “Companies today attach great importance to Corporate Social Responsibility, and there is the 2030 Agenda. Today there is much more sensitivity than a few years ago”, commented Javi Andrés, from the ONCE communication department and video game expert who previously worked at Meristation. There is another determining factor in this accessible impulse: technology itself, which makes things easier and easier. For example, Sony wanted to apply accessibility improvements to their products on the Play Station 4, but this slowed down games. With the PS5, that no longer happens. The best example on the Sony console is The Last of Us 2which has more than 60 accessibility settings, from vibration warnings on the remote, camera aids, color adjustment or audio tracks that help improve visual, sound and motor skills.

If in terms of accessibility the jewel in the crown of Sony is that The Last of Us 2that is, a softwareMicrosoft’s is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, that is, a hardware. It is a control to design to the user’s taste and needs: it consists of 19 USBs so that each player can install the necessary buttons, joystick, triggers or microphones to adapt to their mobility problems, limb limitations or difficulties when playing. use a normal controller.

Microsoft has been taking the lead on the issue for years, but this generation it seems that Sony has gotten its act together and is serious. Surely accessibility has helped, even a little, the historical sorpasso of Xbox on Play Station, because for the first time it surpasses in sales in the West to the Sony machine. And it is that if we only focus on visual impairment, we are talking about more than 270 million people in the world, not counting the people who, without having a disability (the elderly, for example), do need, or at least appreciate , accessibility tools. In other words, beyond social responsibility, companies are beginning to understand that, morality aside, accessibility is a growing business niche. From there you can also change things.

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