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Steve Saylor's Top 3 Games for Accessibility

Steve Saylor joins us to highlight three games that raised the bar in terms of accessibility this year.

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There is a possibility that if you have heard of accessibility in games, you might have a picture in your mind that equates somehow to “easy mode,” something that makes the game less difficult to those with disabilities so they can play games like Elden Ring or Lies of P. But what if I told you that is not true, and some games that came out in 2023 prove that wrong?

I am Steve Saylor, an accessibility consultant and content creator in the video game space. I’ve been honored to work with amazing studios such as Naughty Dog, Ubisoft, and Xbox. You might have seen me on the GB Couch once or twice. The fine folks at Giant Bomb have asked me to give them a Game Of The Year List, and their instruction was, “Make it whatever you want.” So my list is not necessarily the accessible game of the year for 2023, but the “Challenge Accepted” Accessible Game Of The Year List in 2023.

So, a quick premise on accessibility is that it’s not all just easy mode. Disabled players want the exact same challenge you do when playing games. Some disabled players love the brutal challenge of a Souls game but can’t play because of a physical barrier that prevents them from playing. It’s like if you were to try to play Bloodborne with a blindfold on, ear muffs, one or both of your hands tied behind your back, or a combination of all three. That game would be even more challenging for you then, right? Well, all accessibility does is remove the blindfold, take off the ear muffs, and untie your hands. The game is still challenging, but now those barriers are removed. That’s what accessibility does when it’s done well.

So, the three games I want to talk about are games that provide amazing accessibility but keep the challenge of the game intact. Here they are in no particular order:

#1 - Street Fighter 6

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Street Fighter 6 is a fantastic game for the fighting community, but is also amazing for disabled players too. The control schemes are the perfect example of accessibility that can grow with you as you get better at the game. For instance, when using the Dynamic Controls while designed for new players or players who are more comfortable button mashing through a fight as they learn character combos and moves, so does a disabled player. The controls are simple enough for those with motor disabilities to learn the basics, and the game does the rest to help add in the more advanced combos and moves. Then, once a player becomes more adept at Dynamic Controls, they can switch to Modern Controls. There are more button presses and joystick combinations for more finesse when fighting with a chosen character. Still, there are also multiple training options so a player can test out and practice without the pressure of online play. Then, once they’ve mastered the Modern Controls, they can either learn new characters or jump to Classic Controls and do the same practice and training as before. There is a progression in a way that helps disabled players learn how to play at their own pace, grow into new challenges, and become better. Even if you decide to stay on Modern Controls, they are accepted as an official control scheme for Street Fighter 6 Tournaments. You might have heard of a blind player competing in a tournament earlier this year. That’s cool to see, and you will definitely see more disabled players entering into more tournaments soon.

#2 - Hi-Fi Rush

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The surprise Shadow Drop of 2023 goes to Hi-Fi Rush. Not only was it a surprise hit, but it was a surprise hit for accessibility, too. But in a way you may not expect. Of course the game is a work of art with its visual style, but the audio rhythm-based gameplay makes the game fun. But how do you make a primarily audio-based game accessible to deaf/hard-of-hearing players? Tango Gameworks added a ton of visualizations to the game to help those players play, such as having the environment move to the beat of the music. Everywhere you look, the walls, the objects, and the screens the player sees all have something moving to the rhythm, so the player knows visually how to stay on beat without having to hear it. Plus, if you look at 808, the adorable robot cat companion, it has a pulsing circle that helps a player know when to push buttons on the beat. You can even enable a Rhythm Assist Bar with a graphic of 808 on the bottom center of the screen with the same pulsing metronome but with circles that converge at the center of 808 to let you know when to stay on beat. They even give feedback DDR style whether you are Perfectly hitting the beat or not. It still keeps the challenge of the game intact for deaf/hard-of-hearing players, but in a way that’s accessible to them.

#3 - Forza Motorsport

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The Forza Motorsport series has always been known for its simulation-style racing compared to its sister Horizon series. So, when the team at Turn 10 wanted to make the game more accessible, including tackling the challenge of how to make a racing game for blind players, they wanted to keep the simulation gameplay intact while not keeping things on rails. So they came up with an innovative new feature called Blind Driver Assist. It’s an Assist mode that gives audio cues to help blind players know where they are always on the track. From cues to let you know when you are close to either edge of the road, narration that lets a player know what turn is coming up, including the turn direction and severity, when you are approaching a turn, when you enter a turn, hit the apex of the turn, and exit a turn. Lastly, there is even an audio cue for when you need to decelerate when approaching turns. You can customize the volume and pitch of those cues as well. This is needed to help separate the potential noise those cues may create when used simultaneously. But that’s where the simulation gameplay kicks in. As you would tune a car, you can tune your Blind Driver Assist to fit your needs and optimize your racing experience fully. But what’s great about the Blind Driver Assist is that it gives players all the information they need to race. It’s still up to the player to decide what to do with the information given. If you think the Assist is saying you should break far earlier than you want, you can still decide to add a little extra on the throttle and, using the other cues, know where you are on the track so you can time that turn and drive through it at the best speed possible. It still keeps the challenge everyone else has when racing, but now it has fewer barriers for blind players, so no matter where you're on the blind spectrum, you can not only race but also win.


2023 was an amazing year for games, and it was also the same for accessibility. More games that cover more parts of the disabled spectrum than before were released this year. My honorable mentions of accessible games this year are Dead Space Remake, Diablo IV, Star Wars Jedi Survivor, Stories of Blossom, Mortal Kombat 1, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. All of those games I would recommend if you are disabled and those games can cover your disability or if you are just curious to see if there’s something there that could help you play more comfortably. I can’t wait to see what 2024 brings.