BlerdCon 2023, as always, had great energy, cosplay and events, but the panels were really something the attendees enjoyed. There were many panels devoted to video games, and one entitled “Look Ma! No Hands!”: Playing Videogames with a Disability was really informational and inspirational. Overseen by Misato Kaminari (she/her), the talk enumerated the different challenges many players face with video games such as with vision, hearing, motor skills and psychological concerns.
She offered ways to address these and also provided resources from other content creators.
The use of dance mats that avoid the need for fine motor skills was one example. These can run from $20 dollars to over $1,700. Kaminari also offered up a picture of the PC D-Force Mat that she uses. She also held up an Xbox adaptive controller she uses.
She signal-boosted the organization Warfighter Engaged, which has a mission to improve the lives of severely wounded and disabled veterans through custom adapted devices.
One of the video resources she shared was from Steve Saylor who is legally blind from nystagmus. He has consulted with publishers Ubisoft and Electronic Arts and developer Naughty Dog. His video details his amazing accessibility work for the The Last of Us Part 2. And if you have ever played The Last of Us Part 2, then you may have noticed that it has templates for vision, hearing and motor accessibility preset adjustments.
Kaminari was gracious enough to answer some questions from Game Industry News after her busy panel.
GiN: What disabilities do you face that informed your panel at BlerdCon?
Kaminari: I had carpal tunnel in both of my wrists. I recently got surgery on my right one, from which I am currently healing, and I am awaiting surgery on my left. This makes it very painful to use a regular video game controller. I also get motion sickness when playing some 3D open world games.
GiN: What are some games that adapt well for someone with carpal tunnel syndrome? How about some with motion sickness?
Kaminari: For carpal tunnel, any games with simple controls that can easily be translated to larger buttons using an adaptive controller (such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller) and can be pressed using larger movements. Turn-based games, most 2-D platformers and puzzle games are good examples of this.
For motion sickness, 2D games give me little to no issues. Open world games that have large static elements on the screen, such as your inventory in Slime Rancher, also don’t make me as sick.
GiN: Are there any games that institute some of your suggestions like support for sign language, motion controls/gyro, D-Pad support, high contrast mode or specific content warnings? Do you have any examples?
Kaminari: Sure. For sign language, it would be Forza Horizon 5. With motion controls, Splatoon series and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. D-pad support is found in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Tetris 99, the Street Fighter series and the Tekken series. High contrast mode is in the most recent Last of Us game. And specific content warnings are in Dead Space 2023.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a lot of great accessibility in addition to the D-pad support, such as auto-assist steering and automatic acceleration, which can be helpful for people with physical and cognitive disabilities by reducing physical inputs and the need for quick button pressing.
GiN: You have some great YouTube resources like Laura K Buzz, Steve Saylor, My Mate Vince and All Access Life. Is there a particular video from one of them that made a great impact on you, and if so, why?
Kaminari: There were two videos that were the most helpful in my journey as a disabled gamer. All Access Life’s first review of the Xbox Adaptive Controller was how I first found out about the controller, which gave me hope that I could still play video games. My Mate Vince’s tutorial on how to make the Xbox Adaptive Controller work on the Nintendo Switch was incredibly helpful to me as a primarily Nintendo gamer.
GiN: You have some great advice for how the Video Game Industry can help gamers with disabilities. Are there any organizations or ways our readers can amplify this message?
Kaminari: Listening to disabled gamers’ experiences, acknowledging and applauding accessibility design and options that work well, and acknowledging when game software/hardware falls short on accessibility.
This was a great panel, like many others at BlerdCon this year. There was even an American Sign Language interpreter for the audience. I saw these interpreters throughout the convention, not just at this one panel.
Please take the time to check out some of the resources mentioned in this article for gamers with disabilities, and if you can support them in any way, please do.