Microsoft and the Rise of Accessibility in Gaming

Gears 5 is the latest Microsoft title to gain accessibility features.

(Disclaimer before we get started. We are not affiliated in anyway to anyone mentioned in the article nor do we own any of the material linked (aside from the screenshot of Gears 4 which I took myself). We simply linked it for your convenience if you wish to watch it yourself.)

Microsoft is continuing it’s streak of making it’s games more accessible to everyone including those who are blind. In an interview with IGN (Click here to watch), design director Ryan Cleven talked about some of the accessibility options that will be featured in Gears 5, including how they’ve made it more accessible for those with visual impairments.

 Cleven had this to say about blind gamers and Gears.”We have people that play Gears that are actually blind, which I find is incredible. And we have, for example in Gears 4 we put in a system where you could, like a radar ping to tell where  the fortifications were, to be able as somebody who couldn’t see very well, to be able to find their way around the map. And like people could actually successfully complete horde while being blind is incredible and we wanted to embrace that sense of play, and make sure more people can enjoy Gears.” For those who want to skip to this point this all takes place at about 9:40.

What really bugs me about the interview is that as soon as Cleven starts talking about how they’ve made the game accessible to those who are blind the team at IGN decides now is the time to start playing B roll footage in the background (with sound on). Then before Cleven can talk about it further the interviewer then switches the topic to the B roll footage and how Terminator is in the game. I get that they probably had a very limited amount of time but I still found it off-putting and thought it worth mentioning. 

As both someone who is legally blind and a massive Gears fan the accessibility features have me really excited.  not only is the ping system making a return (which i didn’t use in Gears 4 but will most likely try out for Gears 5)  but now you can do things such as adjust subtitle size(will definitely be using that), change to a colorblind mode, text to speech for voice chat, and menu narration.  All in all this seems to be a massive step up from Gears 4’s accessibility menu which was limited to say the least.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is gears-of-war-4-8_27_2019-1_04_49-pm-2-1.png

(screenshot that I took of Gears of War 4’s accessibility menu)

This isn’t the first time this year Microsoft has leaned into making gaming more accessible.  In may it was reported that Microsoft had patented a Braille accessory for the Xbox controller that would make gaming more accessible to those who are blind.

Thanks for reading, if you’d like to see us upload videos showcasing the accessibility features when the game comes out or if you have a topic you’d like to see us cover then please leave a comment.

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