The year of 2014 was full of many big new releases, numerous sequels, and some exceptional independent titles; our staff of accessibility experts faced an exceedingly difficult choice. We found many games failed to meet the standards of accessibility for the inclusion of everyone, but a few games shined out from the darkness. The annual AbleGamers’ Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year award aims to highlight excellence in accessible game design. It is awarded to developers that make intentional choices to include accessibility in their games.
After countless emails and many hours of debate, the AbleGamers team came away with a short list of eight games. These are the games we recognized as accessible titles that narrowly missed achieving the top spot.
- Hearthstone – A fun, accessible experience, but doesn’t try to be as accessible as it could have been. Some color deficiency issues remain.
- Pokemon Alpha Sapphire / Omega Ruby – The inclusion of a one-handed mode and button remapping is well made, but accessibility is limited by the 3DS platform itself.
- Tropico 5 – Overall a very accessible title, not fully mouse compatible.
- Sims 4 – Well featured and accessible, but no real leaps forward in accessibility.
- Civilization: Beyond Earth – Extremely accessible genre, but contains some possible color deficient issues.
For the first time ever, two independent developers demonstrated equally impressive accessibility in terms of finished product and research into what helps gamers with disabilities be included without sacrificing any features.
The 2014 AbleGamers Accessible Mainstream Indie Game of the Year goes to…
Always Sometimes Monsters, by Vagabond Dog and This War of Mine by 11 Bit Studios
Always Sometimes Monsters is a game of choices, much like the choice Vagabond Dog made to keep a focus on accessible game design. Game play is never action-based, allowing the player to follow the story and complete objectives at their own pace. Color never plays into core gameplay elements without other descriptors. The game is entirely text based with fantastically created closed captions. Vagabond has created a world that allows players to follow a story they create from their own choices, and does not let anything stand in the way of accessible options for players to enjoy Always Sometimes Monsters.
The team at 11 Bit Studios makes the full experience of the atrocities of war accessible by careful consideration of controls and theme. Allowing the game to be controlled only by the mouse creates an amazingly accessible PC title while being very tense. 11 Bit Studios dedicates a conscious effort to a colorblind friendly art style that only increases their game’s style. Audio accessibility is carefully considered by the team, turning footsteps into visual information and sticking to their game’s theme. This War of Mine is a somber tale, with careful consideration to features that allow anyone to witness that experience.
We could not choose between these two games. Even with one game being mostly text based, the other a point and click, and both more accessible than action games by default, they still deserve applause for doing accessibility the right way.
And as much as we wanted to split the awards with every game that showed promising accessibility, we knew there could be only one.
After all the internal debate, the dust settled, and one game showed itself to be different than all the rest despite being found exclusively on the most unfriendly console for those with mobility impairments.
The 2014 AbleGamers’ Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year: Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta 2 pulls out all the stops for accessible game design while staying true to their creative vision, revitalizing a genre known for inaccessibility, on a system inherently inaccessible, but ultimately making a near perfect example of game accessibility.
This game allows players to choose from a plethora of options with the WiiU GamePad, Pro Controller, the GamePad’s touch screen, or in any combination that is most comfortable for the player. Some might say this is a visual masterpiece with astonishing graphics, top tier subtitles, and a visual style carefully crafted to not impede the enjoyment of the game for those with colorblindness.
Bayonetta 2 stands out among other accessible mainstream games by paying careful attention to user friendly game experience. The inclusion of a one-button combat mode creates an experience other character action titles should implement. As a proof of concept, this game demonstrates that accessibility can be implemented into a mainstream AAA game without harming any of the gameplay. Popular titles such as Shadow of Mordor could easily implement one-button mode for those who need such accessibility while leaving a complicated controls for those who prefer those methods, and still award players with a top-notch game that is accessible to everyone.
Multiple control schemes interchangeably allow combat to be as streamlined as possible without degrading any of the overarching game play design choices. Touch and motion controls are optional, quick time events are of minimal impact to the game play thanks to the one-button mode, and yet still allows for more experienced players to set up challenges they deem appropriate to tackle.
Bayonetta 2 is not a style of game that should be accessible, but PlatinumGames took extra steps to make it that way, which is worth praise.
The process of choosing our game of the year winners was a difficult task. Many new titles demonstrated many new innovations, while other games completely missed the mark. AbleGamers is encouraged by the work done so far in the accessible gaming movement, but there is still work to be done.
If you want to know how to make your games more accessible, visit includification.com for more information on how you can design the most inclusive games possible, open your game to a huge new audience, and possibly win next year’s AbleGamers Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year award