In the summer of 2017, the German Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU- Bundesverband Interaktive Unterhaltungssoftware) announced that total sales of computer games, gaming peripherals, portable game consoles and games for smartphones and tablets have increased to over one billion Euros in Germany in the first half-year. This was a sales increase of eleven percent compared to the same period last year. Worldwide sales in 2016 totaled 91 billion US dollars. Sales are likely to crack the 100 billion US dollar mark by the end of 2017. In doing so, video games have officially taken their place in mainstream society. In our December We Asked interview, Felix Falk, the Managing Director of the BIU also confirmed that "half of Germany’s population plays computer and video games."
Despite the fact that half of the German population likes to play games on occasion, not everyone is able to play along. Even a suitable alternative for a game controller is hard to find for quadriplegics like Dennis Winkens for instance. His QuadStick is a custom-made product as it were. Because this device is far from being a mass-produced item, the multifunctional mouse, which is mouth-operated via sipping and puffing motions costs around 400 US dollars. In addition to this mouth-operated joystick, there are also programmable foot pedals or gaming mouse pads with an integrated, programmable keyboard. For those, who have a difficult time hitting individual, small keys, there are also external control modules with large buttons or foot pedals. Those are not the only examples that show that people with disabilities who want to play games have to take many matters into their own hands. Or they turn to organizations like AbleGamers for assistance. The www.ablegamers.org website supports people with disabilities to find custom gaming solutions – tailor-made for their disability- and also helps with financing the purchase. Yet despite all of the creativity people show in creating alternative control systems, the major video game console manufacturers throw a monkey wrench into these plans by generally only allowing the use of original accessories.
Even if you are able to operate the controller with your hands, it doesn't automatically mean you can play every game. Even though individually adjustable options pertaining to button assignment, color contrast, volume or subtitles have found their way into the games, not every manufacturer has embraced these features yet. Even so, playability has improved for people with disabilities, as blogger Melanie Eilert is also able to attest. Back in 2016, she not only wrote in her contribution for gamescom but also on her blog about modding controllers for Minecraft and how she managed to move around the 3D world using just mouse commands. Needless to say, it’s not just physically impaired gamers like Winkens or occasional gamers like Eilert, who have difficulties playing video games.
Games are (nearly) unplayable, especially for deaf or blind people. For example, sound effects are the hallmark of horror video games, while other games have terrible menus for visually impaired persons or have features that are practically indiscernible for people with red-green color blindness. But it doesn't have to be this way. Games like the Kickstarter-funded horror adventure game BlindSide
, which is audio-based show another way. Many gamers with programmer skills take charge with MODs, that being programmed modifications of the original game to make games playable via voice output for example. What's more, websites like www.audiogames.net
that are specialized in recommending games that primarily focus on soundscapes versus visual perception are also helpful.