The photograph below shows the back cover of a gaming laptop. The cover is filled with stickers including ones from a recently-reviewed Year of the Cobra concert. The laptop is on a reflective marble table. The background shows a hand using a smartphone. In the foreground are two LEGO minifigs. These minifigs represent the main characters of “The Story:” Trishna (in wheelchair) and John. This week’s brainstorming update explores videogame accessibility both real and fictional.
Spoiler Warning Scale: Minor (game?! development)
Explaining the Context
The main characters of The Story have physical impairments. Trishna has a mobility impairment preventing her from walking more than a few steps. John has a motor impairment preventing him from fully using his right arm. They chat then meet after John writes about videogames within the narrative that he can or cannot play. I am writing from the perspectives of respect, raising awareness for various impairments, and to bring more nuance to modern characters.
Inspiration for Context
These characters first popped into my head around maybe June 2004? I assumed they were able-bodied: I hadn’t asked! I “asked” during float tank brainstorm sessions in November 2016. I was initially concerned that I would be impolite writing about their physical impairments because I didn’t have much knowledge of their specific contexts. I realized that the best way to represent these and other characters is showing their nuances: the good and bad. Just like anyone else.
Real World Inspirations
I first learned about videogame accessibility when I played EarthBound in 1995, which can be played almost entirely using the player’s left hand. Now that videogames and computer games can be made by anyone, it is exciting seeing computer games like Blindscape and others that are designed so that they can be played by anyone. Eventually, one goal would be seeing most popular videogames have accessibility features either built-in or at least in mind during development.
The Narrative Example
Within “The Story,” there will be a game that was designed with accessibility in mind. The game will be a “frame story” or a “story within a story.” It is tentatively called “The Frame Game” as an easy identifier. The game will have a quality narrative for an early computer game designed to be free, freely distributed, or at least monetarily accessible. It will probably draw inspiration from EarthBound and other games I enjoy playing.
Ways To Assist?
Thanks to the globalized Internet, we’re making progress toward accessibility. An important step, and honestly an untapped market, is encouraging games developers to remember that not everyone is fully-abled. Can the game be played in a visually-impaired mode? Are there alternate forms of controller input? Within “The Story,” John plays narrative-driven games because it suits his personality, although he’s also able to play them. What if he wanted to play fighting or real-time strategy games?
Multimedia Narrative Potential?
I’ve been planning to tell this narrative as probably a series of novels. Brainstorming: novels aren’t exactly accessible for individuals with cognitive, reading, or attention impairments.