Accessibility was more visible than ever in 2021, but not always in a way that’s helpful

If last year was a tipping point for accessibility in games becoming visible, then this year has been a weathervane—indicating the direction developers are committing to. While it can feel like disabled critics and advocates are constantly arguing that we have a right to be here, a lot of studios already recognise this and are making games for and marketing to us. Accessibility in games has never been more visible—but that visibility is, itself, something to question.

Numerous high profile games actively included information about accessibility in their marketing this year, releasing news about their accessibility menus and features ahead of release. It is, however, much easier to talk about the presence of features than the absence of barriers. You never see reports saying ‘Latest Franchise Add Promises To Not Have Teeny Tiny Text’, or ‘Upcoming Blockbuster Will Never Spin Camera Round Nauseatingly Fast’. Releasing news about games’ accessibility ahead of time is a good thing—telling disabled audiences that they are welcome and giving them information they need about playing an upcoming game—but it also angles public conversation about accessibility in a certain way.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is one of the largest publishers to be particularly vocal about accessibility in both its games and hardware. Both its tentpole releases this year—Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite—included accessibility news as part of their pre-release marketing. And while both games made highly visible efforts to include disabled players, the results have been mixed, with disabled critics praising one and panning the other.

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