Accessibility options in games (specifically in Life Is Strange: True Colors), from the perspective of a disabled gamer

Hey, Gamers! Now, I did a post a while back that has proven to be a bit controversial. It’s obvious that I was very angry at the time and therefore didn’t communicate my points properly.

My main post was meant to be that disabled people shouldn’t be used as scapegoats in arguments created because game journalists have deadlines to meet. I was trying to say that easy mode isn’t a fix for accessibility.

I was going to do a post about why games can’t all be accessible, but I felt like it was difficult for me to communicate my points, and I know there’s always going to be some people who are like “ooh you have to hold game developers accountable” and so on… so here I am, holding game developers accountable. Because I have played a game with amazing accessibility options and I cannot stop talking about them to my friends (my friends being Josh, who I live with) and my family (that being my mother, the only other person I talk to). So let’s talk about what Life Is Strange: True Colors did right, what could be improved and how (and if) it could be implemented in other games.

Okay, moving on because I want this to be a positive post! For reference, Josh is my fiancé and we recently got a PS5. The Life Is Strange series is pretty important to me (one of the first posts I did was actually on the original game, and I think my first game review was on the second game). I’ve streamed all the games on our YouTube (apart from this one, because I’m making a video on it). The original was actually the first game I completed on the PlayStation. I also have several disabilities, including autism, dyslexia and C-PTSD (there are others but these are the ones that I feel are relevant for this post). I just figured you might need this background knowledge.

Okay, so picture the scene: two days before Josh got some money, we were sitting on the sofa after one of my Deathloop streams and just talking about the game (I think it was the first stream I did, to be honest). I was saying that the main reason I got him to read everything out loud was because the writing was really small to me. I’ve told him about how I read using the shape of words rather than individual letters, so he asked if that was impacted and I said yes. We had a really nice conversation about different ways that game developers could potentially help with this issue as I know a lot of people read the same way I do or have the same difficulty with sight that I do. We talked about different fonts potentially being used (although that might go against the design of the game), or just having the option to make the text bigger. It was nice to be able to have a conversation about accessibility without feeling attacked. It was just, chill. We thought of the pros and cons of different things, and it was nice.

Then… BAM.

Josh bought me Life Is Strange: True Colors because he wanted me to have a game on the PS5 that I could play off-stream when my social battery was drained. I opened it, and he sat next to me because it was a big deal to me and he wanted to be there, and I cried. I took one look at the accessibility options and cried. I knew that this was going to be a game-changer for me.

SIDE NOTE: I want you to know that I don’t cry at everything, but I do have trouble regulating my emotions because I’m autistic. When I get overwhelmed, I cry and that’s what happened. I felt so happy, I cried.

So, let’s talk about these options!

Now, the text might be a bit hard to see in the picture, so I am going to go through each thing, even if it isn’t something I use because there are people with other disabilities and most people’s experiences with being disabled is different so yeah.

Font Style

This is literally one that Josh and I discussed a few days prior to getting the game. I type most things in comic sans, which I know a lot of people love to hate but it honestly helps me a lot. I know from myself (obviously) and my father who is severely dyslexic that we tend to read by the shape of a word instead of looking at individual letters and reading like that. I believe it’s called orthography, and it basically means that because we struggle with reading, we kind of often look at the overall shape of the word and take a guess. I know for my dad in particular this is literally the only way he can read, which often leads to him reading a lot of things wrong. You may have heard someone who works with dyslexic people say that they struggle with shorter words more than longer words. For me, that’s because there’s an overall lack of shape and therefore I have to actually focus and read the letters.
For those who don’t know, I got diagnosed when I started university and it was a shock to me because 1) I loved reading and 2) my course entailed so much reading it made me cry. After playing the Witcher 3, I decided that I wanted to give the books a try. Josh jumped on this and bought them all for me (apart from the newest one because it wasn’t translated at the time). I bring this up because I have been reading every single night for the past month without fail, and it was the first time I haven’t been able to change the text. Usually with my university reading, I can find everything online, copy and paste it to word and change it to the dreaded comic sans. But I couldn’t for this. I recently actually looked at my old books that I used to read as a kid and realised how different the orthography is. I think the fact that there is a difference is great for normal kids, but as someone with dyslexia, it was definitely harder to transition to adult books because of this difference. I thought I had fallen out of love with reading, whereas what was actually going on is the shape of the text changed and it became significantly more difficult for me to actually read.
So, I was ecstatic to find this option. However, I can’t see a significant difference in the orthography. It might just be me or my game being glitchy, but it kinda looks the same to me. Let me know if you see any difference, or if I’m just not seeing it because I had it turned on before starting the game.
EDIT UPDATE: I think the main difference is on, like, post-it notes and when I was looking at Alex’s journal, I think there was a difference there too. But I think the reason I didn’t immediately notice is because I’m so used to comic sans being the only sans font I use and because, like I said, I’ve had this turned on for the whole game. I will play with it throughout my next few playthroughs.

Longer Choice Timer

This one THIS ONE is the one I probably struggled the most with the previous game especially. I remember having literal panic attacks playing Life Is Strange 2 because I had to read and pick and do it quickly. It was the most stressful situation. But now, I can read things properly and it gives me time to think about all of my options rather than picking the one that just seems ‘right’. I know from experience that a lot of people suffer from the anxiety that comes with ‘this action will have consequences’. For me, it’s because of trauma. Whenever I did absolutely anything slightly wrong growing up, my dad would always say that I need to learn the consequences of my actions. This included my reactions. A lot of people reading this probably agree with this mentality, but I can’t remember the last time I didn’t freak out about a choice that I made. Half the time I make Josh pick what we’re going to have to eat because if something goes wrong, I can’t be blamed and punished then. So having such a short time to make decisions really harmed me while playing the other games, but having the chance to really think things through now is helping a lot.

Skip Gameplay Prompt

I have this turned off because my memory is bad. I think it’s just there to turn off if people want to and they didn’t have another place to put it. But at the same time, I know some people (like Josh) get infuriated sometimes when they’re told to do things over and over, and I guess that could come into play when playing games.

Jog controls and power controls

I’m grouping these together because from my experience it’s the same thing. I have some issues with my hands due to stims, which means that they’re sometimes sore. I have my options on ‘hold’ for now because I like the feeling that it gives (the vibrations of the controller, I really could’ve explained that better). Vibrations usually make my autism happy as I say (it satisfies my sensory needs). But I totally understand how being able to tap a button could help someone with issues with their hands, especially if they have less mobility in their hands. I imagine someone with less mobility in their hands would struggle with the vibration that comes with holding the buttons, too, so it’s really cool that they thought of this.

Color Filters

It pains me to use the American spelling here, but alas it is what it’s called. I assume that this is for those with colour blindness, but please correct me if I’m wrong. I haven’t touched my settings because I’m lucky enough to not feel the need to, so unfortunately I’m not sure of the extent of options there are here but since it says ‘edit’, it seems to be more extensive than just turning something on or off.

Brightness and volume warning.

Okay so these are the big ones for me and since they’re similar in how they work, I’m grouping them together.
So, I clicked to have this option turned on due to having autism and a ton of trauma. I am terrified of loud noises but I know that sometimes I can deal with it and sometimes I can’t (each day is different). I absolutely love the way that the warnings come up. They pause the game and it’s just like ‘hey, loud noise coming up, you wanna change the sound settings?’ and then it’s the same for brightness, so if you have both turned on like me, you’ll usually have two pop-ups, one after another.
Something I don’t love about this, though, is that the volumes and brightness controls don’t go back to their original settings when it’s over. On one hand, it’s great because I don’t have to mess around with it when it comes up next, but overall it just feels annoying to have to go back into the settings manually. It’s just a minor issue, and overall I’m super grateful to have this option. Like I said, I never know when I’m going to be feeling okay or not okay, so it’s nice to have the warning and the options to prepare myself or adjust the volume or brightness so that it’s okay.

How effective are the accessibility options?

In my opinion, they’re very effective. However, I think that the biggest thing about this whole situation is showing the gaming industry how to do accessibility options. I know a lot of people who think it should just be about difficulty when that’s not the case. There are so many things that disabled people struggle with, and a lot of these things (in games) could be helped by more options like these. I think it would make a lot more people much more comfortable with gaming.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s post, Gamers! I’m on Chapter 5, so I’m going to go play more of this game! Overall I am very happy with these options, and I look forward to seeing them in more games. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, give it a ‘like’ and don’t forget to check out my socials to stay updated on stuff (I post screenshots of games on my Twitter, mainly). If you’re looking for a streaming channel to watch, go check out me and Josh on Twitch! It should be linked on my homepage, but regardless our name is 2nerds_1game. See you next post, Gamers!   

EDIT UPDATE: I’ve finished the game. Wow. So many emotions. Will make a full post on it because- wow.

EDIT NOTE: I want to say that while my original intention of this blog was to educate, that’s not its intention anymore. I want this blog to be a safe space for me and other people. I hope this post doesn’t offend anyone, I was literally just so happy that this game had accessibility options and that they helped me. I know they wouldn’t help every single disabled gamer out there, but it’s a start. Please be mindful of this in the comments. I really wasn’t trying to make any points in this particular post, I was just happy and wanted to talk about it.

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