Games get criticised if they donít feature inclusion, be it off people with different ethnic origins, people with various sexual orientations and a like. Yet there are very few games out there that cater towards people that suffer with disabilities. This is a subject that's very dear to me, as I don't like the idea of people being excluded intentionally or not, because of things in life they can't help and I have close friends who suffer from disabilities and when something like a game can be executed to tender their needs easily, it's frustrating to look out at the gaming horizon and see a wasted chance.
With technology like Kinect which aims to integrate physical movements and intake voice commands for certain actions, it seems clear that there are a number of ways to really let everyone who suffers from any form of disability experience gaming the same as people without any ailments.
Valve held a little conference where they showcased some sign language and we all assumed it was something that was to be implanted in the next Half Life game. I personally was very excited about this idea, yet I havenít seen anything else since then. The idea of being able to use sign language in a game, with possibly a deaf character is without question a great idea and a brilliant breakthrough. But while I use the word breakthrough, I canít help but feel that in the year 2012 this should already have been developed and tweaked to higher upgraded qualities. Given the increase in gamer populations and the vast variety of people who play games, the simple, slightly disheartening fact is that disabled people have been sort of left out of the loop.
A lot of games have subtitles as an option, but many games do not. There is simply no reason why ANY game out their on the market should be lacking a subtitle feature. So many people suffer from complete deafness or are simply hard of hearing to a degree where subtitles would make their life easier. Some developers have commented that subtitles arenít always included as the script can change, but thatís a weak excuse. Make use of the wonder of DLC, which was a thing before we all got current gen consoles and hooked them up to the internet.
Gimme some game in my veins
Exercising games are used for anyone who wants to get into shape, but some games that donít have completely ridiculous controls are a great asset to people who suffering from the likes of cerebral palsy. The movement helps their muscles from becoming stiff and gives them a good workout from the comfort of their home, affording them the ability to get exercise and then collapse on the couch, as a lot of people who have to work twice as hard to move get exhausted quite easily.
Games like Wii Fit are handy, but more can be offered in terms of just simply gaming.
People who suffer from severe physical difficulties, will also unfortunately have to work twice as hard in terms of social interactions. Like it or not, games like World of Warcraft allow some people who have extremely limited movement to in a way do things their body never will be able to and to make friends online.
Aside from the changes that can be made to improve interaction with someone who suffers from a disability, we really donít have that great a list of actual gaming characters that represent people like that. Seriously, off the top of your head name a disabled character in a game? If you can in an instant, then good for you, but donít lie. If it takes a long time, then thereís a reason for that. Not a good one.
A lot of characters seem to just lose an arm and then get it replace bionically. Even without focusing on physical disabilities, itís hard to think of characters who suffer from some sort of mental debilitating condition that isnít just ďtheyíre a plain psychoĒ. In Fahrenheit the main character suffers from claustrophobia which is integrated into the story, thatís one of the few I can think off.
Now Iím not saying that when you pick an RPG game and you can decide how your character looks, from size, height ect that there should be an option as to whether or not they have only one arm, if theyíre blind ect. People will take the piss, others will be offended ect, but isnít it a bit peculiar given how thereís as many people with body issues and deformities in this world, that theyíve never given a chance to create someone who actually looks like them.
I start up Mass Effect 3. I create a generic female, with reddish brown hair and depending on the day of the week, a moustache. YES A MOUSTACHE.
But if I am someone who was born with condition such as Hemiplegia, where one limb is shorter than the other due to a unique type of palsy, then that character will never truly be as close to looking like me as possible. While weíre speaking about Mass Effect (I know, when arenít I eh?) they do include a primary character, Joker, who suffers from Vrolik's Syndrome, a condition that gives him brittle bones. So thereís a little tiny bit of effort here and there, but there just isnít enough and itís sad and lazy to be honest.
There are games with disabled characters for sure, just it's far too rare. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has Doned, who is in a wheelchair. Bionic Commando has a wife for an arm...um that's not the best example.
Ironically one of the few games out there that not only features a high cast of people with disabilities, but also shows a taboo people are scared to talk about such as disabled dating, comes from Japan and is called Katawa Shoujo.
While possibly controversial on paper to many, it is truly astonishing that it exists and it covers a wide range, regardless of the fact that dating simís usually has a certain shameful association. A list of ailments included are, cardiac dysrhythmia, blindness, prosthetic limbs and ADHD/OCD.
Another simple reason for making games as inclusive for as many people as possible is because...it's badass to watch.
Perhaps game designers are scared that they wonít be able to truly get across an inoffensive disabled character, perhaps they think that itís too much hard work in a technical sense. But thatís what research, surveys and tink tanks are for. Thatís what the ever increasing technology that exists for games is suppose to be geared towards, creating games for gamers. And a lot of gamers are disabled. People aren't always comfortable with things they haven't experienced themselves, but that doesn't mean that things should remain stagnant, that boundaries shouldn't be pushed especially when they lead towards improvements.
Games arenít there to heal human diseases or inflictions, despite what someone like Jane McGonagall says, but as time goes on and technology evolves, numbers of people who fund these companies increase, the excuses for simply not realising, acting upon or including functions that make gaming more inclusive for people with disabilities wanes and completely vanishes.