</Why everyone should get to experience the joy of gaming, no matter their ability>
By Stacey Rebecca, Twitch Partner and Data Analyst
Gaming was always a big part of my life, but it became a lifeline for me when I became disabled. With widespread pain all over my body, trapped in bed with nothing to do, gaming was my escape – a familiar experience for many. Pain and exhaustion regularly caused me to cancel plans, and I became more and more isolated. Once I was well enough to sit up in a chair for more than a few minutes, I turned to Twitch, a platform focusing on video game live streams like broadcasts of esports competitions, music broadcasts and IRL streams. Having a safe place where I could play games and chat with like-minded people was tremendously impactful on my mental health. It was my window into the outside world and it gave me a sense of belonging that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
On bad pain days, I find it hard to concentrate and even the simplest things can feel impossible. Gaming became difficult to enjoy because I couldn’t follow a story or retain information. Using subtitles helped me absorb what was going on and I was less likely to miss something. But subtitles are often very small, can be difficult to read from 6 feet away curled up on the sofa, and not many games allow you to resize them. I started reading up on subtitling in games and fell headfirst into the world of accessibility in gaming. I realised that there were thousands of people like me who were struggling to enjoy the games that they loved because of chronic illness or disability.
Accessibility doesn’t mean changing the game’s core values or making it “easy”. Accessibility doesn’t take anything away from the game. Adding accessibility options and giving people the choice only adds value. Anyone can benefit from accessibility options – you might benefit from subtitles when you’re playing in a noisy environment for example (like me, if your husband is playing an equally noisy game next to you!). You might make use of control remapping if you have an injury that is preventing you from using one of your hands.
Accessibility is for everybody – it’s about making sure that everyone gets to experience the joy of gaming, no matter their ability. However, in order to continue creating inclusive gaming spaces, we need an industry that truly understands the barriers that disabled people face, and encourage diverse groups of young people to sign up to courses that will get them into this industry. For a long time the responsibility to create change was put on charities and disabled gamers themselves to solve these problems, but now I think the industry is starting to realise that we can help lift this burden by including accessible game design at the very beginning of the process and have a diverse workforce who can help make this happen.
For gaming to continue to progress in the right direction, it’s really important that we encourage and welcome people from all backgrounds to be a part of this world from the start. First of all, we need to do what we can to remove barriers to study, making courses accessible to a wider range of people through distance learning and online classes. When I first became ill, I was studying for a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics with The Open University. I am incredibly lucky that I was already making use of remote learning, because I’m not sure I would have been able to finish my degree otherwise. The fact that I could attend all my lectures online and study in my own time meant that I was able to work around my pain, studying when I had the most energy and resting when my body had had too much. That would not have been possible in a traditional learning environment.
Secondly, we can encourage inclusion just by being visible. When other people see us doing our thing and being successful, it makes them feel welcome. If you have a passion for gaming but feel you’re facing barriers getting in, it’s important to remember that it’s such a huge industry with so many different career paths to choose from. You can be an artist, a programmer, a level designer, a producer, a community manager, an esports superstar… Whatever your skillset, there’ll something for you to help create a difference for many generations of gamers to come!
Stacey Rebecca has partnered with the Institute of Coding on their 404 Not Found content series, raising awareness on the demand for a diverse workforce across the sector.
For more information on how you can help create change and reboot the system, visit our course catalogue below,