Victor looking at the camera. he is an almost 40 years old male, almost bald, has brown eyes and a goatee. He is wearing a button up shirt over a horizon forbidden west T-shirt.

This Week in Accessibility for December 16, 2023: Reviewing the Year in Accessible Video Games

Gaming journalist and accessibility consultant Victor Dima joins the show and looks back at 2023 in accessible video games. From adaptive accessories like the PlayStation Access Controller to mainstream titles like Forza Motorsport and Mortal Kombat 1 building accessibility into their games’ infrastructure, this year felt like there are more accessible  gaming options for people of all abilities. 

But while some companies are embracing weaving accessibility into their titles, for others disabled players feel like a mere blip on their radar. We’ll dig into some real flops this year for disabled gamers, including Bethesda’s lack of transparency regarding Starfield, and our list of features for the new Nintendo Switch console rumored for 2024.

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Segment 1

Des: Today on the show, it’s been a great year for video games, especially if you’re blind or have trouble using your hands. We’re going to talk to gaming accessibility consultant Victor Dima about the steps forward and steps back from this year in video games. Plus, it’s all the news from This Week in Accessibility.

(Music Plays)

Des: Welcome to the show. The holidays have officially arrived. I’m Dez Delgadillo.

Louis: And I’m Lewis Do.

Des: Let’s jump straight in. There’s not a lot of news this week, so we don’t want to hurt ourselves jumping into the pool. So let’s just dip a foot in to get started. And let’s talk about Rock and Roll. KISS is the first band to digitally replace themselves. That’s right. They’re using avatars to virtually depict themselves that are used using motion capture suits the way you see in movies these days. These guys have retired. They’ve called it quits. They’re no longer rocking out in person. But there are going to be plenty of people still able to watch KISS virtually for generations to come. I think Gene Simmons put it best where he said Paul Stanley is going to be able to jump higher than he has ever jumped before. Louis, you and I love going to concerts, and I know it’s not the easiest for everyone to get to a concert. I’m thinking this kind of innovation, starting with KISS, and probably spiraling out to all sorts of other bands, is going to give so many people the opportunity to have an experience that they may never have had otherwise.

Louis: I agree. And I think since the global health event in 2020, we’ve really changed the way we interacted as a society. People with disabilities have been clamoring over the years for remote work, remote recreation, things like that, just because not everyone has the ability to leave the home. Some people can’t because of chronic illnesses. Other people can’t because they don’t have transportation. For example, let’s say if you’re living across the world, and because we’re so interconnected, one of your favorite bands is KISS, or insert another band, the name of another band that you like, and you would never be able to see them in person. Now you can get closer to that. But on the flip side of that, I’m worried about where our societal interactions are going, because as great as virtual interaction can be, and you and I both work remotely, and we both enjoy it for its various benefits, I also think being connected, being in one room together, being in the same spaces, is also important. So I hope we don’t lose sight of that. And there’s a way where we can have our cake and eat it too, as it were.

Des: And that’s another thing, too. I go to concerts all the time, and it’s so difficult to have a damn conversation. Even just to talk about, I love this song, I hope they play more songs off this album. Good luck trying to get your friend to hear that when you’re at a concert. And that’s kind of a cool thing that I like to think about, is being able to actually chat about the content of the show you’re watching while it’s happening without having to yell into somebody’s ear.

Louis: Agreed. And I think it’s going to make festivals more accessible too, because you and I have both been to concert festivals where it was just a nightmare trying to get to the right stage and watch the right act at the right time, right? But this way, it gives you more options. You can watch, I don’t know, Iron Maiden on stage one while Metallica is playing on stage two, but then you can later on view the archives and enjoy Metallica.

Des: We talked last week about Gemini, the new large language model that Google’s training barred on, as well as making it available on the Pixel phones starting next year, and a lot of really interesting stuff that came out from it. And first of all, the company is under a little bit of fire when reports surfaced that the demo video that we were talking about last week, and remember I did say take this with a grain of salt, and in fact it was a little bit salty, because it turns out that the video was, I don’t want to say faked, but edited for sure, I guess to cut down on some of the delay times. Which I expect, but people took that to mean that they were being false representatives of the information that they were giving. Do you fall one way or the other on Google editing those videos and just for, I guess it was just for brevity?

Louis: When I watch demonstrations, I think I expect them to be edited. I think, unless it’s explicitly stated, I expect every demo that I’m watching to be edited and polished in one way or another, because they’re looking to sell this product. They’re looking for people to buy it, so they’re going to try to present the product, whether it’s Chat GPT or Gemini, in the best light possible. And I think you and I have, you know, from the assistive technology lens, we’ve listened and watched many demos before that promised a lot and were edited, and then we knew that the reality versus expectations wouldn’t always align.

Des: No, that’s for sure. And I think that’s happening right now. Google creating some new expectations, along with people who are starting to play with Gemini. BBC put out a YouTube video where supposedly Gemini is able to reason and think more carefully than GPT-4. Now, we’re not saying that AI is able to reason and think on the level of a human. That’s apparently what’s called AGI, which I just learned about last week. But this is just saying that since it’s able to do math and solve more difficult math equations, it’s showing that AI is becoming able to reason on a level beyond just recognizing patterns.

Louis: I think right now, as we’re looking at all these AI models coming out, Chat GPT, GPT-4, Google Bard being the ones we’ve discussed thus far on the show, all these approaches, all these models are going to be scrutinized, and not all the criticism is going to be valid.

Des: Let’s go to our final story for the week, and it ties in very neatly to Segment 2, which is coming up with Victor Dima, and we’re going to talk all about gaming and its accessibility in 2023. But Insomniac Games, the makers of the Spider-Man 2 video game, took to X today and announced that the long-awaited December update to the game would be delayed until early 2024. Now, some of you might know that the update that was supposed to come out in December actually was the one that boasted audio description for the cut scenes, for gameplay, and some other accessibility additions that were not present at the initial release of the game. So people have been waiting for this. Some people have been a little more patient than others, and it looks like we’re going to have to be just a little bit more patient. So we spoke with Victor maybe about two days ago, and I wish that we had gotten to talk to him with this, because I know he was really excited, and I think he’s really disappointed right now to hear that this news is going to be delaying the game a little bit.

Louis, I know you’re not a really big game fan, so I’m going to go ahead and just give you a break. Why don’t you step outside and go make a couple of phone calls, and we’ll get you back after.

Louis: I’ll go play guitar riffs.

Des: Let’s take a quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk to Victor Dima, a gaming consultant all about the year 2023 in video games.

(Outro music)

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Segment 2

(Intro music)

Des: So one thing that we’ve talked about a lot already on the show is accessible gaming, and I think the year 2023 has been a huge year for gaming and a huge year in particular for people with disabilities getting to access more games. So I have somebody who I’ve been admiring from afar, from on LinkedIn and his website that I love to read his blog sometimes. So it’s a nice treat for me to actually have him on and just have a nice little chat about something I geek out on on the daily, and I thought I’d just have the mic on for y’all to listen in. Victor Dima, D-I-M-A from Norway, is a gaming consultant with an emphasis on accessibility, like me. You are also blind, correct?

Victor: Yeah, absolutely. Totally blind.

Des: There’s still some representation here on the program. What would you say, like, right off the bat, if we had to break 2023 down for people and give them, like, just a little sample of what kind of the highlights were for 2023? What sort of stands out to you?

Victor: The first thing our listeners need to understand about me is the fact that I haven’t been blind all my life. I’m blind for, like, 10 years. The last game that I was able to play and finish on my own was the original The Last of Us in 2013. And the first game that I was able to play and finish on my own as a totally blind gamer was The Last of Us Part II.

Des: Oh, wow. That’s a circle.

Victor: Yeah, it is a cycle. Before going blind, I played The Last of Us, like, a lot of times, you know, like five or six times. So I know that game by heart, of course. And being able to just play the second game, it was a dream come true, you know. And the fact that we get the second game now with all the audio descriptions and haptics in just less than two months, right? One month. It’s absolutely fantastic. So I’ve been a gaming journalist since 2010, and I covered video games from then until now. And I’m still doing that from both my perspective as a totally blind gamer and from the perspective of my wife, who has absolutely no problem with her vision. So we are playing video games together, and I review them from both perspectives.

Des: That’s what draws me so much to your blog. You get like a dual perspective of yourself and your wife.

Victor: I love that. I love that I’m able to do that. And I know that those that read my blog love that as well. You asked about my highlight for 2023. So there are a few games that I truly love, and I will tell you about them. But my highlight was the fact that Turn 10 Studios, alongside Xbox and our, I think, mutual friend, Brandon Cole, managed to release the Forza Motorsport racing video game that blind people are able to play. And they do it quite well. So that’s the highlight. That’s the revolutionary thing that happened this year. Blind driving for gamers.

Des: That’s incredible.

Victor: I always say, if you want to hire the best accessibility, blind accessibility consultant, just hire Brandon, because he delivered it. He really delivered. The Last of Us Part One, The Last of Us Part Two, Mortal Kombat One with Carlos, right? With Carlos Vasquez.

Des: Yep.

Victor: And now we have Forza. So there are four games, and he’s already confirmed for Dusk Falls, the PlayStation version that’s coming in March, April. I love that game. I love that game. And now we will have audio descriptions and haptics on the PlayStation. So yes, of course, hire Brandon. If you don’t hire Brandon, hire me or hire you. You know, so there are options. And so Forza Motorsport, first and foremost, revolutionary, incredible, wonderful. It should be the staple for any upcoming racing games from now on. But as I said, in what, 2020 came The Last of Us Part Two, I think. Yeah, 2020, I think.

Des: Oh, man. So long ago already.

Victor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a revolutionary step. And this is another one. First, we had AAA game fully accessible for the blind. Now we have AAA racing game fully accessible for the blind. God of War Ragnarok with Valhalla DLC released yesterday for free for everyone who owns the game.

Des: I’ve always heard about God of War, even going back to my days of just like watching G4 and thinking, yeah, I wish I could play that game.

Victor: You can play that game now.

Des: Yeah. But before back then, like there’s so many games from that franchise. So that’s amazing. What is that gameplay like? I haven’t picked it up yet.

Victor: Brutal. Bloody, gory, awesome. I received Ragnarok with one month before the actual release and giving feedback back to Santa Monica Studio alongside Brandon. And I was able to finish God of War Ragnarok with Alina, my wife, helping me four times. And when I say helping, it’s like three seconds to finish a puzzle. Okay, that’s it.

Des: So just because I want to give people transparency into what it’s like gaming from our perspective: is four times like a good number?

Victor: It’s awesome. It’s like having absolutely no problem. I mean, the fact that I was able to play the entire game and finish it, it was a wonderful experience for me because it was the first triple A open world like action adventure game that I was able to finish after going blind. Fun fact, I played all the God of War games before this one and finished them all, excepting the 2018, the initial reboot of the game. Okay. That one, it’s not accessible for me and didn’t have all these wonderful accessibility options in it. And as I said yesterday, the Valhalla DLC came out. It is as accessible as the original game. So there are things that work and there are other things that don’t work. We have menu narration that works okay. All the navigation assist, sound cues for battles, enemies attacking, dodging, rolling, and that it is in there. But the skills and the weapon pads and stuff like that, and the weapon upgrades are not narrated. Of course, you can just keep X pressed and they will automatically upgrade. So it’s not a big problem. We knew this is what it will happen and that it is. So I think the experience is accessible as a whole.

Des: let’s step back for people listening who might not have such an insight into accessible gaming. I wanted to quickly explain the types of adaptations that are out there for people. So of course, for you and I, we’re blind players. Lately, there’s a proliferation of audio description for cut scenes. We have things like aim assists, right?

Victor: Yeah, lock on target.

Des: What are some other ones?

Victor: So we definitely need navigation assist. That means when we press a button, the camera turns towards the current objective. So that’s how we make our way through the level or through the game. We have assist for puzzles. That means exactly like the target lock works. It means that when we handle the puzzle, when we lock on target, we lock on the first option for that puzzle and so on and so forth. That’s how we finish the puzzle. Other things that we need are the sound cues. Sound cues for, for example, when we are attacked by an enemy from behind, we have a specific sound cue and we know to dodge. We have Ragnarok. It’s absolutely fantastic because we know exactly if we need to dodge or if we need to block or if we need to do a light attack or a hard attack, heavy attack. Okay, so that’s wonderful what they did there. Of course, sound cues for picking up stuff from around the world. Other accessibility options that are super good for totally blind players is like to have an option to auto pick up everything around you. And yeah, audio descriptions, as you said, that’s something new that’s making itself known in the gaming space because we have the audio descriptions tracks on Netflix, HBO and everything. And also now we also have this for video games. And now my wife loves to just look at me playing the video game and experiencing from this point of view, because I’m the one who usually spends time on the, on the side, looking at her, not looking.

Des: My experience too is watching them play the game.

Victor: Yeah. But now, you know, we can show them some stuff. Some God of War brutality rage from Kratos. Vengeance will be mine.

Des: Some of those, like some of those considerations are just part, aren’t even necessarily accessibility. They’re just good game design that make the game.

Victor: Universal design. Yeah, of course. Universal design. Yeah. It’s wonderful for people with limited vision, low vision as they go, as we call them, or we need the largest text, the largest subtitles, larger UI elements, user interface elements. Of course, all sorts of filters like for high contrast, high color, invert color, subtitles, backgrounds, a lot of stuff. So we can, we can talk a few hours on this.

Des: The idea of universal design and it permeating video games, it’s becoming almost like companies are criticized when they don’t start to consider disabilities, specifically in the gaming space. One example I saw this year, in particular, that resonated with me was the game Starfield.

Victor: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I loved you on that. Starfield.

Des: First of all, can you kind of…

Victor: Start your destiny, if you’re not blind.

Des: (laughs) Get me up to speed on Starfield. Were you excited for the title before, like when it was initially announced? And were you one of the people waiting for the accessibility updates that basically never came?

Victor: Yeah. I love science fiction. I’m a huge Star Trek fan. I love Mass Effect. I was fortunate enough to be able to play the trilogy while I was still sighted. So I would have loved for the game to have been accessible, but I somehow knew it wouldn’t be because Bethesda did not communicate transparently with the accessibility community on this.

Des: Why was that? Why weren’t they transparent? I mean, even their parent company is accessibility minded.

Victor: Yeah. Xbox. We are talking about Xbox here. I think, although the parent company is there, I think Bethesda still does some things on their own. They have their way of doing stuff, and I don’t believe that Xbox can go in there and do something about it less than just someone from Xbox picking up the phone and shooting a message to someone from Bethesda and telling them, we need to step on this and do something about the real accessibility. And Starfield is such a huge game, and I think it took a lot of years to develop. And they didn’t take into consideration accessibility. The thing with accessibility, you cannot just put it on top most of the time, and especially not in such a game, because there are so many systems in place there that if you want to shovel in accessibility, just shove it in there, you will not be able to do because everything else around it will just break down and fall apart. The lack of communication, that’s unpardonable. No, inexcusable. They could have just ‑‑ I think they said we have larger graphics or something, larger fonts. It’s not ‑‑ it was just one option. But now they are asking for feedback to their email. I think it’s accessibility at or something. People interested can search for the accessibility email and send feedback to Bethesda on this. Of course, we did, a lot of us did. The game will get mod support next year, I understand. So maybe people from the accessibility community will be able to make it more accessible. But the fact that the game is not accessible for a large number of disabilities, that’s a big problem. It’s not just me and you that we are blind, and we know blind accessibility is very hard, probably as hard as creating accessible experiences for people with limited mobility. And when I say limited mobility, I’m not talking about being able to move their hands. I’m talking about people that need to control games with eye control, you know, and voice control and stuff like that. That’s also super hard to do. It’s a good game, I understand. My wife played it for a few hours after that. I dare say better things came along soon. We got Spider-Man on PlayStation. That’s another game that I want to talk to you about.

Des: Yes please! It’s only on PS5, correct?

Victor: Yeah, but if you have a super good PC, probably if you wait one year, one year and a half, you will get it on PC.

Des: Oh, you know, it’s on my wishlist, my friend, for the holiday.

Victor: What, the PS5?

Des: I have so many games that I want to play.

Victor: Okay, get it then.

Des: Yeah, let’s do it, right?

Victor: You know, it’s hassle-free. Spider-Man, it’s a wonderful game. It’s mostly accessible for us as blind players because we have navigation assist. The game should receive audio descriptions and text-to-speech this month, but with B-U-T, big letters, okay? Caps. But, there’s always a but, and you know everything before the but. It doesn’t matter. The navigation assist is broken. It’s the same navigation assist from, not broken, imprecise, okay? So, when you are in closed spaces, it does not work. It just gets you in the general vicinity of a place, general location, you know, area, but it won’t point you directly to where you need to go. And since we don’t have audio cues that guide us to where we need to go and press a specific interact button, there are places where we get stuck as blind. I don’t think anything will change with the accessibility update this month because that will only bring audio descriptions and text-to-speech. But, of course, this year we had Diablo, which was quite a nice surprise from an accessibility standpoint. We have a blind friend who played the game and managed to finish it and he posted that he finished Diablo as a totally blind gamer in the same day when I posted my review and I said that could cannot be done. Yeah, it was super fun. You know, I’m super happy for him, you know. It shows that when someone truly loves something, they will just try to play it, you know. That’s my case, for example, with Final Fantasy 16 this year. Final Fantasy 16, I was able to play, like, I think I have 15 hours in the game and that’s quite a lot. And that’s a super powerful example of universal design done right. Because we have some kind of a navigation assist that’s also like in Spider-Man, so it will get you in the general area. But I love that game so much that I’m willing to stumble around in the dark, like, until I find where I need to go. And the map, it’s a map that you need to travel with travel points. It’s super complicated because we don’t have text-to-speech in Final Fantasy, but we have, like, super short vibration feedback on the DualSense when we are on a point where we can travel. And that’s not for blind people. We press there, you know. We move the cursor on the map and when we find the vibration, we go back there and press the button and we are traveling. Another game that I love this year is Hogwarts Legacy, and I’m sad that it didn’t get the recognition it deserved, especially at the Game Awards. And that game has one of the best text-to-speech functionalities. Because that’s what you said, accessibility for the blind, it’s not in all the games, you know. And we take what we can from where we can. And that’s me this year, you know. I love the gameplay in Spider-Man, super rewarding. I love the text-to-speech in Hogwarts Legacy, super rewarding. I love Forza, it’s wonderful, you know. So we had multiple experiences, but just a few of them were, like, super accessible, completely accessible, let’s say. You know, Mortal Kombat, wonderful game.

Des: I love Mortal Kombat.

Victor: I’ve been playing Mortal Kombat since I was, like, a kid, okay. I’m 40 years old.

Des: Memorizing the combos and doing it?

Victor: Yeah, I don’t even, if I want, I can try that, but usually I just try to pull them off, you know. It’s like, and the campaign, it’s so cinematic and so nicely described by Descriptive Video Works. Yeah. With all the descriptions, it’s wonderful.

Des: One of the things that I really was happy to see this year was companies like Sony and Xbox really taking an interest in adaptive controllers. So just recently we’ve seen reviews for Leonardo, the Sony controller.

Victor: Yeah, it was called Project Leonardo, now officially it is called the PlayStation Access Controller.

Des: I love it, because somebody told me, and this was a description from a sighted friend, they said, they called it Project Leonardo because it basically looks like a turtle. There’s so many different swaps.

Victor: Yeah, it does.

Des: I love it. Shout out to the Ninja Turtles fan over at Sony, whoever you are.

Victor: (singing)Ninja Turtles, Ninja Turtles. Yeah, we know, we know.

Des: You’ve gotten to demo one of them on your blog. Was it the Xbox controller that you got to look at?

Victor: No, it’s the PlayStation Access Controller. I actually reached out to PlayStation Norway and asked them to send me the PlayStation Portal for it, because it’s something that I love, you know, to have a small console to just carry around the house and play games from wherever I want and stuff like that. And they said, yeah, we send you that, but we also are sending you an Access Controller. Oh, cool. Nice. Okay. It was with an embargo and stuff like that. So during the weekend, I managed to play around with both of them and pushed out the review for the Access Controller, but that’s from my perspective. Okay, from the perspective of a person who has no limitation when it comes to what they can do with controllers. You know, I love the DualSense, and I especially love the DualSense Edge. I mean, that’s my favorite controller, the Edge, you know, because it has the small pedals on the back that allows you to customize and put actions there. And one action that I always put there is the navigation assist, because instead of just pressing L3 or R3 to turn the camera to the current objective, I just press one of the buttons behind, you know, the one on the right, usually. Yeah, so back to the Access Controller, it’s something that I really hope our friends in the accessibility community will be able to use in combinations with what are called switches and other stuff. Now, I’m speaking with my colleague from AccessiServ. He needs super complicated, not so advanced, not complicated controls in order to play video games. Something that he will be able to use with his mouth, to press buttons with his mouth. And of course, voice control and eye control, because we were about to talk about stuff like this, you know, so that’s what he needs, you know, and I asked him, dude, I can send you this controller, you can try it out and we will see if I’m going to do that. But for this controller, I think it’s better for people with some kind of mobility in their hands or reduced mobility in their hands or feet, you know, that’s how you can customize this. You know, someone asked me yesterday on the YouTube video if they can use this controller to play Resident Evil and I was, hmm, maybe you can with just one hand. That was the thing. They said they had an accident and maybe they can use it with just one hand. I was, yes, you can because there are profiles that you can switch with one button. And let’s say we take the left part of the controller, okay, you can use that both as the left part to turn the character and after that you change the profile by pressing one button and use the same hand to use the right part to turn the camera. So, that’s how I think they can play Resident Evil. So, yeah, it’s a wonderful controller. We need more of these initiatives on the market and, of course, accessories for them. And we will see, hopefully, more and more people will be able to play video games and discover video games because, let’s be honest, most people that live with a disability, if they are not as connected as we are and they are not part of our community, they don’t even realize that they can play video games. Raise awareness. We need to raise awareness and we need to raise this awareness also to the developers because they don’t realize they can do that.

Des: And it’s getting so much easier for them to do it. That’s the thing. It used to be so difficult for them to, for example, describe things. Not only is audio description now, like you said earlier, becoming a standard that everybody… I mean, at this point, it’s like if a series doesn’t have audio description, they’re going to get right.

Victor: Yeah, we are talking here about entertainment, movies and stuff like that. It will take some time.

Des: Yeah. But do you think that that same kind of, I guess, stigma or social standard, do you think that will eventually also transcend over to video games?

Victor: Yeah, of course. I have no doubt on that. I believe that gaming, the gaming industry is accessible. And what all the developers and publishers need to understand is the fact that according to the latest report from Microsoft, I’m saying Microsoft, I’m not saying Shady Corporation or something. I’m saying Microsoft, OK? Microsoft says that currently it is estimated that we have 450 million disabled and impaired gamers in the world. 450 million.

Des: Now, imagine how much a video game costs, right? 60 US, 60 dollars US.

Victor: Don’t say $60. There are no more 60. Yeah, 70 at minimum.

Des: Right. I’ve seen those prices. One of each of those people buys a game or half of those people buys a game. You know what I mean?

Victor: No, no, no, no. Imagine 1%. What’s 1% of 429 for 450 million? 1%.

Des: I have no idea, but I’m sure it’s a big number.

Victor: What? it’s 4.5 million.

Des: Hey, Victor, I learned math in the US education system, so I have no idea.

Victor: OK, it’s 1%. 10% is 45 million. 1% is 400, 4.5 million. 0, 1% it’s 450,000 people. That’s still a good number for a game. Especially if you are an indie developer.

Des: Thank you for breaking it down like that. Yeah, I mean, that’s that’s great.

Victor: Yeah. So they need to understand if you create accessible experiences, we will purchase them. And you need to start as early as possible before the alpha phase. When you break down the idea between the studio, bring in an accessibility consultant, two, three, five of them, make them part of the team and your game will be a success.

Des: Absolutely. You’re right. And I wish somebody would give that same speech to our friends over at Nintendo because, Victor, this this I live in a switch house. All right. We’ve got a switch. My fiancee loves to get her game on. She loves her plants versus zombies and her Mario Kart. I bought my own game, the AEW wrestling game that came out a couple of months ago. And I think I’ve only picked it up about one time, because I mean, I’ve played wrestling games in the past, so I know the score, right? I’m used to counting the clicks and finding my character. But just the lack of screen reader support at all on Nintendo is a bummer to me.

Victor: I did like, I think, three months every day. I ran the hashtag text to speech for the switch on Twitter for all on all the Nintendo posts. Nothing. But I don’t believe that the switch can handle text to speech at this moment.

Des: Really?

Victor: Yeah, I don’t think it’s an old console. Come on, dude. Now it’s almost no life in it. You know, it’s it’s old. And what I think and I hope is the fact that they will introduce text to speech with the next console that it is rumored to come out next year. That’s those are the rumors. OK, let’s say it’s not twenty twenty four. It’s twenty twenty five. Even better. Make it more powerful. Put in a nice text to speech software and implement that in your games. You know, the language in Nintendo games, I understand it’s called animal is where they are. You know, they are talking like that and implement text to speech on that because it’s not like you cannot do that because you have text on the screen. OK, it’s super easy to do that, especially with your own. The thing with Nintendo is that they have a lot of first party games and there’s inexcusable not to have text to speech and stuff like that for new games. OK, another thing we talked about earlier when they are a publisher, but we are talking about Nintendo, which are both the publisher and the producer of consoles, hardware, their lack of communication in terms of accessibility, especially for blind people. It’s not OK.

Des: And that’s the thing that I always come back to, because what got me into the accessibility industry was the frustration that I couldn’t do my work. You know, I couldn’t do my job. But then I started finding people like yourself and Brandon who are, you know, obviously you guys work and do that thing. But you guys are advocating for the other part. We also want to be able to play. You know, one thing seems to be moving forward and one is not moving quite as forward. I really do hope at some point very soon we see both of these pastimes, work and play, and accessibility respect kind of fall into lockstep.

Victor: Yeah, of course. That’s our hope also. We want as many accessible experiences as possible. And the sooner the developers and publishers understand the fact that if they create an accessible experience, those 450 million players that I was talking to you about earlier will probably purchase the game. You know, it was a very nice talk at the gaming accessibility conference. Sadly, I don’t remember who said it, but they said the only reason why a player will not play your game is that they are not interested in it, not because they can’t. Okay, so that should be all games should be accessible and we should have the agency to pick and choose what we want, not play everything that’s out there just because it’s accessible. You know, and we talked about like AAA games, but I want to actually I need to give a shout out to Brock the Investigator.

Des: Oh, I love that game.

Victor: And Stories of Blossom. Both games are absolutely awesome. We have audio description, scene description, easy to pick up controls. Both of them are super nice and I really hope that people will just try to experience them, you know. And I think both Brock and Stories of Blossom have demos, right?

Des: I think they do. I don’t know if Brock does, but Stories of Blossom does for sure.

Victor: I think it does. I think Brock does also or they had a trial version or something like that.

Des: Yeah, no, that Brock is a very fun game and very well…

Victor: And Brock got accessibility after release.

Des: Really?

Victor: Yes, Brock is on the market for quite some time now. I think one year and something, one year and a half or something. And the developer Cow Cat Games I think I’m saying this okay. Cow Cat, something like that. They added accessibility for it later, after release. And immediately after releasing the accessibility patch, they posted on then Twitter that the sales are off the roof. I mean, usually they had like, I think they said they had like five or six units a week. So one unit a day, let’s say. And after that they just got there had like 80 units a week or something. So just talking about accessibility and that kept up for some time.

Des: Let’s wrap things up by talking about what we are looking for in 2024 with respect to gaming. We already talked about the new Switch coming out and hopefully that they implement some sort of text-to-speech functionality on there.

Victor: Both in the operating system and in the games. Yeah, of course.

Des: And the thing that I think everybody in gaming has been talking about for the last week or so, of course, is the GTA 6 trailer that came out. Are you a Grand Theft Auto guy?

Victor: I am, I am. I played Grand Theft Auto when I wasn’t supposed to. So I know what you’re saying. I’m playing GTA since 1996. I think the 96 or 97 is the first game. And I was laughing my ass off a few days ago because people were, oh no, female protagonist in GTA 6 for the first time in history. Okay, what’s your history? Because in the first GTA we had three playable female characters. Okay, but they are too young to know that. But they have something Rockstar considers GTA from GTA 3 above because that’s when they purchased the license.

Des: Gotcha. What are your thoughts for accessibility when it comes to Grand Theft Auto? Do you think there’s going to be any substantial features for players of any ability?

Victor: I don’t know. But Rockstar does something really interesting that I don’t think that many people noticed. We have the option to skip a checkpoint if we cannot go past that checkpoint. If you fail a checkpoint, I think, five times, you will get the message that, do you want to skip this checkpoint? And you can hit yes and you’re on the next checkpoint. And that’s universal design done right from, I think, GTA 4. From the first Red Dead Redemption, okay?

Des: That’s accessibility there. That’s universal design there. That’s a great example.

Victor: Because, yeah, it’s wonderful. It’s just there. And the fact that maybe you cannot drive a car, but if you are in the city, you can call a cab and the cab or wave to a cab to come to you. And you can just get in the backseat of the cab and it will drive you to your destination. Unless that’s like you need to be with someone else and rob a bank or something like that. But most of the time, you can get to destinations by taxi. That’s universal design done right again. You know? So, GTA, Rockstar, it’s Rockstar. They are Rockstars. They are doing some really interesting stuff with the games. And I guess that they noticed the accessibility movement current renaissance. And hopefully, they will do something. It’s a huge game. It’s in development probably for 6 or 7 or 10 years since they released the GTA V. So, yeah. It’s crazy. You know, I think I didn’t check the trailer today. But I checked it like two days after it was released and it had 120 million views on YouTube.

Des: I’ve been digging into it. Into the hype. And the hype is so huge. I’ve heard people say things like, it’s going to be the biggest release of the 2020s.

Victor: It’s rumored that the game will end up to cost Rockstar 2 billion. So, you bet.

Des: And it’s just my hope that there is some accessibility consideration put into it only because it is going to be the biggest game of the decade. And if that biggest game of the decade has some sort of accessibility built in, that’s going to be another big win for us. Just in terms of… We were talking earlier about creating that industry precedent for that standard. What a great way to do that, right? With GTA 6. If somebody in there is pushing for those accessibility and looking at…

Victor: But we know for a fact from LinkedIn that they hired people for the accessibility team. So, we have someone on LinkedIn that works in the accessibility team at Rockstar. So, if they have an accessibility team, probably… Yeah, there is some hope.

Des: I will be looking for that accessibility trailer there, Rockstar. **

Victor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Say that louder. We’ll send them a clip. You said about the biggest game. I believe right now why I think blind gamers are in a fantastic, fabulous position that they never have been before in is the fact that, from my point of view, my favorite games in the industry… Favorites, okay? I love Naughty Dog. Naughty Dog made me feel things that I didn’t know I could feel with The Last of Us. And the fact that we have both part one and part two with all the brand new accessibility standards and fully playable by blind people. You have the best two games ever made accessible for blind, okay? Then you have Ragnarok, which is also 99% accessible, which is also a fantastic game. We have Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter that did awesome things with accessibility this year. We have Diablo. We have Hogwarts Legacy. As I told you, I love that game. It has some sort of navigation that works if you pay attention to the sounds. The text-to-speech is wonderful. But with that game, I need help. I will need help all the time while playing it. I will need to ask Alina to help me through some stuff. But that’s because they didn’t consult with an accessibility consultant for the entire game. Actually, Brandon has been consulted for the blind character in Hogwarts Legacy. He is modeled after Brandon.

Des: I didn’t know that.

Victor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Brandon got a lot of hate on that. We are not going into that. Yeah, Brandon is everywhere.

Des: He’s got a book coming out in 2024. I want to get him on the show for that.

Victor: Me and Brandon play Hearthstone together. I managed to beat him twice. But after that, he kicked my ass six times in a row. So that’s also okay. But Hearthstone for me this year was one of the highlights. After a long day of work or a few hours of trying to learn Norwegian and stuff like that or researching, I’m just grabbing my MacBook or I’m sitting down at my iMac and just playing that game. I have installed Parallels and Windows 11 on both Macs so that I have Hearthstone at hand anytime I want. Amazing. I love that game. It’s wonderful. And the fact that the community still brings on the accessibility with AccessMod. I love them for that. And I thank them for that from the bottom of my heart.

Des: Oh my gosh. Yeah, I’m working on a piece right now for early 2024. I talked to Antoine and KeyWasfFull and just talking to them about the development process of the mod. And I just really want to give them their flowers in a big way because those two guys and then just a little community of other people who have a little time on their hands are making this AAA mainstream title accessible to a group of people for no money. They’re not getting paid anything.

Victor: And the same thing with World of Warcraft. There’s the mod for World of Warcraft that makes it accessible.

Des: We’re coming up on time. And I really want to thank you so much for taking time and talking to me.

Victor: Anytime you want.

Des: It sounds like we get along pretty well. So I can’t wait to have you back.

Victor: I’m always happy to talk accessibility and to raise awareness. And since this is December, happy holidays to everyone. But most of all to our friends in the accessibility community. And huge thanks to you and to everyone who raises awareness about accessibility. And to those wonderful people like Brandon, Carlos, and everyone else who does something to make games accessible.

Des: I’ll have a link to Victor’s website and blog in the show notes. And we’re going to take a quick break. I’m going to get Louis back in here and we’re going to share our wins and fails from the Week in Accessibility.

(Music plays)

Segment 3

Des: All right. Before we send you on your merry way for the weekend, we wanted to go over our big wins and fails for the Week in Accessibility. Louis, why don’t you go ahead and get us started?

Louis: The win that we chose this week is TalkBack 14.1. TalkBack is the flagship screen reader for Android. And in this release, there are improvements to image descriptions, braille, and keyboard. Dez, have you been playing with this update at all? And what are your thoughts on it?

Des: It took me a while to get the image description and the icon description libraries installed. I think they were being very slow about the rollout there. And every time I tried to get the download going, it would fail on me. So I finally got those going. And you know what? I got to tell you, I’m not noticing a difference at all. It’s like the same thing as before. What I’m anticipating getting from image descriptions as a blind user is that when I’m on the description, I just hear what it is. Right now, the expected behavior on TalkBack is you’re going to arrive at an unlabeled image. If you then decide that you care enough to interact with the image, you’re going to use your gesture to activate the TalkBack menu, which you can map. So I don’t remember if this is the default, but mine is to swipe up, then right. And then you open up the menu and choose to describe the image. I find the image descriptions have been pretty poor when I’ve been using images of text to just kind of read through things that I come across on LinkedIn or Twitter. And I’m just, yeah, I’ll just, I have to be honest and say I’m not super thrilled with what I’ve seen so far with regards to image descriptions. And I feel especially disappointed about that because I had to boot up my iPhone this morning, actually, and do some testing on there for a client. And I love the image experience on there. It’s wonderful to just land on an image and at least hear an approximated idea of what your finger is on without having to dive in into menus just to figure that out.

Louis:For braille users, for folks who are using braille displays, an auto-scrolling feature has been added so people don’t have to press the panning buttons to go forward and backwards if they don’t like to do that. Braille screen input on Android now supports up to 47 languages and new commands.

Des: You got new commands to edit, select, spell check. Okay. So remember, we were critical about that and how you can’t actually spell check your stuff when you’re typing in Android and how, you know how easy it is, right? You make a mistake on iOS, you just swipe up or down and it like gives you the next autocorrect suggestion. You don’t even have to leave the keyboard, right?

Louis: Correct.

Des: I have to play with it a little bit more. There’s some different philosophies on how to get into the spell checker. You have to flick left or right with three fingers and then you’re put into the mode and you can then execute this whole new layer. I think of it kind of like when you use JAWS and you do JAWS key and space and it puts you like in a whole new context layer of commands that you can use. I hope that convinces you to get back on Android and give it another shot, bud.

Louis: Android is becoming more and more of a viable solution. So really glad we are seeing this and they’re not leaving keyboard users out of the update love as well. Keyboard users now can assign shortcut keys. So for example, for common actions such as copy the last spoken phrase to the clipboard or to show and hide screens, you can assign those actions to certain keys on your keyboard now if you so wish. So as the accessibility model on Android improves, it’s going to be a lot harder for me to justify staying on iOS and paying $900, $1,000 every year for a phone. And I’m sure for many of our listeners, Android is becoming a more attractive prospect as well. So if you are switching to Android and you want to tell us about it, please get in touch.

Des: And then let me give you real quick my fail for the week, get some negativity out of the way so we can all have a good weekend. I have been posting some blog content over to slash blog. One thing that I’ve learned that I am in love with to create these blogs is that ChatGPT can take unstructured data and put it into a table. So I got the idea of doing some tutorials and using shortcuts for Braille, for NVDA, for JAWS, and just creating a really easy to read blog with tables, a table of contents, all sorts of ways to learn shortcuts. Big SEO win for me and big way for anybody who wants to learn to just jump in and learn. So I thought it was a win-win. I go in and create all of these tables and docs and paste them into WordPress. Lo and behold, when you try to publish these tables in WordPress, they don’t render accessibly at all. So you don’t have the cells defined, you don’t have the rows defined, you don’t even know that you’re looking at a table when you’re reading this content. So big fail from WordPress. I don’t know what’s going on on their end, rendering tables inaccessibly, unless the only workaround I’ve found so far, and you can see how well that’s going since I have not posted any tables on the website, is putting them one by one, going row by row, column by column in the native WordPress editor, which is accessible, but you’re adding so much more. You’re adding like another hour of time if you have some large tables that ChatGPT could just spit out for you. You spend 10 minutes fixing them in docs. I should have a whole e-book by now, I think, of instructional content, and it’s not there because WordPress is dropping the ball. So if any devs listening know what I’m doing wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s just WordPress or my theme or both, let me know, and I would love to write this fail off and turn it into a win, but I just can’t do that right now. And that’s it for this week. Negativity done. Let’s have a great weekend, everybody. Louis say good bye to the nice people.

Louis: stay Classy.

Des: Time for the credits. The research was done by myself and Louis Do. The music was produced by Kevin MacLeod and is called Rolling at Five, thanks to The statements and opinions expressed on this podcast are personal and do not reflect the views or policies of our employers, partners, or other associated third-party entities.

(Music plays)

Links Discussed on the Show

Segment 1

KISS Become the First American Band to Digitally Replace Themselves

Google claims new Gemini AI ‘thinks more carefully’ | BBC News

Accessibility Update to Marvel’s Spider Man 2 Delayed | CanIPlayThat

Segment 2

Victor Dima reviews Spider-Man 2

Forza Motorsport: the Blind accessibility review

Hardware Review: Playstation Access Controller for PS5

Hardware Review: PlayStation Portal – A Revolutionary Way to Remote Play

Gaming Accessibility Conference 2023 Awards

The Last of Us devs bet big on accessibility — and made a better game

Why Starfield is an Accessibility Embarrassment | IGN

Grand Theft Auto VI Trailer

Segment 3

What’s New with TalkBack 14.1?