Google Stadia, accessibility of games and how apple should approach it
Just been reading about the new Google Stadia service which allows subscribers to play games in the cloud over the internet. The big bonus of this is not having to purchase any specialised hardware such as an x-box, rather you can access the service on your tv, Mac or windows machine. It's not yet available to play through IOS or android but it is on the way.
Interestingly there is this page
regarding accessability which is really quite appealing. True it doesn't say that any of the games are accessible but at least the interface is and there is a suggestion that games may be in the future. Also, in the list of features that games may offer there are things like co-playing where you have two controllers to control one playable character, for example. This means we could play with a sighted friend and be part of the gaming experience to some extent.
Check out the page.
After reading it it just made me feel that apple should be doing something similar with apple arcade. I know that, in fact, the games for google stadia are still not accessible, but there seems to be an indication that they'd like them to be in the future whereas apple is tight lipped over the whole thing.
What are people's thoughts on this? Do you think google are just appeasing people with illusions of accessibility? Do you think apple have no intention to make their gaming service accessible?
I'm somewhat intrigued they even thought to add an Accessibility document that actually indicates how far the accessibility control currently goes, in regards to what the screen reader will read.
IE, there is this:
"At this time, you can’t use the screen reader for gameplay or for social features like chatting with other players. However, we are looking to add additional functionality in the future."
So you can use your system's screen reader to start and end a game, but not do anything inside the game.
Going to the next section, it seems to indicate the ChromeCast screen reader then takes over once in the Stadia app. /However/, it does indicate there are limitations as to what the ChromeCast screen reader will read, which includes the sequence to sync the controller and reading some menus, along with the stipulation they are looking to improve that.
Also, the list of possible Game Accessibility options does not include screen reader navigation, so, at best, this would give access to games that are perhaps "playable" but not "accessible" if the ChromeCast screen reader is unable to affect things within the game.
Hopefully this is going to continue to be improved and not abandoned.
I think it's a good sign. If it's published there is a certain amount of accountability. They've not actually said that they're going to do much, but at least it is out there in the public domain.
I like the idea of being able to at least try games such as mortal combat which is supposed to be fairly accessible without having to buy another expensive piece of hardware.
saying all this, the reviews aren't that great at the moment with most people saying it is limited and suffering buffering issues even on fast connections. I'm on copper broadband still so it's not something I'd really be able to run but, might be worth watching for the future.
Apple, if you're reading this, google is looking a little better than you in this. You're not going to let them get away with it, are you?
Technically, Apple Arcade is probably just as accessible as Google Stadia at this point - as far as I know, you can open/close all the games you want and read the menus for Apple Arcade section in the App Store, it's just none of the games are accessible ... which is probably exactly how Google Stadia will be, with the exception that some fighting games may be accidentally playable and the fact the screen reader is ChromeCast, not Voice Over.
Apple does alraedy have the infrastructure to allow games to be accessible, it's just the game developers not taking advantage .... I'm not sure how robust the tools for developers with the ChromeCast sccreen raeder may be, though, but it may be a similar fail point at game developers not giving a damn.
There is also the fact that a good portion of games just don't lend themselves to accessibility, but there are some games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that would probably be super easy to add accessibility (I mean, it's a lot of dialogue, clicking on things to 'view' them (just need to let the screen raeder flick through a 'list' of things in the room that you can tap on, etc.), and so forth. I played this game on the nintendo DS before when I could still see, so I am confident a game like that could be accessible if they hooked into accessibility APIs.)
Open world games, games like Tetris, certain building games, etc. - I don't expect these to lend themselves easily to accessibility in the first place due to their highly visual nature that would require almost another game on top of it.
The hinging point for all of these accessibility tools is that game developers need to actually know the tools are there, be willing to use them (they have to bea part of the core architecture of whatever system they're coding in - IE, how the Unity platform currently only has a third party hack to make accessibility happen is ad etriment for mainstream developers to sue it) and easy to implement.
So I am happy that these platforms are including accessibility from the get go, but, like Apple Arcade, basically it is up to the game developers to use these tools so that the accessibility will work in the game itself.
With the PS4, Sony did actually implement very, very basic text to speech support.. It didn't extend to games, but you could at least read many of the menus and the home screen. Even with it though, most of the features, and even a large majority of the menus were not implemented with TTS, and Sony seems to have given up entirely on it. Surprisingly though, Netflix allowed for TTS to be used on the PS4. I can see something like this working really well for in-game neus and other textual information. Even if it might not help the totally blind community, it would certainly help the those with some vision, which is a good start.
I think XBox may be still working at ita b it more than Sony/Playstation - apaprently the latest Madden game even had some accessible/speaking menus using the API from the XBox system ... but I am not sure if it was 100%. The latest NHL game also had some use of it, but weirdly it just stopped short of being able to actually play anything - IE, you could navigate the menus/settings, but couldn't really do much of anything beyond that.
Which is what I am worried a lot of these will turn out to - the menus will work, because they are legally required to have those speak if there is an in-game chat system, but they will not care beyond that.
I think the Apple architecture was established to be accessible, but Apple has not pushed vendors to provide accessible games.
Honestly; Apple’s dedication to accessibility is questionable. Cook spouting that it’s a Human Right falls flat at the moment. Not looking to debate... software speaks louder than I ever could. Currently accessibility is a shitfest.
True, google stadia and apple arcade will most probably end up being the same inaccessible platforms, or the games will be inaccessible, after all it's the same developers on both, but I like the fact that they have at least acknowledged accessibility for this whereas apple has kept very quiet.
Yeah, it's another topic all together regarding apple's overall approach to accessibility and how it may have changed. I think they've just spread themselves too thin and made the whole ecosystem too big and unmanageable. Remember when it was just computers?