A little more than a year ago, when commuting and office lunches were still normal, Jesse Anderson sat down to play State of Decay 2. Born legally blind, Jesse took that term and flipped it on its head, naming his YouTube channel IllegallySighted. As a content creator, he shares what it’s like to play games with low vision.

About a month after that playthrough, we met with Jesse in person at the Undead Labs office as part of an Inclusive Design Workshop: a studio-wide initiative to listen, learn, and improve our accessibility features.

Head of Player Experience Vicki Ebberts, also our Accessibility Champ, coordinated the event.

“I had been watching what other studios in the industry were doing in terms of accessibility and the impact that work was having on players’ lives, and thought, ‘we should absolutely be doing this,'” said Ebberts.

“I wasn’t sure where to begin, or if we were even going to do it right, but I knew we needed to move beyond the concept of meeting bare minimum accessibility requirements, and really do the work to make these experiences — that we work so hard to build — accessible to as many players as possible. I wanted us to take action, and be able to show the community we are invested in them.”

A group of dev team members meet with Kyle, an accessibility advisor, who uses a wheelchair

On Day 1, with the help of the Xbox team, our studio came together to hear from Jesse as well as four other accessibility advisors — players with disabilities who came to the Lab specifically to share their experiences playing video games, what they love about gaming, and how they think we can improve the design of their games to make them more accessible.

On Day 2, we took what we learned from the advisers and brainstormed improvements we could make. Here are some of the feature changes we implemented, inspired by our Inclusive Design Workshop.

A dev team member takes hand written notes from advisors during the workshop

  • Green Zone was the first step toward a more accessible gameplay experience. We launched this difficulty mode in Summer of 2020 in response to players who enjoy State of Decay 2 but find high-intensity combat scenarios frustrating and overwhelming
  • Green Zone laid the groundwork for Difficulty Sliders, which exponentially increased players’ customization of their game to suit their individual needs
  • We made control changes, making some inputs less motor intensive. For example, the finisher prompt is now a single button press rather than a chorded one
  • Currently in our open beta we are testing a new “toggle aim” setting, so players aren’t required to press and hold the button to aim



Today, the third Thursday of May, we honor Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to “get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion,” in honor of over one billion people who make up the accessibility community.

We love playing and making games, and we want to share that love with the world. Games are for everyone, and we are committed to a future where accessibility is intrinsic to design.

Find out more about Xbox’s commitment to accessibility by visiting Gaming 4 Everyone, and dive into how other studios are making their games more accessible.

A heartfelt thank you to Cary, Jesse, Kyle, Greyson, and Quinn, our accessibility advisors who made this possible! Learn more about their work here:

https://www.illegallysighted.com/
YouTube.com/onehandmostly
TransLanguagePrimer.org

Members of the development team sit around a long table in a conference room talking to two accessibility advisors, Greyson and Quinn