Breaking Barriers: How To Develop Accessible GB Games For Gamers With Disabilities

In the article “The State of Accessibility in Gaming in 2022,” Cam Waller states about 20% of the estimated 2.8 billion gamers around the world have some kind of disability, facing certain barriers and challenges to play video games.

Your Reality May Vary

I’m absolutely fascinated by the fact that almost everyone’s reality is different. But what do I mean by this?

If you have the use of your eyes, then what you can see, in addition to your other senses, is in fact your own unique experience of reality meaning everyone has their own way of experiencing the world.

Let me give you an example: I have a very slight form of dyschromatopsia, which means I’m not as good at differentiating certain red and green color nuances from each other than people without dyschromatopsia.

A picture of an Ishiara test. Dots in shades of red and green arranged in a circle, with a 7 visible to non-colorblind viewers.
(Image: Ishihara test)

For instance, on this Ishihara test, I have to zoom-in to see a 7. For this article I even had to ask my fiancée to make sure there is in fact a 7. For her, the 7 in this image is very clear and readable, even from a distance.

To me, the further I hold this image away from me, the less I can even make out that there is a number or something at all.

Her reality is different to the reality I experience. Surely I can still fully function in this world, and I would say, unless it’s an Ishihara test, I don’t even notice I have this disability. But at the end of the day, I can’t see certain things as clearly as other people can.

This is true for many people on this planet, often with more serious disabilities which make their daily lives a bit harder to navigate, to say the least.

Focusing purely on video games, whether someone experiences color blindness, is missing an arm, or difficulty with memory, many gamers must endure extra hurdles, or in some cases are entirely unable to play games as designed.

Accessibility of the Game Boy (Color)

It’s common for modern consoles, such as the Nintendo Switch or the Valve Steam Deck, to have accessibility options to adjust settings to help players with disabilities.

There even exist external accessories to help in certain situations to be able to play games.

And although modern ways of playing Game Boy games, like emulation on modern hardware, or new retro gaming consoles offer certain features like slowing down the game’s speed, altering display color settings, or introduce save states, the amount of options that the console a game is running on can change inside of the games themselves are fairly limited.

That’s where we as developers come into play!

Breaking Barriers Articles:

In this article series, I want to raise awareness of some categories of disabilities, and explain what we as developers of Game Boy (Color) games can do to make our games accessible to more people around the world. In each article, we’ll discuss tips, tricks, and mechanics we can use to achieve this goal!

Let me shortly introduce you to the categories in this series:

Visual Impairments

Link: Breaking Barriers: Visual Impairments (Coming Soon)

  • Including, but not limited to low vision, color blindness, and blindness.

Auditory Impairments

Link: Breaking Barriers: Auditory Impairments (Coming Soon)

  • Deafness or hardness of hearing.

Mobility Impairments & Motor Disabilities

Link: Breaking Barriers Mobility Impairments & Motor Disabilities (Coming Soon)

  • Difficulty with physical movement, including limited range of motion, paralysis, or missing limbs.
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, coordination, or dexterity.

Cognitive Disabilities & Neurological Disabilities

Link: Breaking Barriers: Cognitive Disabilities & Neurological Disabilities (Coming Soon)

  • Learning disabilities, memory impairments, or difficulties with processing information.
  • Conditions such as epilepsy, which may be triggered by certain visual effects or patterns.

Liked it? Take a second to support GB Studio Central on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!