A Samsung Electronics UK survey has found that the games industry could be doing more to cater for gamers with disabilities.
The study, conducted by Samsung Pioneers and OnePoll, sampled 500 adults with physical and invisible disabilities. It showed that 81% of respondents have struggled to play their favourite games due to inaccessible features, such as a lack of customisable control options (21%), hard-to-read text (33%), fast-paced gameplay (34%) and flashing lighting effects (31%).
As a result, 39% have been forced to stop playing a game – or abandon it altogether.
Samsung said in a press release that ‘it’s clear from the results there’s a desire from gamers with disabilities for more inclusivity in gaming’.
The news also comes as Microsoft plans to block the use of unauthorised third-party controllers and accessories for Xbox consoles, with some in the gaming community saying this is bad for gamers with disabilities, but others saying there are still accessible devices available to them.
With over half (52%) of respondents expressing a wish to see characters that reflect their disabilities, the findings suggest that increased representation could substantially enhance engagement and gameplay duration.
However, despite the challenges raised, the study found over a fifth (22%) of those polled feel empowered by gaming, while 40% say the pastime gives them a sense of escapism.
Added to this, 16% say it provides them with a way to connect with other gamers with disabilities emphasising the invaluable opportunity for social and community engagement in the gaming world. Meanwhile, 28% of gamers polled say video games are an ‘essential’ part of their routine.
Further barriers to gaming for those polled include games which result in ‘cognitive overload’ through complex control configurations and hard-to-follow information or instructions (28%). Nearly a quarter (24%) have experienced dexterity issues – such as controllers not being adequately designed for their ergonomic needs.
The findings found that Mario Kart (29%) and Grand Theft Auto (23%) were perceived to be the most inclusive and accommodating toward gamers with disabilities.
Those polled say the features and accessibility options they’d like to see in future titles include: more accessory options for differently abled players (34%) and more online multiplayer options catering towards different disabilities (34%). Nearly a third of respondents (31%) want improved guides and tutorials to help them learn controls for games, and a greater range of customisable controller options (31%).
Samsung recently launched its European-wide Gaming Training Initiative. The ‘Embrace Your Game’ Portal is designed to centralise insights, and provide expert guides, training sessions and video workshops for gamers of all abilities.
Steven Woodgate, Head of Category Management MX and Chair of the True Ability Employee Resource Group at Samsung Electronics UK, said: “Gamers with disabilities not only make up a sizable portion of the player base, but they also provide valuable perspectives and experiences to the gaming community. While we’ve seen some strides in accessibility over recent years, this study reveals the pressing barriers still faced by many.
“We must prioritise an inclusive gaming landscape, ensuring every player, regardless of their disability, can enjoy and connect through these digital realms. The industry owes it to all its players to make games as accessible and representative as possible.”
Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, a UK-based charity that envisions a digital world accessible to all, added: “It should be no surprise to learn that disabled people enjoy gaming as much as anyone else, but this research demonstrates quite clearly the negative impact on people’s wellbeing when hardware or software isn’t accessible.
“It also underlines that games are a vital part of the fabric of many people’s lives, creating social networks and bringing enjoyment which should be open to everyone. That’s why is so good to see Samsung leading the way in inclusive design and building accessibility into their products.”
Dom is an award-winning writer and finalist of the Esports Journalist of the Year 2023 award. He graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Federation up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and offer esports consultancy and freelance services. Note: Dom still produces the British Esports newsletter on a freelance basis, so our coverage of British Esports is always kept simple – usually just covering the occasional press release – because of this conflict of interest.