The gaming industry isn’t typically concerned for the differently-abled, so when the Xbox Adaptive Controller hit the market in 2018, it made a huge splash. People all around the world were having more enjoyable times gaming thanks to the customisable buttons and thoughtful accessibility features the “XAC” brought to the table.
As Xbox Director of Accessibility Anita Mortaloni puts it, “it jump-started our thought process to bring inclusive design into gaming.” Her team thought the results were promising, so they started reaching out to gamers in the differently-abled community to figure out where else they can develop assistive technologies to better help people play video games.
Thanks to the new Xbox Accessibility Insider League (XAIL), interested players will be able to access some of these features early and give feedback to Microsoft developers to tweak and iterate on. The process strikes me as one of the more democratic in modern media, giving players voices in an industry that mostly only listens to dollar signs.
The strategy seems to work, as Xbox has recently released a whole swath of accessibility features. One of players’ most asked-for things, according to Mortaloni, was a way to answer the question, “how do we know which games we can play?” The answer Mortaloni’s team came up with was feature tags. If you’re already an Xbox Game Pass user, you’ve seen these tags before. They mostly describe a game’s genre or number of supported players, but feature tags also tell you which accessibility features each game has.
As someone who is differently-abled myself I love these new features. They are going to help a lot of people, and I take great solace in knowing that Microsoft is thinking of gamers who deviate from the mould. Check out my video above to hear more from the folks at Microsoft striving to make gaming more accessible to everyone.