FIFA 13 has won many awards but there is one that should inspire their publisher EA Sports more than any other.
AbleGamers, a not-for-profit organization that works to ensure the inclusion of gamers with disabilities, has awarded the aforementioned soccer simulation their Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year Award. The prize was given to the PC version of the game, on accounts of FIFA 13 being “the first high-end mainstream sports game to allow users to control the entire game with only a mouse.”
The commendation notice further goes on to describe the accessibility of the game, citing it as a valid product for one-handed gamers or those with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. With this game, the award asserts, “gamers who may not have been able to enjoy iconic sporting activities like baseball, football, hockey or soccer can now take part in the fun.”
Other features praised by the organization include remappable keys, customizable color options, high contrast and intuitive menus, visual cues for all audio input and high socializing replayability.
The one aspect that received more praise than any other, however, is the highly adjustable artificial intelligence and level of challenge within the game. “For those with cognitive disorders and motor impairments,” the article asserts, “the ability to set the game to an acceptable rate of speed enables those with even the most severe of disabilities.”
AbleGamers also praised the two other candidates for the award, the PC version of the military simulation XCOM: Enemy Unknown and indie game Colour Blind.
This is Electronic Arts’ fourth win with the organization and AbleGamers has thanked the company for following the “game accessibility guidelines for includification,” a resource tool formulated by game developers and disabled gamers that allows software companies to maximize the accessibility of their products.
Disabled gamers have previously come into the limelight when Brice Mellen, blind since birth due to Leber's disease, showed the world his immense gaming talent. Despite the lack of sight, Mellen successfully defeated opponents in fighting games such as Namco’s Soul Calibur II.
Mellen had then described how he accomplished this feat, something that required patient memorization of joystick locations, an increased understanding of the game’s audio cues and repeated questioning regarding the specifics of the game.
Also, while this is more related to medical rehabilitation than disability, it is noteworthy that motion video games have been used in the past to help patients become mobile and regain self-confidence in their physical abilities.
AbleGamers is commendable for what they attempt to achieve, which is “to ensure that all people, regardless of their disability, can use gaming as a tool to have enriched social experiences with friends, family, and the world at large.”
The organization provides reviews for popular games and consoles based on accessibility and serves as an excellent resource for both disabled gamers and software developers. AbleGamers has also successfully opened an “Accessibility Arcade” at the DC Public Library last October, allowing many disabled persons to experience gaming for the first time.
The organization also tours the country with presentations that allow people to both witness and experience technology that makes games available for disabled persons, many of whom experience gaming for the first time at these events. An April 2011 event at the Shepherd University Wellness Center, for example, was even free of charge and welcomed walk-ins.
Gaming has come under a lot of fire recently but the moments of joy this medium has provided millions cannot be denied. I commend Electronic Arts and all of the companies that attempt to make sure that all gamers can enjoy their products. To some, video games and their related companies may be working towards a more dangerous world, but I definitely sleep better at night knowing that organizations like AbleGamers are out there.