WATCH — Do video games do enough to include everyone?

Elijah Sandiford
Story by Elijah Sandiford • CBC Kids News • Published 2021-01-22 15:43

How games like The Last of Us II and Sims 4 are changing the industry

Many of us can't get enough video games in our lives.

And even though it may seem like gaming options are endless, for some people, that's not the case.

Some gamers with disabilities feel left out from the gaming experience and gamers from diverse backgrounds often don’t see themselves reflected on screen.

So, are video games for everyone?

CBC Kids News contributor Elijah Sandiford spoke to Steve Saylor, a blind video gamer and game consultant from Toronto all about his experience making the gaming world more accessible for everyone.

Steve Saylor sits in his gaming room. He smiles at the camera.

Steve Saylor is legally blind and works with video game companies to make sure they are including players of all skills and abilities. (Image submitted by Steve Saylor)

Tune in to the video below to hear from Saylor about:

Changing the game

In December 2020, after Black players complained that the game didn’t do enough to include a diverse range of skin tones and hair types, The Sims added more than 100 new skin tones and customizations.

Rayann Young, a.k.a. Brown Girls Gaming on YouTube, loves to play The Sims for her thousands of followers.

The 27-year-old gamer from Atlanta, Georgia, called this update a “dream come true.”

With the inclusion of more skin tones, she said she hopes the next generation of Black gamers will see themselves reflected in the games they play.

Sims player Rayann Young was all smiles as she saw the new skin tone and hair updates to the game. (Image credit: Brown Girls Gaming/YouTube)

In future, Young said she wants to see more of her favourite games have better diversity.

“This should be standard amongst all games, as players come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, skin tones and genders,” she said in a statement to CBC Kids News.

‘When everybody plays, we all win’

Regardless of ability, Saylor said everyone should be able to play and see themselves reflected in video games.

Accessibility allows basically every player,  regardless of if you have a disability,  whether you're blind or you’re deaf or  you have trouble playing with your hands,  or are in a wheelchair [the chance to play].  Video games should be open to everyone.   Steve Saylor, Blind gamer and accessibility advocate

In order to make games more accessible, gaming studios are taking notes from players with disabilities.

Last year, Saylor was brought into the gaming studios of Naughty Dog to test The Last of Us Part II and give suggestions on how to improve accessibility for visually impaired players.

This includes high-contrast images, larger displays, controller feedback options and text-to-speech features.

Some of the accessibility features found in the Last of Us Part II. They include vision, hearing and motor accessibility tools. (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us Part II isn’t the only game working toward better accessibility.

Saylor also noted how Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Overcooked have features like high contrast displays and text visibility to help people with vision differences understand what’s happening on screen.

Despite all the progress, Saylor said there’s still work to do, and he plans to keep advocating for all people to have a chance to game.

That includes women, Indigenous people and LGBTQ players.

“When everybody plays, we all win. … I'm not finished until it gets to a point where everybody can be able to play.”

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About the Contributor

Elijah Sandiford
Elijah Sandiford
CBC Kids News Contributor
You might know him as Agent Ocean on PBS’s Odd Squad or Prince Francisco in the Bruno and Boots series “This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall.” Fifteen-year-old Elijah Sandiford also has a huge passion for pop-culture, sports and content creation. After losing his father at a young age, he decided to make the most of life. His message for Canadian kids, “Dream bigger, dream brighter no matter your circumstance. The hard work you put in will take you on an exciting journey.”

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