Highlights: Access-Ability Summer Showcase 2024 (June 8, 2024)

Nothing makes me happier than accessibility in games!

14 mins read
A graphic for the Access-Ability Summer Showcase 2024, Friday June 7 at 4 p.m. UK / 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT. The text is in red and blue, and the background is white. The logo incorporates two game controllers.

It’s time for one of my top showcases of the year: the Access-Ability Summer Showcase! It is one of the only places for disabled players to learn about recent or upcoming titles while knowing what will be accessible to them. Today’s showcase features over a dozen titles, half of which are accessible to those with vision-related disabilities; some can even be played without any sight at all. Not every game will be accessible to every gamer, but the creator/organizer/host of the showcase, Laura Kate Dale, aims to feature games across a wide variety of genres and tones – there’s hopefully something for everyone.

I’m choosing to highlight only a handful of titles. (You’ll have to forgive me for not covering it all as extensively as I would like… chronic pain and such. That’s one of the reasons accessibility is so important to me!) It is absolutely worth it to watch the entire showcase and support not only the stream and its creator, but also a great group of thoughtful and hard-working indie developers.

Related reading: Check out last year’s Access-Ability Summer Showcase, the first of (hopefully) many.

There’s an exciting announcement buried at the end of the showcase that I’ll spoil here: a Winter Showcase is happening this December! I love the idea of expanding Access-Ability Showcases to twice per year.

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Game highlights

Elsie (Knight Shift Games)

Elsie is a retro-inspired bullet-hell action platforming roguelike shooter. It is packed with hyphenated genre tags (respect) and technicolour action. It is also packed with accessibility options! There’s an invincibility mode and also an option to option to adjust the timing required for parries or counter-attacks. I lack the reflexes (and hand-eye coordination) to play bullet hell games, so I avoid them – but I don’t have to avoid Elsie because of these modifiers. Several of the options help players see the action clearly. There are modifiers to blur, desaturate, or entirely turn off the backgrounds. There are also options for player and enemy outlines, each one adjustable with RGB sliders, and a colourblind assistant. Rounding out the accessibility features covered in this showcase are font size, rumble strength, and screen shake modifiers.

Fishbowl (imissmyfriends.studio)

Fishbowl is a slice-of-life coming-of-age story told over a month. There are no forced day/night cycles, so players can take all the time they need before moving ahead. Explore Alo’s house, and have video calls with loved ones. The calls feature branching conversations told in a clear font. Alo works from home as a video editor and she needs to sort snippets by icon or colour. There is no way to fail at Fishbowl; in fact, no matter how you do, your colleagues will support you. Solve puzzles to rediscover childhood memories. Options currently include music and SFX volume sliders, plus a screen shake toggle. Visual and audio cues mark important events. The developer is planning to add more accessibility features as well, including a toggle for screen sway, text options, and the options to slow down video editing or skip unpacking puzzles.

Penny Larceny: Gig Economy Supervillain + The Shadow Over Cyberspace (Fiction Factory Games)

Fiction Factory Games is making narrative titles with a focus on hearing/sight accessibility features. Penny Larceny: Gig Economy has a lot features that are found in the developer’s other games. A self-voicing mode uses extra voices to describe imagery and UI is streamlined; a beeping sound indicates when it’s time to make a choice. There are options to help sighted players customize the game to their needs, including text font (comic, simple, OpenDyslexic). Dialogue can be colour-coded by character, which sounds so simple but could actually make a big difference with me because I always lose track of who is talking, even if the image moves, because I focus so much on the text. (Hello ADHD, nice to see you.) You can also make the dialogue monotone and invert its text box to white.

In Fiction Factory’s next game, The Shadow Over Cyberspace, the infamous Lovecraftian Cthulhu mythos is told through the lens of the Y2K crisis and ’90s internet culture. Video and screen filters create retro computer effects, which can be toggled off for those with photosensitivity. Basically, the standard image is a static outline filled with a moving image. Turn off the retro effects and the images will have a static outline and a static fill. There are video sequences when you watch television, with captioning and additional visual narration with self-voicing mode.

Videoverse (Kinmoku)

Videoverse is a narrative adventure game that focuses on character development, friendship, and old-school internet. It is set in a fictional era where the Kinmoku Shark gaming system and its Videoverse online social network were popular. Play as Emmett, a young aspiring artist and game fan, as he strengthens his relationships with others, shares his art, and browses the community. Decisions will change how Emmett grows and determine the final outcome. Will Emnmett thrive, or get caught up in teenage drama… or maybe even a corporate conspiracy.

Because the developer is disabled, she made sure there is positive visual representation of those with disabilities in the game. The game’s engine already includes accessibility options like self voicing, different fonts, and sliders for each audio channel (sound, music, voice) but the developer did not stop there. The game has mouse, keyboard, touch screen, and controller support. Visually, the default theme is high-contrast black and white, but there are other themes to choose from (some of which are colourblind-friendly). These themes can be changed at any time. Navigation is large and clear, with audio cues marking selections. No quick responses are needed, there are no strobe effects, and everything is generally pretty low-pressure. If you get stuck, there is a tip button on the pause screen to give you a hint. (Hints are one of my favourite accessibility features!) If you forget what happened, check the log. Save at any point, or rely on auto-save.

Trash Goblin (Spilt Milk Studios)

If you’re looking for something wholesome, Trash Goblin might be right up your alley. You’re a goblin running a small store. Recover and clean trinkets that others have thrown away, then upcycle and sell them to customers. Use your savings to upgrade your shop and expand your business.

Related reading: Learn more about Trash Goblin with its announcement trailer.

Trash Goblin is intentionally designed to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. That means no fail states, no time pressures, no skill gates, and no fast action. The gentle pace mirrors what it means to be a goblin. The mouse is used for everything, but there are optional navigational keyboard shortcuts. Controller support will be added. The developer listens to its player community, and because of suggestions it has added the ability to hover for cleaning and an auto-chisel feature. The default text is in a clean, readable sans serif font with user-defined sizing. There are also audio channel sliders and options for subtitle size/speed.

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan (ManaVoid Entertainment, Skybound Games)

The title “Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan” just screams “colour is important in the game,” and it is. But there’s actually some solid colour blindness support thanks to the game’s technical director, who is colour blind himself. This gives him a good idea of what to do with this world about recolouring imagination. There are twelve emotions in the game, each with an associated colour and symbol. Items that can be interacted with are always animated and highlighted with colour. There is a forced-perspective camera to make it easy to play with one joystick, and it rotates automatically to help with puzzles and secrets. To help you keep track of where to go, when you hop in the boat it points towards that location by default; your current objective can be found on your compass and map, accessible at all times. There is no time limit or fail state, and a difficulty slider allows for the player to decide how tough they want confrontations to be. A lower level means you have room to make more mistakes. There is a dyslexia-friendly font option, dialogue speed options, and dialogue sound options.

Full list of featured games

  • Elsie (Knight Shift Games) – coming soon for PC via Steam, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series
  • Fishbowl (imissmyfriends.studio) – demo available now for PC via Steam, PlayStation 5
  • Wéko the Mask Gatherer (Siro Games, Hawthorn Games) – demo available now for PC via Steam
  • Penny Larceny: Gig Economy Supervillain (Fiction Factory Games) – available now for PC/Mac/Linux via Steam/itch.io / PC via Steam
  • The Shadow Over Cyberspace (Fiction Factory Games) – coming PC via Steam
  • Videoverse (Kinmoku) – available now for PC via Steam
  • Cellular City (Callum Deery) – demo available now on itch.io
  • Upheaval (Alex Leone) – demo available now for PC via Steam, full game launching soon
  • Periphery Synthetic EP (ShiftBacktick) – demo available now for PC via Steam, full game launching in Q3 2024
  • Trash Goblin (Spilt Milk Studios) – demo available now for PC via Steam, full game launching later this year
  • Slime Heroes (Pancake Games, Whitethorn Games) – coming soon for PC, Xbox
  • Magical Delicacy (sKaule, Whitethorn Games) – launching on July 16 for PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series, Xbox One
  • Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan (ManaVoid Entertainment, Skybound Games) – available now for PC via Steam, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox
  • Space Boat (Recombobulator Games) – demo available now for PC, PlayStation, Xbox
  • The Darkest Files (Paintbucket Games) – coming soon to PC, Nintendo Switch
  • Dawnfolk (formerly known as Lueur and the Dim Settlers) (Darenn Keller, Astra Logical) – demo available for PC via Steam, full game launching soon

Watch the showcase

Watch the showcase: British Sign Language

Watch the showcase: American Sign Language

Watch the showcase: Audio Description

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Lindsay picked up an NES controller for the first time at the age of 6 and instantly fell in love. She began reviewing GBA games 20 years ago and quickly branched out from her Nintendo comfort zone. She has has developed a great love of life sims and FMV titles. For her, accessibility is one of the most important parts of any game (but she also really appreciates good UI).

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