By JEZ CORDEN, Windows Central
Microsoft has invested more than ever in its gaming business lately, with its purchase of ZeniMax/Bethesda, a huge staff increase, exclusive content for Xbox Game Pass, and much more. There’s another area of investment in the Xbox division that is producing results of an entirely different nature, though: improving people’s lives.
Microsoft’s accessibility drive hit the spotlight with the advent of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which allows gamers with disabilities to create custom solutions to fit their specific needs. Really, though, there’s so much more to what Microsoft is doing in the space, and it goes all the way back to the Xbox 360, when Microsoft brought screen readers like Windows’ Narrator, and later features like Xbox Copilot on Xbox One.
It doesn’t really need explaining — Microsoft’s leadership in this space is changing lives for the better, and other companies should sit up and take notice.
I previously wrote about how the Xbox Adaptive Controller helped my friend Oliver, who works around osteogenesis imperfecta to maintain an active gaming lifestyle. Of course, there’s no simple catch-all solution for solving accessibility needs — as versatile as the Xbox Adaptive Controller is by itself, it requires a range of tools and features for a platform to be truly accessible, and there’s still work to be done.
I was inspired to take another look at accessibility recently by this post on reddit, from u/duz_machines. He describes Xbox’s Copilot feature, which allows you to separate controller features between two different gamepads in a single game. His sister has cerebral palsy, with impaired motor skills. As a result of Copilot, u/duz_machines’ sister has enjoyed an improved quality of life, able to experience games that were previously completely inaccessible.
For those unfamiliar with copilot mode, basically all it does is allow two controllers to input as one controller. This enables me to take a lot of the burden from her, while allowing her to control what she can control. She’s been able to play games previously unfathomable for years because of this one, small, almost hidden feature. What pushed me over the edge to actually write this was Resident Evil Village. It is now one of her favorite games of all time; she can’t stop talking about it, and the only way she could’ve enjoyed it was Xbox. Nintendo and Sony don’t offer a copilot mode equivalent.
Sony has begun improving its accessibility features gradually, adding narrator features and other things, but is still a fair ways behind the curve. Nintendo is arguably the worst, for multiple reasons. Nintendo’s IP is Disney-like in their appeal to younger audiences, and there’s nothing worse to me than imagining how Nintendo makes youngsters with disabilities near completely excluded, owing to its general apathy towards these sorts of features.
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