Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Very Cool: MLB '11 Includes Mode for Disabled Gamers

Baseball and video games super-fan Hans Smith

Sony San Diego's upcoming MLB '11 will include an "Association for Disabled Virtual Athletes" mode that allows the game to be played using only one button. Basically the player controls batting or pitching and the computer handles things like fielding, running, etc. The point is to make the game accessible for gamers who are only able to use one button on the controller.

The idea came from a fan named Hans Smith, who has cerebral palsy. An apparent super-fan of baseball and video games, Smith contacted Sony a number of years ago to express his appreciation of the MLB: The Show series. The developers made an avatar for him and included it in MLB: The Show '10, and this year they're going a step farther by including the new mode Smith conceived. Now disabled players around the world will be able to enjoy the game like he does. has the full scoop, but I just wanted to give this story a nod. It's really great to see this kind of awareness and step towards inclusion by a major developer. I don't know enough about either sports games or disabled gamer issues to evaluate the mode, but its existence at all is a good sign. It seems difficult to imagine this type of mode being excluded from future releases, and eventually I'd hope to see it become a standard feature for all developers. But even if it's just a one off it's still a great move by Sony's San Diego studio.

In a related story, Kotaku reports that Forza 3 has won the 2010 Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year award. Given out by the AbleGamers Foundation, the self-explanatory award exists to promote awareness and accessibility in gaming. This year's winner, Forza 3, features a myriad of customizability options for disabled gamers, including an "auto-break" feature. This helps colour-blind gamers enjoy the game as normally the on-screen breaking guide is based on red and green coloured prompts. Additionally it allows the game to be fully playable using only two-buttons, as seen in the video below.

It's great to find out that there's an award promoting developers who include these kinds of accessibility options. It'll be interesting to hear if MLB '11 wins the award next year, and if not to find out what game beat them out. Just a really solid couple of mid-week stories that I felt were worth sharing.

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