How to make a video game accessible to people with disabilities? Sony believes it has the answer by presenting a customizable “controller set” for the PlayStation 5, designed with gamers with disabilities in mind.
Introduced this week as “Project Leonardo” at CES 2023 in Las Vegas, the controller is circular in shape and designed to lie flat on a table top or wheelchair tray.
In addition, buttons come in different shapes and sizes.
“I’m excited that the project will be completed by working with gamers rather than presenting them with a single chassis,” So Morimoto of Sony’s design team wrote on the company’s blog.
In the post, the company said it worked with various organizations such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, and Stack Up to design and create the controller.
Sony’s initiative – which created such video game brands as The Last of Us, God of War and Uncharted – has so far met with a very positive response in social media.
“I’m almost crying as the arthritis in my hands is getting worse, as are many other joints in my body, and gaming is starting to become a challenge,” one user said in response to a Sony YouTube video.
“As someone who had a stroke in July and has only tried to play twice since then due to the frustration of trying to use traditional controllers, I am very excited,” said another.
Several initiatives in the gaming industry
In recent years, the gaming industry has been more closely scrutinized for accessibility.
Increasingly, it’s being taken seriously by video game studios and developers: from improved visibility for people with disabilities to games like “Extreme Wheelchairing” to a more thoughtful design like a new controller.
“Project Leonardo is a product we’ve been working on for years with the goal of creating something truly unique and catering to a wide range of gamers with different physical needs,” said Jim Ryan, PlayStation President and CEO, in an exclusive interview with WIRED.
In 2015, French studio Dowino released A Blind Legend, a fully sound video game to be played on mobile devices or computers. In 2021, The Vale: Shadow of the Crown was released, promising a “3D audio experience” with haptic feedback when played on Xbox.
Industry guidelines have been developed and developers have added many accessibility features, such as colorblind mode.
In 2021, Microsoft and Playground Games introduced sign languages to the Forza Horizon 5 car video game.