Video game communications like voice chat and text will take into account people with disabilities in the near future. A new U.S. law has passed and affects the whole gaming industry.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is pushing the law because it considers video games as a communication device. Game studios will have to comply and mediate with the FCC in order to avoid sanctions.

Former President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (known as CVAA). Obama made the law in 2010, a regulation that makes sure 1980s accessibility laws are updated to modern technologies.

The law gives disabled people greater access to 21st Century communication like video chat, text chat, and voice chat. If you’re wondering, then yes, it applies mostly to communications via headsets.

Why it affects the gaming community?

The game industry avoided full compliance of the CVAA with a series of counter-regulations, however, the excuses expired on December 31.

Games entering on development after January 1st must take the law into consideration. Games already in development must be as compliant as they can, although the progress of a game may alter the level of complaint.

On the other hand, games released before December 31 will receive substantial updates in order to comply. Said regulation will definitely affect games releasing major expansions in 2019, like Fortnite, World of Warcraft, and Destiny 2.

World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft. Source: PCGames.

How will the law work?

Under the law, gaming communications features and interface must be accessible to people with different conditions.

Developers must consider disabilities from early development. More so, game companies must involve people with disabilities in the design and testing process of the titles.

The law also takes the budget into account. It means studios must meet the accessibility criteria as best as they can.

Studios failing to comply the CVAA could receive customer complaints and begin mediation with the FCC. If mediation doesn’t work, they could face fines.

It’s worth noticing the CVAA will not affect gameplay. It only applies video game chat features.

If you want more information about how the CVAA applies, you can check the video presentation below.

Accessibility in video games

Let’s now talk about what the CVAA could mean for disabled gamers in the future.

The CVAA is focused on communication, and video games are considered communication devices.

However, the focus of the CVAA is still very narrow, very simplistic. It only covers a part of the games, the part when players can communicate with other players.

In the U.S., one of five people have a disability, which means not including accessibility features leaves a lot of people behind. Companies are already juggling around the disabled gamers, and they will probably continue to do so.

It’s not all black, though, as there are various ways in which the video game indsutry has improved accesility.

Uncharted 4 had some accesibility options other companeis shpuld take into consideration. These options were in the main menu in the form of modifiers and bonus. You can see all about it in the video below.
Naughty Dog, Uncharted’s developers, took on a very rare quest in the gaming industry. However, there are other examples. For instance, some studios have taken accesibility into consideration when building the game. Hence, they add features like one-handed pay, adjusting difficulty level, tweaking the controls, adjusting screen birghtess and colors, or adjusting the text size.
Other accesibility features include making tweaking the game to fit personal style. For example, platform indie title Celeste allows the player to be invincible or to slow the game down.
There’s also an ongoing research to allow playing without even using a controler.

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