Why “Always On” Is Bad for Game Accessibility - ccidog Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Why “Always On” Is Bad for Game Accessibility

In recent days there has been a lot of outcry over the rumor that the next Microsoft console will require an internet connection even to play single player games. There are notable voices on both sides of this issue, even though the broader gaming community seems not only to dislike, but completely abhor the idea of an always-on console. In the conversation that this issue has sparked, very few people have talked about the impact that an always-on console would have on the disabled gaming population. To that end, here are three reasons why the always-on concept is bad for game accessibility.

 

Let’s start with the broadest possible conversation. Always on requires players to have a consistent internet connection anytime they want to play a game. This, by very definition, limits the amount of access any player can have to the hardware. Regardless of whether they’re disabled or not, very few gamers have access to a consistent enough internet connection to avoid being kicked out of their game multiple times in a single session. As a result, always on negatively affects the most basic definition of game accessibility—a definition which is not based on physical ability, but rather simply on the ability to access the game. Because of this, if a game is “always on,” it will affect disabled gamers not exclusively, but as a part of the broader gaming population. In other words, always on is bad for game accessibility on the most fundamental level because it puts constraints on the basic access of the game for all players, which includes those with disabilities.


Moving on to more specific reasons, always on is bad for disabled gamers because it requires gamers to pay for internet. Many disabled gamers have limited funds, and the cost of paying for internet in addition to the cost of games would prohibit many disabled gamers from purchasing the games they love. In my own life I know this would be true, since while I’m looking for a job, I’m on social security, which means that I have a very limited income. Thankfully, my parents pay for the internet (because I live with them). But if I had to dip into my budget to pay for a service which would enable me to play games, I probably wouldn’t be able to, since every penny I have goes into either my living expenses or my work at DAGERS. It’s hard to imagine disabled gamers like myself who are on such limited income shelling out hundreds of dollars for systems and games, and then paying a monthly internet bill on top of that. Always on is bad for the disabled because it requires them to pay even more money out of what are, in most cases, small budgets.


Finally, there is simply the matter of the physical accessibility of hardware that requires an always on component. With a system like that, there’s one more way in which the system can go wrong and one more area in which disabled players need help fixing it. For example, if an able-bodied player’s PS3 loses its connection to the network, they can get up and check the cord to make sure it didn’t come unplugged or they can go into the system settings to try to figure out what is wrong. But if a player has a disability, they may not have this option, either because they can’t access the system’s internal interface well enough to troubleshoot, or they simply can’t physically reach the cords and components well enough to check when the game or system loses connectivity. This means that they are dependent on able-bodied people to help them jiggle cords and flip through menus if a system ever loses connection. The difference is that, if the system is always on, they have to have someone’s help immediately, even if they just simply want to play single player. This puts disabled gamers at the mercy of able-bodied help when gaming—which is always a bad thing for game accessibility.


In conclusion, if Microsoft of any other company develops an always on system, they run the risk of excluding many disabled gamers. This is because an always on system would generally alienate lots of gamers to begin with. But it would affect disabled gamers especially, because it would require them to pay for internet in addition to paying for their games (something that a lot of disabled gamers on limited budgets can’t afford) and it would create another problem that could go wrong with the system that would necessitate disabled gamers having help from non-disabled people in order to enjoy the most basic single player gameplay.

 

 

For more articles on game accessibility, please visit DAGERS, or find us on Facebook or @dagersystem.

 

 

Comments
  • Wow! What a great and well written blog! Good job! I like everything about this blog.

  • I'm against the "always-online" move too. Nicely done Josh.

  • Mod
    Great article! On another note, try to limit your posts to one per day.
  • Good article, and I agree with almost all your points.  Especially when seen through the filter of game accessibility, an always on console just doesn't have many, if all, advantages for the consumer.

    However, when you say that "very few gamers have access to a consistent enough internet connection to avoid being kicked out of their game multiple times in a single session", I'm not sure that's entirely true. I agree with your point that a steady internet connection isn't something that everybody has access to, but there are more than "very few" gamers out there whose internet connection allows them to get through a single session without being kicked out multiple times.  Regardless, you bring up some very good points here.

  • Great blog. First, wireless connections is a life saver. While you may have to check a router or modem. You still have a point about trouble shooting.

    Another reason is because not everyone has internet or even the abilities to get internet. Not because of money but its due to their location. According to this article from 2012 20% of US citizens dont have internet access. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/internet-access-american-households_n_2049123.html

    the numbers may have change since then but I highly doubt it.

    I personally don't mind always on since I have a really good internet and router/modem. So if they make it always on it wont matter for me since all my electronics that are internet ready are already always connected to the internet.

    Either way, i still don't support always on. And it should never be taken into consideration.
    ____________________________________________________________________

    One thing you can do if you want to post more than one article is create double articles. Just find a way to shorten each title into 2 words then put a / in between each title. And in the blog, have a solid line (like i did in the comment) dividing the articles. At the top of each section put the full titles in with the Heading 2 font face in the editors options.
  • Nice piece offering a different perspective on how a standard policy can disproportionately impact a particular group.  I did not previously consider the difficulty of those with limited mobility with troubleshooting the wired internet connection in the event of a connection failure.    

  • Another well thought out blog expressing what the gaming community as a whole has an issue with.  Now, only if we can get the "big three" to take some of what was stated in this blog to task.  

  • Sorry about the double post. I was not planning on posting two articles yesterday, but it ended up that way.

  • To be honest I could care less if Microsoft's next Xbox requires a constant internet connection because if that is the case I'm going to buy a PS4 instead and I can guarantee that there will be an army of gamers who will do the same thing as me.  Your loss Microsoft! :)

  • Sigh....Believe it or not the NEXT XBOX will NOT require "always online". Y'all need to quit drinking the kool-aid.