Accessibility Preview: Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Accessibility Preview

At this year’s GDC I had the privilege of previewing the upcoming title by TT games, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have been a fan of this series since the original Lego Star Wars and was happy to see some of the same features that made those games so accessible to certain players with disabilities.

To begin with, the game seems highly visually accessible. The art style is friendly and overstated with little reliance on fine detail. Furthermore, from the 3 levels that I was able to play there seems to be little in this title that relies on the ability to distinguish color except for the ubiquitous Lego pips that act as currency in the game. While it may be hard for some players to distinguish the denomination of each pip which is communicated through its color, like the rupees in Zelda, the point is to collect as many pips as possible in the Lego game universe so the color does not pose a major barrier. The game also features a new type of level at which players control one of the many types of starships in the Star Wars universe in arena style dog fights. While it is possible that these are slightly less visually accessible they shouldn’t pose a problem given the forgiving nature that Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens exhibits.

It is this forgiving nature that also seems to indicate that the latest game from TT games will also be reasonably accessible for many players with fine motor disabilities. Death poses virtually no barrier in this game since players respawn practically right where they died and only suffer the loss of a few pips which can be recollected easily. One unsettling thing that was demonstrated for us was the implementation of QTEs but the developers assured me that because Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is aimed at children the QTEs are designed to be easy to execute regardless of dexterity limitations. From my brief time hands on with the game this seems to be true. I did not run into any segments that I could not progress past by myself. If this ever became an issue the Lego Star Wars games have always had a built in accommodation for players who may get stuck in difficult segments. Drop-in drop-out co-op, while this too is meant to make the game easier for children to play, it pays dividends in the area of accessibility by letting players who are physically able to quickly pick up the game and help the disabled player through the difficult segment.

The only area in which I can’t speak emphatically of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is its audio accessibility. Previous Lego games have had no spoken dialogue of any kind and therefore, have not posted barriers to the hearing impaired. This installment breaks from that pattern by using actual voiceover work from the actors involved in Star Wars The Force Awakens and while I did see adequate subtitles during the demo we will have to wait till the game releases to see if there are any other features that require the ability to hear.

On the whole, I’m excited to play Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It seems like a whimsical game that is both fun and reasonably accessible for many disabled gamers.

Written by: Josh Straub

At the end of his internship with GameInformer magazine, Josh Straub graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University with a degree in creative writing and history. His earliest gaming memories are of looking over his father’s shoulder while he played Warcraft 2. While these experiences gave him a deep appreciation for the RTS genre, Josh seeks to play games across all genres and platforms due to his interest in game accessibility for the disabled. This interest stems from too many experiences in which he has hurled his controller across the room after finding out that a game was inaccessible, due to his Cerebral Palsy. Because of his wide exposure and interest in games, Josh appreciates the story of a game more than any other element, especially because the stories of the games of his childhood provided him with an invaluable sense of escape from his disability.

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