What makes an accessible game? Robust features? Simple design? Easy-to-understand gameplay? The answer is all of these and more. As I hope I’ve demonstrated for the past ten years, the best accessibility always grows out of a developer’s vision, rather than overwriting it, and that is the case with this year’s DAGERSystem Diamond Award winner.
On the surface, New Pokémon Snap looks like an incredibly simple game with an easy-to-read art style and very simple controls, all of which make it highly accessible. But is it worth a Diamond Award? Yes, absolutely. Not because Nintendo put a lot of effort into accessibility, but because the concept of Pokémon Snap was accessible from its inception. The idea of taking an on-rails photo-safari through various biomes in the Lental region where the player’s only responsibility is to move the camera and snap shots while occasionally throwing food or “pinging’ various Pokémon was bound to result in an inherently accessible game. In fact, for motor-impaired gamers, New Pokémon Snap is as accessible as it can be, since you only really need one finger to play the game with great success.
What secures the Diamond Award for this game is the amount of value. I’ve spent dozens of hours cruising through the Lental Region trying to get that perfect shot and enjoyed every minute of it. Even if I go through an entire run without snapping a single photo, it’s still fun to try and spot the elusive Gyarados or Tangrowth so I can plan to get it next time. In fact, even though I’ve spent probably two dozen hours in this game, I’m only on the fifth map, which means I have many hours to go before I complete the other 25—all while needing absolutely no help from an able-bodied friend or assistant. New Pokémon Snap earns a Diamond Award not just because it’s highly accessible but because it allows players to independently experience the wonders of Pokémon regardless of their physical impairments.