The Barrier Breaker Award is presented to development teams who implement exceptional accessibility features that we view as industry leading. Unlike the DAGERSystem Diamond Award, Barrier Breaker Awards are not given out annually, but only given when a game exhibits truly superlative implementation of specific accessibility features. This list will be updated when new barrier-breaking features are implemented that we believe are the most effective in the industry.
Naughty Dog Studios – 2020
Naughty Dog Studios has a long track record of excellence in accessibility; however, they have outdone themselves with The Last of Us Part II by proving that it is not only possible but profitable for mainstream developers to make experiences that are accessible for blind and low-vision players. Before The Last of Us Part II, it was often thought such a disability completely excluded someone from enjoying most genres of video games. Through their persistent effort, dedication to quality, and passion for accessibility, Naughty Dog proved this to be wholly untrue. This is the first Barrier Breaker for blind/low-vision accessibility.
Motive Studios – 2020
Despite the fact that flight and other vehicle simulators are often completely inaccessible to the physically impaired, Motive has found a way to mitigate many of the barriers inherent in this genre in a way we feel should be industry standard. The single most impactful feature Motive provides is the step throttle control. One of the most severe barriers in games in this genre is the fatigue induced by requiring the player to keep the acceleration button depressed while controlling the vehicle. Motive not only makes it possible for acceleration to be set to a toggle, but they included a slider that allows the player to set increments that give greater control over the vehicle than has hitherto been the industry standard. This combined with the other accessibility features present in Star Wars: Squadrons allows players with disabilities greater access than any other flight simulator in video game entertainment. This is the first Barrier Breaker awarded for accessible vehicle controls, and we believe every game with drivable vehicles would be made instantly more accessible if the industry met the standard set by Motive Studios.
Naughty Dog Studios – 2020
We at DAGERSystem believe that The Last of Us Part II represents the pinnacle of an accessibility feature that Naughty Dog was originally responsible for pioneering. We awarded them a Barrier Breaker for their comprehensive accessibility menu, which takes their industry-leading suite of accessibility features and makes them easily usable for the people who need them most. We believe all future games that have an accessibility menu should take their cues for formatting and presentation from The Last of Us Part II. This is the first Barrier Breaker for excellence in accessibility menu.
Remedy Entertainment – 2020
The assist mode in Control allows players the flexibility to tailor their gameplay experience in such a way that mitigates an incredible number of potential barriers. Players can adjust damage per second, health and energy multipliers, fine-tune aim assist, or make themselves invincible altogether. Those with physical impairments are able to access Control in ways that would certainly be impossible without the implementation of the assist mode, resulting in an industry-leading experience. This is the first Barrier Breaker Award given for an assist mode, and we believe every game would be made immediately and vastly more accessible if the industry met the standard set by Remedy Entertainment.
iD Software – 2020
The subtitles in Doom Eternal allow deaf and hard-of-hearing players and those who are unable to play with audio to experience the game in a way that wouldn’t be possible without this feature. These subtitles are industry-leading not only because they are comprehensive, displaying all crucial information, but also because they are highly legible, including a background option to increase visibility. The subtitles also include ambient noises and sounds to ensure players won’t miss out on Doom Eternal’s infernal ambience. This addition means that iD surpasses our previous Barrier Breaker for subtitles.
Insomniac Games – 2018
In the 2018 release of Marvel’s Spider-Man, Insomniac Games demonstrated the ultimate way to include puzzles in games without excluding players with either fine-motor or cognitive impairments. The puzzles in Marvel’s Spider-Man add a great deal of depth and give rewards to players that allow them to purchase much-needed upgrades throughout the game. Insomniac realized these puzzles may pose a barrier and included an auto-complete option that made the puzzles skippable while still giving the player all the rewards for completion. This is the first Barrier Breaker for accessible puzzles.
Insomniac Games – 2018
Insomniac Games set a new standard for how to integrate accessibility into the quick-time events in Marvel’s Spider-Man. They did this by allowing players the choice of three options: 1. QTEs could be completed as normal. 2. QTEs could be switched from a rapid tap to a button hold. 3. QTEs auto complete when triggered. The existence of these three options along with the fact that they could be changed at any point meant that players had an extreme degree of control over the cinematic moments that made Marvel’s Spider-Man so memorable. They could choose to play one QTE and skip the next, giving a degree of control that was often denied disabled players. This is the first Barrier Breaker awarded for accessible QTE design.