Even though DAGERS does not evaluate individual games from the standpoint of hardware, the hardware is definitely worth appraisal by itself. To that end, we are starting a series of reviews that will examine the accessibility of the industry’s top platforms.
There’s no doubt that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is an extremely popular platform with an extensive online community and blockbuster exclusives like the Halo series. This platform is a force to be reckoned with. From the standpoint of accessibility, however, it has some issues, though it also does certain things incredibly well.
An auditory impairment should not affect the use of this hardware. All the menus and functions are explained in text. Furthermore, the sound within the operating system itself is purely an add-on.
Visual challenges might pose more of a problem however, since the in-game menus feature white text on a green background, which can be blurry depending upon whether or not the player is using an HDTV and what size the TV is. Even with this potential problem, the contrast in most of the menus is strong enough that a large portion of colorblind gamers will not have a problem with it. There is one aspect of this system, unfortunately, that lacks good contrast. That’s the controller. The buttons on the controller are color coded, and the X, Y, A, and B labels are the same color as the surrounding buttons. So if a gamer is not able to see the contrast between the symbol and the background, they may have trouble determining which button they need to push.
Players with fine motor challenges will have the hardest time of any disabled players using the Xbox 360. This is mainly due to buttons that are slightly smaller than those on competitor systems. As a result, there is a greater degree of accuracy needed with this platform than with others. In addition, these buttons also have raised centers, which means that a gamer whose hands shake might find their fingers slide off easily. The triggers and especially the shoulder buttons have the same problem: they are too narrow, and can either be hard to find with your fingers, or hard to keep a hold of. The final thing that a disabled player may struggle with when using an Xbox controller is the fact that its joysticks are not parallel. As a result, the gamer will have to use both hands to manipulate both sticks. If they cannot isolate their muscles, more involved maneuvers might be difficult.
Even though the Xbox’s physical controller has some accessibility issues, this controller does a couple of things very, very well. First of all, the console menu button is nice and big, and located in the middle of the controller. This means that it does not require much accuracy to pause a game without looking to see where you fingers are landing. Similarly, the directional pad is a single, floating button, which means that instead of having to jump between distinct buttons, a player can change directions simply by shifting the pressure on the pad. Another thing that Microsoft gets right with their controller is the fact that it sits level rather than sloping forwards. As a result, if a player is playing the Xbox on a flat surface like a table or a lap tray, they will never run the risk of accidentally pressing the trigger buttons if they press down on the controller. However, when players do need to use the triggers, it is nice that the triggers are slightly curved, which helps prevent gamers’ fingers from slipping off.
While it is fair to say that there are a few issues with the physical accessibility of the Xbox 360, there is nothing major that would bar the enjoyment of the system, and it should be considered as a top contender when trying to decide which system is right for you.