Pokemon Go: Where Does It Stand With Disabled Gamers?

logo of pokemon go


Released less than a couple of weeks ago, Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. It is all the rage these days, with young adults walking around out in the real world, with their phones out,  looking for Pokemon they can capture, battle, and train. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Pokemon Go is basically an app (game) that uses the phone camera and maps. The player is required to go out to the streets, parks, running trails, malls, stores, restaurants, coffeeshops, gyms – any place in the real world really in order to find pokemon in an augmented form. They basically collect these Pokemon and use them to fight other Pokemon at gym locations.

 This video should give you a good understanding of how this game is played.

This is not the first time an augmented reality mobile game has been created. Ingress is another popular game that was released a few years ago by Google, but not as popular as Pokemon Go. However, the success of Pokemon Go, with “Pokestops” practically everywhere in a person’s local geographic area, has raised some concerns and questions, the biggest being that it is not a very convenient and feasible game for  people with physical disabiltiies. A lot of times, Pokemon are placed in inconvenient locations like running trails, in the middle of parks, places that require climbing stairs or generally inaccessible places for people who have limited mobility or are in wheelchairs or use walkers. 


3 screenshots showing pokemon at various physical locations

There are around 33 million gamers with disabilities in the US alone, and being unable to be a part of an extremely popular gaming phenomenon  screams of ableism. Able bodied people have seen great benefits from Pokemon Go. It makes them be more physical, encourages them to venture out, and be more social. However, for people in wheelchairs, it may not be that easy to just go out  to “catch ’em all”. Not having the same kind of access to a global phenomenon can be frustrating and demoralizing. Could the game developers have included an accessibility mode that didn’t  spawn Pokemon in difficult to reach areas? How about giving disabled people an option to just stay home and play the game without physically getting out?

Why should there be barriers to fun?

 In the grand scheme of things though, lack of options for disabled gamers makes you wonder why accessibility is never even considered in the first place when a new game (or software or product) is being designed and developed. There are various not for profit organizations that work with disabled gamers to make their gaming experiences easier and more enjoyable. One such organization, called AbleGamers, has also released a 48 page guidelines document that addresses accessibility in video games, specifically mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive accommodations. Any serious video game developer, who wants to reach an even wider audience, should  start with these guidelines to understand what kind of accommodations can be created for disabled gamers, and at least have some basic levels of accessibility in their game. Many requests for accessibility by disabled gamers are quite simple, and completing those requests will definitely be appreciated by the disabled gamers’ community.
Coming back to Pokemon Go though – every cloud has a silver lining, and Pokemon Go is no exception to this rule. It has had positive impact on people with social anxiety and depression, and has encouraged a vast number of people to go out. Although there are locations that people in wheelchairs and walkers cannot access, it still encourages them to go out more. Adults in wheelchair especially, who used to hangout outside all the time when they were kids but don’t get to do that anymore as grown ups, find it refreshing to escape the mundane indoors and just be out enjoying the sun and fresh air!

Source: Kotaku

Images source: Google Images

Video Source: CNN

 [Thank you for sharing, Adam!]

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