Civilization V: A Tradition in Accessibility

For as long as I could remember, Sid Meier's Civilization franchise had been the best of the best when it came to strategic video games, period. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Civilization one day takes its place among the pantheon of great strategy games used to hone one's mind to sharpness; standing tall alongside chess, go, and latrunculi as the casual shapers of humanity's finest generals.

 

gameplay is turn based, requiring no more than a mouse and a brain

 

The franchise has always been a ray of sunshine for the physically disabled, as gameplay is turn based, requiring no more than a mouse and a brain. No hyperactive reflexes required here. Even better, in this iteration, players can switch to a low-fi graphics mode. Originally designed to reduce graphics strain, this also enables players with poor vision or color blindness. Though it is technically a case of "accidental accessibility," I do hope that Sid Meier chooses to keep it for future versions of the game. I am somewhat hopeful that this will be the case, as it is also included in the expansion "Beyond Earth." [Authors note: at the time of this writing, Firaxis had released an expansion to Beyond Earth, which I have yet to play or review. I do hope it's better than the current version, though…]

 

The only difficulties a disabled player would need to surmount in this game are all little problems that can be easily overcome. For example, players typically use the mouse scroll wheel in order to zoom in and out. This may pose a minor problem for a hands-free player, which is why I would recommend they play this game with a voice recognition solution in order to handle any keystrokes that they may need to use but otherwise can't. However it is worth noting that every single keystroke can be remapped; yet another example of how Meyer has taken accessibility and made it a priority in his franchise.  Civilization's financial and critical success is yet another reminder of how including accessibility in game design is not only morally, but financially correct.

 

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Civilization was one of the first games that Steam permitted users to make mods using Steam Workshop. That means that there are all kinds of modifications to maps, units, the whole works. If any of you fine readers happen to come across any sorts of mods relating to accessibility, please let me know (accessiblegamer on Steam). At the very least, it is possible to reduce the memory print this game leaves while playing, as there are many mods in existence that make various cosmetic alterations to the game in order to make it run smoother (particularly in the late game when airplanes are flying all over in the game has to run an animation for each one).

 

 

"The world is cruel…" As if we didn't already know that, Paccal!

"The world is cruel…" As if we didn't already know that, Paccal!

 

There also exists a multiplayer feature that easily integrates with Steam, allowing players to go up against or team up with their friends easier than ever before. However, it has been my experience that any public multiplayer game will not last longer than the first session. Even on the fastest settings a game can take several days, and you really have no way of knowing if the people you've been matched up with have the commitment required to take this game to the end (which I highly recommend, by the way, because waging war in the late game has all kinds of fun units available up to and including the skyranger from XCOM). To counter this, it is recommended that any player serious about playing a multiplayer game that requires the player to come back and continue a game over the course of several days (or weeks/months/years depending on one's sanity) go out and join one of the many Civilization-related groups on the Internet. Civfanatics.com not only has a great deal of information available, as well as a vibrant and active forum community that will likely end up with you having more Steam friends than you know what to do with, or you can simply join one of the public Civilization-related social groups created on Steam, itself. Odds are good that if you ask nicely, you can find seven other people willing to teach you how to play this game.

 

It's true that those of us with physical disabilities are often told to "focus on using our minds if we can't use our bodies" and while there is some truth to this, it is nice to see that this philosophy is not only implemented in the videogame world, but does the in a manner that, from a business perspective, has been wildly successful iteration after iteration. Essentially, this game doesn't so much level the playing field as it elevates everybody who plays it to the same level. That's the kind of business philosophy that I can get behind as a disabled gamer, and I'm so incredibly happy to see it so popular amongst the able-bodied community as well.