Frédéric McNamara, the founder of Shishi Studios, lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. With his team, he wants to develop accessible games.
The small team at Studios Shishi, in Montreal, recently released their first role-playing and adventure game called Shishi: Timeless Prelude. A title that aims to be colorful and creative, but above all accessible to everyone – a fundamental value of the founder Frédéric McNamara, who lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Since his youth, the young designer has been marked by video games, leaving aside fans with physical, cognitive or visual abilities different from the average.
For people like me, some games are difficult or even impossible to play, says Frédéric McNamara. There are games that don't think about accessibility.
Duchenne's disease leads to the degeneration of his muscles. Quick movements on a controller are increasingly difficult for him to perform.
If a game is playable right now for me, I wouldn't say it's still going. be in several years, he drops.
Shishi Studios released their first game, “Shishi: Timeless Prelude”, at the end of May.
Frédéric McNamara never wanted to let Duchenne's disease deprive him of the world of video games.
Determined to develop his own titles, he studied video game creation at the university and launched an independent studio in 2019, Shishi Studios, with three partners respectively providing art direction, animation and music for the games.
Their first game, Shishi: Timeless Prelude(2022), follows the adventures of Elia, a young mage training to become an oracle by exploring a sacred sanctuary. A second title, Shishi: Ballad of the oracle, is in preparation. The series is available on the Nintendo Switch console.
In order for the title to be accessible to a wide audience, Shishi Studios have ensured that it requires few quick actions. The battles take place in turns, a mechanism well known to fans of classic games.
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The title also offers several levels of difficulty and great freedom in the control parameters. It is possible to choose to assign a specific button for an action and the sensitivity of the joysticks (joysticks) can be adjusted.
Some of these settings may seem trivial, but when it's not included in the games, it makes all the difference, insists Frédéric McNamara. He himself knows this reality well: Sometimes it can be difficult to manipulate the controller or press certain buttons.
Shishi Studios plans to add new accessibility features at Shishi: Timeless Prelude. It's our first game. We did our best to make it an accessible title, but our goal is to make it even more accessible, explains the founder.
L Accessibility is gradually carving out a place in the titles of major studios, in particular thanks to the pioneering work of independent studios, according to Sarah Stang, professor of video game studies at Brock University in Ontario.
< p class="e-p">Choice of colors for color blind people; dialogues subtitled and available in several fonts for the hearing impaired and dyslexic people; aim assist (aim-assist) for those with motor impairments are some examples of features found in the most popular games of recent years.
Big studios, like Ubisoft, even have a department dedicated to accessibility.
Many fans like Shunya Hatakeyama, who plays Street Fighters with his chin, don't let their disabilities stop them from enjoying video games.
More and more competitions are rewarding games that accommodate people with disabilities. Last March, Forza Horizon 5, the first game in history to offer sign language support, was crowned at the second edition of the Video Games Accessibility Awards.
“There is definitely a culture shift. This is important because the interactive nature of video games makes them exciting and enjoyable, but can also become a hindrance.
— Sarah Stang, professor of video game studies at Brock University
According to her, change is slowly taking place in the industry, thanks in particular to the mobilization of players on social media
The professor adds that the arrival of disabled staff in major studios and the observation that a significant proportion of video game enthusiasts live with motor, cognitive or visual challenges are leading to a small revolution in the video game world. /p>
Forza Horizon 5 stood out for its accessibility at the Video Games Accessibility Awards.
The game is far from won for video game enthusiasts living with disabilities . Controllers suitable for players with reduced mobility, for example, are still rare and expensive, recalls Sarah Stang.
Famous player Soleil Ewok Wheeler, member of the sports organization electronic FaZe, says that his deafness prevents him from following the conversations with his team, for lack of automatically generated subtitles.
And Frédéric McNamara, who moves around in a wheelchair, wonders if he'll find anything in the growing field of virtual reality games and the metaverse.
Most virtual reality games require a lot of movement. That's a big limitation, and I think [people with disabilities] is an audience that would be really interested in enjoying VR.