Forget ever greater resolutions, constantly rising frame rates, gorgeously rendered beams of light, crystal clear reflections, and dappled shadows, photorealistic textures and dense environments... Forget all of that, because one of the greatest areas of innovation and advancement for video games in the last decade has been accessibility and modern, approachable game design.
One of the most impressive games I have ever seen in this respect is coming later this year, and its incredible array of granular, customizable accessibility features practically guarantees it'll be one of the most popular simulation racing games of all time. Forza Motorsport (2023) is almost here, and it's a shoo-in as one of the best Xbox racing games just based on the sheer, obvious passion for accessibility on display within. Let's talk about it.
Dozens of options to tailor your experience
"People are different, people have different challenges... That changes how you go towards a game. I think a really strong, accessible design doesn't treat any person as a single thing." — Dan Greenawalt, General Manager of Turn 10 Studios.
Dive into the settings for Forza Motorsport (2023), and you'll be confronted with page after page of detailed, nuanced settings that allow you to tinker with basically every aspect of the game. There are 10 categories of options here, and each one gives players more agency over how they play Forza Motorsport — without affecting the core gameplay loop or taking away the challenge of racing.
The idea here is not to categorize disabilities or challenges that players may face and include toggles that target those generalized tags. Instead, Forza Motorsport includes dozens of tools that can be tailored to any player, regardless of their individual challenges that may have prevented them from playing simulation racing games in the past. Turn 10 Studios previously discussed its incredibly impressive, groundbreaking Blind Driving Assists in Forza Motorsport, but this isn't just one setting that only helps certain people — it's a vast collection of different options that can all work together or individually to help anyone play the game.
Forza Motorsport's brilliant accessibility gives players as much control over the game as they have over their cars.
It's a brilliant implementation that gives players as much control over the game as they have over their cars. Just like you upgrade your car with new parts and tune those parts to obtain peak performance, you can also tweak and customize every element of Forza Motorsport (2023). To help players find the perfect combination of settings, every option in Forza Motorsport comes with detailed descriptions in a clean, easy-to-read and navigate UI.
This goes far beyond colorblind modes, high contrast menus and text scaling, subtitles, and granular volume sliders. There are intricate options for the screen narrator and audio description, ways to customize the in-game activity feed, the aforementioned Blind Driving Assist with a long list of varied options that provide different assists, audio cues, and more... And this is just one page of options. You get countless options to customize absolutely every part of the HUD, the most in-depth audio controls I've ever seen in a game, per-key bindings (and multiple profiles) for both controllers and keyboards, absurdly detailed control over more than a dozen different deadzones. There's even a way to individually customize the field-of-view (FOV) for each camera.
It's marvelous, and you can peruse most of the options in these 25 screenshots from my Forza Motorsport (2023) preview.
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Giving you tools to feel the challenge of racing
Simulation racing games like Forza Motorsport focus on the thrill of competition, the accumulation of skill, and the intrinsic instinct to be constantly challenging yourself. Turn 10 Studios went back to the drawing board with Forza Motorsport (2023) to ensure the game remains true to those core tenets, as recent FM titles seemed to drift away from them. With a cohesive vision, these accessibility tools, and a consistent, approachable game design, Forza Motorsport is poised to offer the ultimate simulation racing game to any player — even those unable to drive themselves.
The idea behind great accessibility in games is to allow players to experience the game as it's truly meant to be played, even when those players may have their own personal challenges that affect their ability to do so. It doesn't fundamentally alter the game, and it doesn't affect any player who opts not to use those features. It's not about giving certain players an advantage, it's about leveling the playing field for everyone. Forza Motorsport (2023) gives you the tools to feel the challenge of racing, and it does so at a level we have never seen before in the genre.
Great accessibility lets any player experience a game as it's truly meant to be experienced.
Prioritizing accessibility and approachability from the earliest stages of development benefits all players, too, not just those who need or are greatly aided by those features to play. More control over the HUD, in-game activity feed, and control schemes can help any player customize Forza Motorsport to their heart's desire. Efforts to fully support any custom setups in Forza Motorsport for those who need it also benefits those with unique, simulation-focused gaming rigs and inputs. In general, great accessibility lowers barriers between players and actually playing the game.
I may be an advocate for better accessibility in video games, but I don't require the vast majority of the features included in Forza Motorsport. I am gently hearing impaired and have auditory processing disorder, but my needs are met just with accurate and responsive subtitles, so I'm not in a position to fully evaluate the effectiveness or execution of every accessibility feature. Steve Saylor, on the other hand, is a creator and gamer well-known for reviewing and analyzing video games on their accessibility, and he previewed Forza Motorsport and its blind driving assists.
The results? He won a race in first place because of the various blind driving assists, and lauded Forza Motorsport for the incredible levels of customization possible. It's a great video worth a watch, and Saylor is an awesome creator to follow if you're interested or invested in video games accessibility.
There's a steep learning curve involved, for sure, and it'll take time for some players to tune these settings to their needs, but players can tune these settings to their needs, no matter what they may be. It's all made possible because Turn 10 Studios and Xbox worked together alongside members of the Gaming & Disability Community, like accessibility consultant Brandon Cole. It's all made possible because from day one, the Forza Motorsport team wanted to make an amazing simulation racing game that let anyone experience the challenge of racing.
Opening the doors to more players than ever before
Accessibility in video games may get criticized by the bottom dregs of the gaming community for "making games too easy" and "being a waste of resources," but the reality is that more considerate and thorough accessibility features combined with intelligent and approachable game design just lets more people play video games. It's not about lowering the difficulty ceiling of games — it's about giving people the tools to experience those challenges for themselves, to be able to see themselves improve their skills and overcome obstacles. It's about letting everyone fall in love with the same amazing games, regardless of their personal challenges or abilities.
I've long been a persistently vocal advocate for greater accessibility in video games, and it has been a joy to watch this area of games development evolve by leaps and bounds. There have been so many excellent examples of accessibility simply opening the doors for more people to play. From Grounded and its Arachnophobia Mode to Forza Horizon 5 and its sign language support; Xbox's continued investments in accessibility; The Last of Us Part Two from PlayStation, and so much more — accessibility matters, and it makes video games better for all of us.
Forza Motorsport (2023) may be the most impressive game I have ever played in this regard. The sheer number of options and control verges on overwhelming, with greater flexibility around the core gameplay loop. A lot of trial and error, tuning, and learning may be necessary for players to get the most out of these options, but at least players have the ability to do so. The majority of gamers won't touch most of these settings, but it's not about them. It's about the people who love video games just as much as everyone else, but often can't play the games they want because it wasn't designed with them in mind. Forza Motorsport welcomes those players, and dares them to chase victory on the track.