Crystal Dynamics Explains Accessibility and Representation in Marvel’s Avengers

If you’re a Marvel fan that’s also a fan of the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers from Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, then you’re in for an accessibility treat. Crystal Dynamics has explained how it’s looking to improve accessibility through options and representation in the game.

As well as ensuring that the development of the game is going smoothly, the studios involved are also ensuring that the game is “broadly accessible”. The blog post, which doubles as an interview, comes from Square Enix’s accessibility lead, Améliane Chiasson who speaks with Meagan Marie, senior community manager and social media manager, and also Mariah Robinson, game designer. Both work at Crystal Dynamics.

According to Marie, accessibility initiatives at Crystal Dynamics “started with a “rogue” group of passionate allies who were advocating and making efforts in their own work as far back as the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot.” however, “momentum really began when we formalized into a team with a dedicated producer and started to centralize our efforts.” they explain.

Marie also explains how Crystal Dynamics worked with “consultants in order to receive it’s APXP certification late last year,” which they explain means that the studio “now have employees certified in accessible player experiences”.

They both explain how working with industry experts have allowed them to get early feedback on the game. One accessibility specialist was Cherry Thompson who not only spoke with the studio to give feedback and discuss the impact their efforts will have on a wide scope of people. But Thomspon was also part of the studios’ goal to help “normalize representation” in Marvel’s Avengers, and even provided some “baseline motion capture” in their wheelchair. This should have idle movements feel more organic in the game.

Those who plan to jump into the game will be able to find Cherry Thompson’s character at some point. An inhuman NPC named Cerise.

Marie states that they believe that the studio has a strong foundation of accessibility initiatives and “will continue to grow stronger.” She adds, “Accessibility is an ongoing pursuit, not a finite goal.”

Marvel's avengers - cherry thompson's in-game character. An inhuman with purpleish/blueish skin in a wheelchair as one hand has a magic element glowing purple in their hand

Robinson states that “This project helped me to see that I wasn’t alone in my passion for accessibility. One of the most memorable moments, was watching Tyler, a dev who was a part of our accessibility team, help give our Avengers E3 presentation in ASL (American sign language).” and also mentions that their “takeaway and biggest learning experience is that you can never know how much even the smallest thing can impact someone. Never take anything for granted.”

Marie goes on to mention that they want players to “customize their experience to fit their playstyle,” and that high contrast UI is one of the features available in Marvel’s Avengers.

Robinson jumps in the add that Marvel’s Avengers also has, “Fully remappable controls, character-associated subtitles, campaign-relevant closed captions, and HARM Training Rooms just to name a few.”

Marvel’s Avengers will be launching in September 2020 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia.

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