PSVR Accessibility Review — Can I Play That?

Ben Bayliss9 minute read

PSVR Accessibility

Deaf / Hard of HearingBlind / Low VisionMobilityCognitive

The chunky headband may bring discomfort for those with hearing aids or cochlear implants, The scope where the player looks through feels somewhat spacious with room for glasses, but may require against-the-face placement which can be uncomfortable. The complicated cable management appears to be designed for those setting up and leaving it set up, and those who do set it up each time will have to run through setup procedures each time. The PS Move controllers feel nice for certain games, but the grip feels complicated when trying to operate many buttons.

Score

4.5 out of 10
  • Surprisingly lightweight, but front-heavy over time
  • Adjustable scope for clarity
  • Adjustable headband for tightness
  • PS Move controller works nicely for some games
  • Reset position allows player to remain in place and reset headset direction
  • Complicated cable management
  • Headband may be uncomfortable for hearing aids and cochlear implants
  • PS Move controllers aren't the most ergonomic
  • Experiences may vary from game to game given 360º and 180º capable games
  • Experiences may vary as most available games feel more designed for standing play
  • Motion control may require large movements

Many years late to the party, we’ve decided to review the PlayStation VR, otherwise known as PSVR, a virtual reality headset from Sony PlayStation. The hardware designed to immerse players even more into their video game worlds connects to a PS4 — and now a PS5 through an adapter. However, the question we ask is how do the PSVR and its controllers feel for accessibility?

Set up

There’s no sugar coating it, the PSVR is a lot to set up. You’ve got the headset itself which has 2 cables that need to connect to a box, then the box needs to connect to a power source, then an HDMI going to the TV, and another HDMI going to the PlayStation. Then to top it off, the PlayStation Camera needs to connect to the PlayStation as well, and if you’re using a PS5, you’ll need an adapter that the camera plugs into.

Then there’s the whole in-console setup which requires positioning the PlayStation Camera to a suitable position. As someone who didn’t wish to keep my setup plugged in all the time, having to reset all of this up and do the tracking lights and position setting up was a nuisance. For those with an area that can remain consistently untouched, this should be a relatively simple process when jumping back in.

Controller Booting Up

Once set up, I can make use of a DualSense, DualShock 4, or PS Move controller to navigate the system. Using the DualSense and DualShock 4 is my usual way of navigating outside of VR, but if I use the PS Move, it is a lot more fiddly. Holding the trigger and then having to move carefully with swipes to move around is just awkward, and then trying to press the right buttons without being able to see them is not wonderful.

Not only that, but some games do require the DualShock 4 exclusively, such as Moss and Moss 2 which requires seeing the controller’s lightbar. While this is more of a software situation, the point still remains that if players are comfortable with the PS Move controllers, they’ll have to forego that comfort if they want to play games that require a lightbar. Additionally, if you’re using a PS5 and don’t own a DualShock 4, you’ll have to pick one up in order to play those games as the DualSense has no lightbar for tracking.

PS Move Controllers

I’ve been using two PlayStation Move controllers on the topic of controllers. They link up to the console for wireless freedom. They’re shaped like a slender tube with a squishy ball at the tip. They’re about the height of a hand, and a circumference that’s thicker than a bicycle handle. There’s a trigger at the rear, a big Move button on the face surrounded by the Circle, Square, Cross, and Triangle buttons, and a Start and Select button on the two sides.

However, I have found the default grip for these controllers to be somewhat problematic when trying to operate a number of buttons while moving. Having to reposition my hand placement to have more control is just too much and would have been achieved better with a more ergonomic layout rather than a stick. Another issue is in relation to the tracking. Despite being set up correctly, the direction of tracking varies game-to-game. I’ll find games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has my character’s hands resting unnaturally and bent inwards slightly. Games such as Swordsman VR and Concrete Genie VR have a pointer coming from the squishy ball but in a horizontal position. This means I’m holding the controller vertically to choose things with a horizontal pointer, whereas I’d have preferred to aim at things like was aiming with a wand, I guess?

What’s more, the lack of any analog sticks on these controllers really makes for an uncomfortable and fiddly experience. Games do offer various ways of moving, such as headset control where you move forward depending on the direction you’re facing. But for actual turning for those who don’t want to, or cannot turn their body, having to press awkward tiny buttons to move feels awful.

I do want to highlight that there was a controller that included an analog stick, but I don’t have access to one of those. However it does look somewhat more comfortable to use for turning or moving around, but the straightness of the controller looks as if it’d provide an uncomfortable grip. Additionally, the lack of buttons appears as if it’ll be treated as more of a secondary controller which may work against those who want more control in one hand. Again, I’ve not used this so I can’t comment.

Headset Comfort

The headset itself is a bit on the bulky side. While it’s surprisingly lighter than how it looks when on my head the weight on the front where the scope —that houses the eyeglasses— can grow tiring. The headband has a dial at the back to tighten the band, and there’s a button on the scope at the front that allows me to adjust the distance of the scope. This lets me move the screens closer or further from my face.

As someone with glasses, and hearing aids, I found the headset surprisingly comfortable, but I do find that in order to see anything on the screens clearly I need the headset as close to my glasses as possible. Those with cochlear implants may find the headband very uncomfortable given where it rests on the head and how tight it may need to be to see clearly. Because the headset doesn’t sit entirely flush against my face, sometimes it can feel like it’s bopping around which adds to the discomfort over time as the weight starts to play on my neck.

Let’s Get Sweaty

Now let’s say I’ve been playing for a number of hours, and I’ve been playing very active games. Sweat starts to form, and here I am, sweating. The headset rests against the hearing aids, pushing them closer to beads of sweat, and then eventually a bead of sweat rolls over and into the microphone filter. Things go a bit muffled, and then sweat starts going onto the inside of my glasses to top it off. In comparison to the Oculus Quest 2, I can rest my hearing aids over the thin elastic fabric strap rather than have them pressed against my head.

Of course, this is a me problem really, and there’s not a whole lot that can be done except taking a break. It’s worth bringing up to you, reader, to keep in mind if you’re likely to sweat from active sessions and you wear glasses, hearing devices, or both.

Earphones or TV Volume

I found myself running into another concern. As already stated, with the Oculus Quest 2, the thin headband means I can rest my hearing aids outside of the band. This also gives me the opportunity to have my over-ear headphones on because the cups are directly against the microphone of the hearing device while the sweat remains under the strap. However, the thickness of the PSVR headband finds any over-ear cups sitting lower than the top of the ear where my hearing aid microphones are.

In-ear earphones seem to be the intended design for the PSVR, which for accessibility puts a fair number of d/Deaf and hard of hearing players who rely on headphones out. And when it comes to using the TV volume, the immersion feels lost, and given the distance required to use the headset means having the volume loud.

Cable Wrapping

Quill singing Twofold in ASL

I’ve heard a lot about the PSVR and how awkward the cable management is. I’ve been told the headset cable gets in the way and ruins the experience. I’ve been told stories of catching the cable with the PS Move controllers and yanking the box. And my experience was pretty much the same.

The cable rested nicely behind me trailing off to the PlayStation, although yes I did catch the cable a few times with low swinging. Also, I do feel restricted in 360º games because I can’t turn around without getting wrapped up.

Reset Position and Buttons

The PSVR does include a way to reset the headset position. Let’s say my desired default position of facing the TV has been lost because I’ve done a lot of twisting and turning, so now I’m facing a window and a cutscene ended up automatically assigning this incorrect stance as my default. I can simply face the TV, then, by pressing and holding the start button the position will reset.

The button can be awkward to press on the PS Move controllers because it’s on the side and the button itself is flush with the controller body with a tougher press required to activate.

Conclusion

The PSVR is a wonderful virtual reality headset for those wanting to dip their toes into virtual worlds on the PlayStation, but for accessibility, I found that it’s a bit awkward in many areas. The initial setting up of the hardware involves a lot of cable management, and the camera positioning and tracking setup can be irritating, requiring lots of mobility. What’s more, it always feels assumed that the player has to be playing standing instead of having seated modes available.

There’s a fair bit of space for those wearing glasses, and for hearing aid users, the headband will push them against the head. Those with cochlear implants may also find the headband pushing against them. With the tightening of the strap that may be required for a clear view, this can be uncomfortable.

Despite being a nice shape for games with melee weapons the PS Move controllers are somewhat fiddly with their tiny face buttons surrounding a large Move button. The lack of analog sticks makes for an uncomfortable experience when trying to turn in-game which isn’t wonderful for those who may not want, or cannot use headset turning. Additionally, the only games I’ve experienced with the DualShock 4 controller require me to physically move the controller with motion control while also activating other buttons, which isn’t great.

While my experience seems to find a number of games being 360º experiences, there are some games that can be played without needing to see all around, such as Beat Saber, Moss, and Moss 2. Other games such as Skyrim VR and Swordsman VR can find enemies attacking from all around which can be a troublesome experience for those who favor the 180º focused gameplay.

All in all, the headset experience itself will vary from not only player to player, but also game to game. As it stands, I’ve been finding that games available for the PSVR don’t have a wonderful amount of accessibility baked in, so really it may be best to hope that any upcoming titles for the PSVR 2 have accessibility in mind.

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Ben
BaylissEditor-in-ChiefHe/Him

Ben is the one in charge of keeping the content cogs at Can I Play That? turning. Deafness means that he has a focus on discussing captions, but with experience in consultancy and advocacy, he covers what bases he can. Having written about accessibility in video games at DualShockers, GamesRadar+, GamesIndustry.biz, Wireframe, and more he continues his advocacy at CIPT. He was actually awarded a Good Games Writing award for an article he wrote here! He enjoys a range of games, but anything that’s open-world and with a photo mode will probably be his cup of tea. You can get in touch with him at: ben@caniplaythat.com

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