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The Access-Ability Summer Showcase is my favourite part of Summer Game Fest week

City builders, Metroidvanias, Cthulhu versus Y2K...

An alien landscape picked out in dots of light in Periphery Synthetic.
Image credit: ShiftBacktick

Periphery Synthetic, by ShiftBackTick, is a glorious thing. It's an exploration game and a playable EP. Existing somewhere between MirrorMoon, Soundvoyager for GBA, and Outer Wilds, it casts you out across a series of different planetary surfaces and asks you to make your own sense of everything.

When I play the current demo, the screen draws an undulating alien terrain in little blocks of light. But I can play the game even when I close my eyes. Periphery Synthetic is made to be fully playable without seeing the screen. Players can use echolocation and "terrain sonification" to navigate its spaces, while using screen readers to move through menus. It's a wonderful thing to try out, sounds changing in pitch to tell me whether I'm ascending or descending, whether I'm turning back on myself or headed somewhere new.

I found out about Periphery Synthetic in this year's Access-Ability Summer Showcase, which is created and hosted by accessibility consultant and author Laura Kate Dale. Like last year's show, it brings together a bunch of games that have brilliant accessibility options, and is itself available in ASL, BSL and audio-described versions.

Watch the Summer Showcase here.Watch on YouTube

This showcase is easily my favourite new tradition of Summer Game Fest week. The games are always thrilling and playful, and by listening to developers explaining their thinking in terms of accessibility, it feels like the gap between audience and designer is smaller than at any of the other events. Alongside Periphery Synthetic, there were lots of games that I'm now very excited to play. Games like the roguelike Elsie, from Knight Shift Games, which promises a collision of past and future 2D design, along with comprehensive vision options, and Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, from ManaVoid Entertainment, a game about recolouring the world that uses symbols and animation to ensure the adventure's enjoyable for players with colour-blindness.

Inevitably, themes emerge throughout the showcase. It's fascinating to see how many games are gravitating towards no fail-states, while trying to avoid fast action and time pressures. A lot of developers have been putting thought into providing clearer fonts and audio description. Where it's harder to see themes - and this is a brilliant thing - is in the range of games themselves. The Shadow Over Cyberspace by Fiction Factory Games is an adventure that combines the Cthulhu Mythos with Y2K. Dawnfolk, by Darenn Keller, is a gorgeously doomy building game. Fishbowl, by, is about relationships and video editing and is made by a development team of two.

Alongside the games, there's room for insight from accessibility stars such as SightlessKombat and Chad Bouton, a podcaster with retinitis pigmentosa, who speaks about how The Last of Us Part 2 made him realise he could still play games. "My vision wasn't the problem," he says. "It's that up until this point games really weren't being made to accommodate gamers like myself and so many others."

For information on individual games, check the Access-Ability Summer Showcase Steam page.

Access-Ability will be running a winter showcase this December.

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