For years, the GTA series has captivated many players with biting action and memorable players coupled with interestingly intricate plots. GTA V is the latest in this heart pounding installment, bringing gamers a bigger world than ever before with the largest online experience coupled with mini games and much more.
Not only is the world expansive, but the story is as well. The prologue, which also serves as a tutorial, takes place in Ludendorff, North Yankton. Michael Townley and Trevor Philips coordinate a bank heist with two accomplices. In the ensuing escape, both accomplices are killed and Michael is presumed dead, while Trevor makes his escape.
The story picks up with the player playing as three characters instead of one. Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, each with their own abilities and stats to build. Nine years later, Michael has been placed under witness protection with his family in Los Santos, San Andreas, using the pseudonym Michael De Santa, making several visits to his therapist. Franklin Clinton, who works as a repo man for a car dealership alongside his friend Lamar, is asked to reclaim a car from Michael’s teenage son, Jimmy, who is overdue on his loan payment.
Unfortunately, this was as far as I could get in the story without assistance. GTA V is immersive, enticing, and gripping but it’s almost impossible for a visually and physically impaired gamer to play. There are a few mechanics in the game to assist with accessibility but a lot of those are in game and hard to get past due to the tutorial levels.
As in previous games, text is displayed at the top left corner of the screen serving as the tutorial but there’s no option to delay those tooltips or even reposition them to make for easier viewing. I had to complete tutorials by trial and error, causing me to take an hour longer than my able-bodied friend.
Some mechanics that assist with driving and other things are the use of taxies, so if you don’t have very good vision you can still get a taxi by calling the cab number on your cell phone that’s in the bottom right corner of the screen to take you to any destination you choose. The cell phone has small text though and won’t let you increase the font size on the cell phone making reading email messages a migraine-inducing task for my visually impaired eyes. The targeting feature is great for physically disabled gamers because its precision is punctual, allowing for effortless lock and shoot sessions reducing the need to aim. Subtitles do exist in the game but not captions for deaf gamers. Deaf gamers can set vibration options for their cell phone; however, making the game accessible in the parts I was able to play for deaf gamers.
Another useful skill that’s implemented in the game is franklin’s driving ability where he slows down time, allowing for a lot easier zipping through the streets but the special ability lasts for a minute at the most. In order to use this ability click the left and right analog sticks simultaneously. This may be hard for the physically disabled to do. If you want to turn this into an accessibility tool you’d have to first acquire the cheat for unlimited amount of this ability, thereby removing achievements. The audible GPS isn’t in GTA V which makes the chasing missions and the mandatory driving missions a Burdon especially when driving at high speed.
The driving mechanic didn’t stop me however. It was the tooltip at the top left that ended my progression through the game without assistance. While playing as franklin, my cousin needed my assistance because her boyfriend didn’t wake up in time for his job so I was dubbed the task of picking up a stalled car on the side of the road with a lift. Driving there wasn’t difficult as I raced through alley ways and jumped fences to avoid traffic but when I arrived at the car that needed to be toed, backed up, ready to deploy the lift, a flash at the top left of the screen told me what to do. As quickly as it flashed into view it vanished again, leaving me wondering what I was supposed to do in order to pick up the car with the lift.
With my vehicle puttering there as if I’d forgotten how to scratch my head, I tried every button combination to no avail. I looked in the options menu but the controls listed basic driving controls. Let’s play videos on YouTube didn’t read the tooltips on the top left of the screen, and video game manuals gave basic general controls for driving so I was stuck and didn’t know what to do to proceed with the mission. I even tried holding down buttons and button combinations but none worked, causing me to admit defeat to a button scheme. The process was so stress inducing that when my cousin started urging me to hurry up and pick up the car I immediately got out of the car and shot the gas tank with such precision a marksman would have been proud. Needless to say, blowing the car up with my marksmanship to shut my cousin up ended the mission.
GTA V is a beautifully designed game with wonderful voice acting and epic scenery coupled with small accessibility aids built into the core mechanic, but the game also has some huge accessibility barriers that will prevent visually impaired players from enjoying the game to the fullest extent. Physically disabled gamers may be able to play the game without assistance, but the faster you’re speeding down the streets, the quicker you will have to be with your reaction time, so it’s hard to judge the physical accessibility nature of this game. Deaf players won’t have any problem at all because everything is conveyed via some visual medium on the screen, sometimes color-coded.
All in all the game is fun, epically voiced by talented actors, immersive, fast paced and addictive but disabilities will definitely halt the fun that gamers can have playing this grand adventure. With no clear accessibility solutions that are always available, or are not hindered by an inaccessible element, this game simply won’t last in the disability community. There are way more accessible games out there that let the disabled gamer enjoy every bell and whistle that’ makes the game fun for everyone.
Robert Kingett is a blind journalist specializing in audio description, adaptive sports, and disability news. His essays have been published widely in magazines, blogs, and read on radio stations across the country and abroad. He has been published in several anthologies. He’s the chief writer consultant for Americas Comedy as well as a columnist for Truth Is Cool. His most popular column has been Kingett Reads Fifty Shades of Grey. He holds several editing jobs. He is a strong supporter and advocate for LGBTQ rights and has raised a great deal of funds for HIV and AIDS research.