My experience with racing games is, admittedly, limited.
I’ve played varying series across the genre like Need for Speed, Mario Kart, Forza, and even Gran Turismo, but the same inaccessible barriers present themselves regardless of developer or system. With racing games, my biggest obstacle is never about placing first, but rather having enough stamina to even complete more than one race. Forza Motorsport is the first racing game I’ve played that provides a plethora of accessibility tools, which not only prevent immense physical exhaustion but also allow for full control. And it finally allowed me to really think about whether I even like the racing game genre.
About the writer: At 13 months old, I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type II, a neuromuscular disorder. This physical disability progressively weakens my muscles over time, meaning I primarily critique games based on their physical accessibility offerings and design practices.
Regardless of what game I’m playing, I frequently need to customize my controls to suit my needs. While Xbox provides several controller profiles with the capability to change every input, Forza Motorsport includes its own presets and full control customization. This is beneficial not only for my limited reach and strength but also allows me to maintain my system settings between each game. The feature significantly reduces the time I need to set up conducive controls when switching to a different game and lets me play effortlessly, regardless of my energy level.
It’s an indescribable combination of frustration and embarrassment to watch yourself slowly lose momentum and your lead in a race.
Aside from customizable inputs, Forza Motorsport allows physically disabled individuals to choose when and how they need assistance. Rather than providing features that only affect mechanics like difficulty, every aspect of driving can be fine-tuned to the driver. If I’m too exhausted after hours of playing, I can simply activate “Fully Assisted” braking, letting the game take over to alleviate the physical strain. If my reaction times are slower than usual, I simply turn on “Stability and Traction Control” to reduce the speed at which I need to move my thumb across the joystick. There’s even an option to make shifting entirely automatic, reducing the number of buttons I need.
Every physical accessibility feature within Forza Motorsport is designed to drastically reduce exhaustion, and it’s executed perfectly. It's an exhilarating feeling to seamlessly pass other drivers and not worry about losing my grip on the controller. With every race, I know exactly how much pressure to apply to the joystick to successfully round bends and stay on the track. I've never driven a vehicle in real life, but these features give me that sensation.
The singular barrier that affects every racing game is the consistent need to hold the gas or throttle button. And since most racing titles are realistic simulations, it makes sense to include this as a necessity. However, as my disability progressed throughout the years, I lost the ability to hold buttons or keys for long periods. Previously, I would be hypervigilant of the number of laps remaining, as well as my overall positioning on the track. I could feel my thumb shaking before losing the ability to press a face button on a controller. With “Assisted Throttle,” I can spend hours driving on tracks.
“Assisted Throttle” automatically applies gas if your vehicle is not approaching a turn, ensuring that physically disabled players with limited strength can rest during significant portions of a race. It’s still possible to throttle yourself, even with the feature activated. But the setting provides a guaranteed respite for physically disabled individuals. For me, this accessibility tool is what I’ve needed for years.
It’s an indescribable combination of frustration and embarrassment to watch yourself slowly lose momentum and your lead in a race. With my progressive physical disabilities, my actions are often out of my control. Rarely can the problem be fixed by repositioning a controller or moving my hand. When my energy levels are depleted, it takes hours to regain even a small fraction of my norm. And until I discovered “Assisted Throttle,” racing games were always an inaccessible nightmare.
Forza Motorsport is the pinnacle of proper racing game accessibility for physically disabled players. I have yet to encounter a barrier that forces me to stop playing. Regardless of the track or vehicle, I can confidently select a race and perform to the best of my capabilities. If I lose, it’s not because of my disability, but rather my poor performance. I am in complete control every time I place my hands on my Xbox controller. Which is why it’s ironic that its stellar accessibility made me realize I’m not a fan of realistic racing simulations.
For the first time in my life, I can develop my own non-accessibility opinion of a racing title because I can finally fully play it.
Disabled individuals are often forced to gamble on a title’s accessibility. If a game is not to our liking, it’s often because it’s not equipped with the tools we need. I never had the opportunity to properly determine if the genre was something I would enjoy because no game had this suite of accessibility features that my disability so desperately needed. My only opinions formed were never out of entertainment value, but rather how each game interacted with my physical disability.
Deciding racing games might not be for me isn’t a critique of Forza Motorsport. Rather, it’s a testament to the incredible accessibility settings. For the first time in my life, I can develop my own non-accessibility opinion of a racing title because I can finally fully play it. Will I add future iterations to my library? Probably not. Will I recommend this game to other physically disabled players? Absolutely.
Despite my new-found dislike of realistic racing sims, I cannot praise Forza Motorsport enough for its incredible attention to physical accessibility. I rarely deem a game perfect because the disabled experience is entirely individualistic. However, for my needs, and those who share similar disabilities, Forza Motorsport is flawless. Every core mechanic is treated with respectful accessibility options that allow complete control with every race. It sets a new standard for the genre, one that disabled players should expect for not only the series but all games.
Forza Motorsport is one of the best accessible surprises in 2023. Turn 10 Studios’ dedication to disabled players is tangible as soon as one starts the game. It’s beyond refreshing to finally have a racing title that physically disabled individuals can confidently purchase knowing they will be able to successfully complete every race. And as the industry continues to acquire new accessibility knowledge and improve upon itself, Forza Motorsport should be viewed as the beginning of a new accessibility era.
Forza Motorsport is available on the Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Xbox Game Pass. Inverse reviewed the Xbox Series X|S version.
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