Community Soapbox – Elizabeth Garcia

Say hello to Elizabeth Garcia. She’s an editor and the social media manager for But Why Tho? and like me, often finds herself shouting about game accessibility on Twitter. Find her here on Twitter and be sure to go check out her work on But Why Tho?

You write quite often about game accessibility for But Why Tho? What inspired you to jump into the (not always very friendly) waters of accessibility?

I don’t think anyone sets out to be an advocate or activist, it kinda just falls into your lap. My health journey is ongoing and it took me a while to accept who I am. I didn’t always have a fantastic support system but when I first got sick, and something I often mention in my writing, I immediately turned to gaming. I played video games as a child but stopped playing frequently in high school and didn’t play at all in college. I didn’t start playing as much as I do until now. Needless to say though, the reasons and how I play have changed drastically since becoming chronically ill but I owe my life to video games.

With the recent release of Sekiro, you’ve been quite vocal about gatekeeping. What one thing would you most like the general gaming community and game devs to understand about accessibility?

People play games for different reasons and no matter those reasons, so long as you play a game whether it be on a console, PC, or mobile phone you are a gamer. I play because gaming helps a lot with my anxiety. I cannot play without accessibility features, needless to say, I somehow found myself becoming louder and louder about the issue. I also know as a white cis woman who doesn’t necessarily look disabled, I carry a bit of privilege and therefore I have a responsibility to speak up but never over other advocates. I mostly want people to understand we just want to play as well and to be empathetic to our case. If they were in our shoes they would also be a tad upset.

What’s been the best personal benefit for you being an active member of the #a11y/accessibility community?

I have met some amazing people and made some amazing friends. I have only ever felt gatekeeping from able-bodied individuals, never from fellow disabled gamers or even other disabled people. The support and love I get from this #a11y community are second to none. We grow and learn from each other every day. Including ways, I can improve my own gaming. In the grand scheme of things, I have only been disabled for about four years so there are things I don’t know will help me even now. It is always a learning process as developers, people, and games grow.

Gaming and conventions often go hand-in-hand and your post about how you, as a chronically ill person, prepare for a convention was a refreshing and essential piece. However, aside from the daily microaggressions that come with existing in the world as a disabled and/or chronically ill person, there seems to be a lot less push-back when it comes to accessibility in the real world compared to that of accessibility in gaming. Any thoughts as to why that is?

I worked in customer service for almost six years and what I learned is when I was in a call center people were a lot more brutal. People often feel empowered behind a keyboard. It is why hatred spreads so fast on the internet. Gaming, unfortunately, has a long history of being tangled with toxicity but that doesn’t scare me. I was once in an ambulance and the EMT was trying to start an IV but as she put the needle in my arm we hit a pothole, the needle went through my vein, completely blowing it out. Needless to say, as much as they might bother me a bit, trolls on the internet don’t scare me.

Last but not least, get on your soapbox. What is your one essential talking point about game accessibility?

We need mainstream games media to hire disabled journalists. The reason this conversation is warped is because no one at IGN has to think about their joints when playing Sekiro. No one at Game Informer has to think about mobility issues and not being able to break posture becuase they cannot physically hit the correct buttons. Furthermore, I read IGN’s review for Spyro before picking it up. Nowhere did it mention the game didn’t have subtitles. I would have never, in a million years bought that game. A similar argument can be made about Far Cry: New Dawn. Without Susan and other disabled gamers, I wouldn’t have bought that game which I love despite its flaws because of its accessibility options. More studios are moving in the right direction but until journalist realize they are leaving out an entire population in regards to the conversation we will continue to move at a snail’s pace. Either way, I will always yell very loudly, on twitter.

Find Elizabeth on Twitter and at her author page on But Why Tho?