PlayStation 4’s recent firmware update has a bunch of cool new features, but I hadn’t heard of “zoom” until I read about how it changed the way one player is able to experience their games.
“Being legally blind doesn’t mean I’m without sight - I still have some in my left eye, while my right eye is kind of a mess. I suffered a detached retina over a decade ago and it never quite healed right, despite the wonderful work done by my surgeon. On top of my already severe myopia, I wasn’t able to continue driving or enjoy some of the things I love the most.”
He can, however, continue to play video games, though it was easier in previous generations. Before higher resolutions and HDTVs became a thing, in-game text was huge! Not anymore.
It’s easy to see what he means. I mean, look at this screen shot from Battlefield Hardline:
Even I have trouble reading the in-game text sometimes, and I have no vision issues.
Sparky_Buzzsaw would try to reach out to developers, but it was usually for naught.
“I always hate being one of those people who bitches constantly about problems but never actually tries to do anything about it, so on numerous occasions, I’ve reached out to various gaming developers and tried to get some changes happening. Usually, my emails or comments were ignored. A few times, if the developer was small enough or had a large enough Q&A team, I got a generic form response. Only a couple of times did I ever actually get a message through to a real person, and always ended up with a variation of ‘it’s a problem we’d like to fix, but it only affects a vast minority of people, so...’”
He pointed out how life has gotten easier in other regards. iPads, for example, allow him to bring a screen up to his face and make the text gigantic. But modern games are still a problem.
The recent firmware for PS4 brings a few accessibility options with it. We’ve mostly heard about how remapping buttons allows folks to customize controller layouts, but Sparky_Buzzsaw’s hands work just fine. “Zoom,” however, allows him to compensate for his eyes.
Here’s how it works when you’re in the regular PS4 interface:
Sparky_Buzzsaw assumed this would just let him get around PSN a little easier, but it’s actually a system-side feature. Here’s how it looks when you boot up Bloodborne, for example:
“I was excited to find that the feature also works in game as well - in any game. As I mentioned, you can’t use it in an action-intensive game because it won’t allow you to control what’s happening in game while you’re using it. But for games with interfaces that can be read while the game is paused, like the menus in Borderlands or Dying Light, it works well. Gone are the days when I zoom in on the screen with a digital camera or my iPad and take a picture so I can read it. Now I can read what’s happening on screen in-game without much of any issue at all.”
Will this impact millions of players? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
“This isn’t going to mean much to most of you, but it’s big for me. It hasn’t received a lot of coverage besides a few obligatory “here’s what’s new in update X” news articles, so I hope this helps illuminate a hugely beneficial feature for a vast minority of gamers. Developers of games and systems, please take note of what Sony’s done and try to build on it. It’s awesome to see games reaching out to more and more people.”
Enjoy your new games, Sparky_Buzzsaw!
You can reach the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.