Personally, I feel pretty good about the most recent dashboard update to the Xbox One which not only speeds things up, makes things work with Windows 10, backwards compatibility, and something to ease access to a not entirely inaccessible operating system. Welcome to the new Xbox One.
Not to get right into things, but let’s get right into things because accessibility has finally come to Xbox… and the people rejoice.
Even though the Xbox One has kind of always had it… and the people rejoice again, but this time with confused looks on their faces.
The Xbox One has always had a degree of accessibility built into it. From the first time I hit the system’s options menu I’ve been able to control the way closed captioning appears when I’ve got it turned on in app’s like YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu. It doesn’t extend to video games for whatever reason, so it might be a bit easy for this one to fly under the radar.
The ability to customize the way the dashboard looks has always been there to some degree too. Choosing a dozen or so colors to be the profile’s background, which might not seem like the biggest deal in increasing the access of the user’s experience, but darker colors like blues, reds, purples, greens, and oranges made the constantly white fonts pop. There are other colors that can be chosen from, but they’re too low contrast, and presumably yellows, pinks, and other things.
Microsoft didn’t stop there; eventually an option to manipulate the opacity of tiles was added which didn’t wholly hurt the visibility of the dashboard due to the unchanging white font used for fonts.The option to use a picture as the background to the dashboard was added which made it more possible than it had previously been for the people controlling what their user experience was like to make it a visually less friendly place than it had previously been possible to make. Nevertheless that white font stayed unchangably the same throughout.
Since I can’t take a screenshot of my top-secret Xbox One dashboard, I’ll fill you in on what it looks like; My theme color is what I deemed to be the darker color red; tiles are as see thru as possible, and my background is the 10th Riddler achievement from Batman: Arkham Knight. There’s enough visual accessibility built into the Xbox One dashboard already that turning on the high contrast mode in the Ease of Access menu in the System Options menu is mostly accomplishing two things: ridding the dashboard of the obnoxious lense flair that makes the tab the dashboard is on invisible, as well as turn off any extension of personality the dashboard might grant the user.
The addition of a way to get rid of that stupid lense flair at the top of the dashboard is nice, but as nice as a shortcut to high contrast is, it’s going a little further than I, as a user think it should in undermining the authority of it’s very own design team. A really good alternative to stripping away the Xbox’s ability to be personalized would be the option to switch between black fonts, and white fonts, or better yet open up customization as wide as closed captioning.
Customizing control scheme’s is also something that can be done to any first party controller as well as some third-party controllers from a few places in the system menu, but for ease scroll to the very bottom and the Ease of Access menu. Once inside the app that allows remapping it’s not a case of if, but when is the headache going to set in. Using two drop-down menus to remap a controller’s buttons seems way harder than it should be, and makes me glad I’ve got the Elite controller and access to it’s remapping interface. Most controls can be swapped to suit right-handed or left-handed dominance, but the sticks can’t be made to behave like buttons which would make it possible for the d-pad or face buttons to be used as more rudimentary directional inputs.
There are also narrators, and magnifiers available to make accessing parts of the dashboard easier. I have nothing to say about the narrator other than I wish it had made it’s appearance sooner. As for the magnifier, it’s a lot like closed captioning – it’s been there since the beginning, just hidden away in the Internet Explorer app. The magnifier in the IE app actually kind of makes the one one the dashboard look like somebody got a little lazy. Effectively using the magnifier prioritizes vision to a slight degree while taking away almost all mobility and access to the things being magnified which seems a little backwards.
The most unexpected part of the accessibility that came with the update was backwards compatibility. Since the update has been out all I’ve been playing are Xbox 360 games, and in doing so I’m reminded just how big of a step down playability has taken in the years since Just Cause 2, Dirt 2, and Mirror’s Edge. Mechanically they’re nothing like games of this Xbox One generation. It’s a little interesting to see the evolution of the disappearance of the reticle in shooters over the course of Just Cause 2 to Just Cause 3; or the weather effects from half a decade ago to the weather effects in a game from half a year ago. Subtitles are somehow timeless – please, Microsoft, let us change that.