Text size in console games can be a huge issue for visually impaired individuals. The ideal situation would be options that allow for larger text or icons to make the interface more accessible to gamers. So, how are the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 treating text size? All of the following images were taken off my home 32 inch television sitting at the sofa that is 8 feet away from the screen.
The console that does the best is the Wii.
The buttons/icons are large and the images are clear. When hovering over an icon the name of the channel or game selected shows up in large font under the box. Even without the words, the boxes themselves show an image of the channel or game that the button represents making it easier to quickly find the buttons on screen. In this example “Chocobo’s Dungeon” is visible in large font under the selected box. On my TV this font shows up as 3/4 inch tall per letter.
I would rate the Xbox360 as second best.
On the main dashboard of the Xbox360 interface there are large boxes that have a clear visual representation of what they do. The game selection box has a picture of the game currently in the disc drive, in the case of this photo it is MagnaCarta 2. The text size that displays “Play MagnaCarta2″ shows up as 1/2 inch tall letters on my screen. When pressing the Guide button on the center of the controller a second menu pops up. This menu is shown in the second photo. While there are no pictorial representations of the commands you select the text here also measures at 1/2 inch tall per letter on my television.
In last place I put the Playstation 3. In fact, this console’s interface can be a problem for gamers with minor visual impairments.
While there is an option to change the text font style I cannot find an option to increase the font size. This is a problem as the text size is small compared to the other systems described here. When I measure the text size on my screen it is 3/8 inch tall. That was the smallest font size of the three systems.
For many people the difference between 3/4 inch text (Wii), 1/2 inch text (the Xbox360), and 3/8 inch text (the PS3) on a 32 inch television from 8 feet away is inconsequential. My significant other has no problem clearly reading each of these interfaces. But for people with some visual impairments, such as myself, these sizes can become a problem. I can see the Wii interface with no problem. The Xbox 360 takes some focusing but is readable. But, with the lack of a larger font option on the PS3 I cannot sit at the sofa and see that text. It becomes slightly too blurry for me to read from that distance.
So what can console makers do? One great example is the use of visual cues other than text to indicate selection. The Wii interface does that beautifully by showing a picture of the game or channel in each box. But what is lacking in all these systems in an option to increase the text size. Not everyone needs the larger text, but it would be a great option to increase accessibility for visually impaired players. The inclusion of this option would help many players.