Interviews

Here’s what accessibility means to Psychonauts 2’s Double Fine

Tim Schafer explains how he and his studio came to realise that people should enjoy games in their own ways.

About a week ago, Psychonauts 2‘s Double Fine issued a very firm stance on accessibility, saying that “all people should be able to enjoy games. All ages, all possible needs.” As part of a larger conversation about the game and Double Fine itself, Stevivor asked Studio Head Tim Schafer and Senior Systems Designer Lauren Scott to elaborate.

“A lot of it actually took us by surprise,” Schafer said in reaction to the response Double Fine’s tweet generated.

“It didn’t occur to me to be a contentious or controversial opinion,” he continued. “We’ve always wanted as many people as possible to enjoy our games.”

Schafer said Double Fine’s accessibility journey began “way back in terms of Secret of Monkey Island 2″ when he and his team “put in difficulty modes because we heard a lot of people who are like, ‘I really like the story in these games, but I can’t handle these puzzles, I want the flow to go more easy’ and we’re like, ‘well, who are we to tell people how to enjoy the content that we made?'”

Double Fine’s position has continued to evolve over time, with Schafer crediting the studio’s growth to events like Awesome Games Done Quick.

“We made a video of watching a speed runner play Psychonauts 1, and [at] the beginning of the video, you can see how horrified we are that he’s skipping all our content by speed running past it,” Schafer said. “But by the end of the video were all cheering him because we’re like, ‘oh my God, he’s found a different way to interact with our game that he loves, that we didn’t plan,’ and you’re so lucky if someone does that [and] puts in the work to find a new way to enjoy the theme.”

Schafer said he learned a valuable lesson that day.

“It’s not up to you,” he asserted. “When you make something — a creative work of art — it’s not up to you to tell people how to look at it; how to enjoy it.”

“I’m just glad that it broadens the pool of people that can play the game,” Scott added, “because for some people it’s either this key accessibility feature or not playing the game. And we would obviously rather them play it, and enjoy it.”

Scott also confirmed that using Psychonauts 2‘s accessibility options will not impact the earning of Achievements, at least directly.

“There’s couple of combat-related ones [where] you have to do things — like sort of combo-like things — that maybe if you turn on certain [accesibility features] like the narrative mode that makes you do more damage, you might kill things too fast to do to get an Achievement or two,” she explained.

That said, different combinations of accessibility options can be toggled on and off to maximise Achievement earning.

“We have like the narrative mode which makes you do more damage, and invincibility mode which makes you take less damage,” Scott continued. “So if you need to do a ton of combos, you can just swap accessibility features so that you can get your combos in but you’re not being damaged, and it’s sort of like the same thing.”

Psychonauts 2 heads to Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 25 August 2021, part of the Xbox Game Pass program.

Psychonauts 2

25 August 2021
PC PS4 Xbox One Xbox Series S & X
 

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.