Designing with Accessibility - The Walking Dead Final Season

Analyzing design decisions presented across The Walking Dead Final Season


The Walking Dead: Final Season is an episodic, graphic adventure game that focuses heavily on it’s narrative design. When it comes to designing a game with accessibility in mind, it doesn't just benefit players with disabilities. It can benefit anyone because players will have preference on how they want to experience a game. Conceptualizing gameplay features should never rely on one form of display and communication, for example relying on color alone. To make a game more accessible, it means understanding how players with different backgrounds will play and perceive your game. That's exactly what I wanted to do for my favorite game.

For this project, I carefully identified some shortcomings throughout the game and presented solutions on how I would approach this problem.


The Walking Dead: Final Season fails to offer the player ways to customize their experience. The following shortcomings were identified:

  1. Reticle communication relies only on color alone. If a player is unable to perceive a visual element because of color, they might be excluded from aspects of gameplay that require the ability to understand the change in that element. This can ultimately result in exclusion from gameplay altogether.
  2. Subtitle settings does not a Speaker Label option or background. Key speaker information is relayed by different characters in the game, sometimes off screen. Players without access to audio will have no way to identify these characters. Subtitles in the game present instructions and key story elements. If this information is not legible, it results ias inaccessible, blocking a player from experiencing a game to its fullest.
  3. There is no option for Closed Captions: There is background noise, music and expressions by characters that ultimately drive the tone in different scenes presented throughout the game. Players without access to audio are blocked from experiencing this.

reticle communication

Analyzing Reticle in game:

During fight sequences that requires the player to use a crossbow to knock out enemies, it’s easy for a player with no color vision disability to differentiate between the white indicator, which is a general shot and the red indicator, which is the kill shot. It offers no assistance for players who are color blind and who can't perceive the color red.

My Design Approach:

It should be required to avoid designing a feature that relies on color alone when communicating information to the player. In addition to color, using shapes, symbols, animation and other visual tricks to communicate can greatly increase the usability of a gameplay feature you're building.

While keeping the same design for the general shot, for the kill shot, I included a circle to encompass the crosshair. Here, the player can rely on shape rather than the color being the main indicator.


Analyzing problem with no Speaker Label in game

There are many scenes in the game where the camera is not focused directly on who’s speaking which can serve as a paint point for players who are trying to follow along with the narrative of the game. In many scenarios, such as the one demonstrated in the video, there are characters who speak off screen.

My Design Approach

Adding speaker labels can pin points to players exactly who is speaking. This can be extremly helpful for players who have auditory disabilities, play with the sound off and/or in a noisy envioriment. It's also helpful to make the speaker label stand out by making it a different color from the subtitle text. In this case, the character Lily, who speaking who is off screen, is red.

Analyzing Subtitle Visibility

It's important that subtitles pass contrast against all gameplay backgrounds. It's often if a game doesn't support anyway to increase the visbility of text, it will start to become lost. This ultimately can leave players stuggling to follow along with the dialogue, which is crucial in narrative based games like this one.

My Design Approach

Allowing the player to customize their subtitles, like adding a backing, can greatly increase the visibility of how subtitles appear. This can also guarantee that subtilties will remain visible, no matter what gameplay environment is behind it.

closed captions

Analyzing a scene where closed captions would play a significant role

The heart and soul of The Walking Dead: Final Season is it’s emotionally driven narrative experience. Characters express joy, sadness, fear, anger, shock etc in their voice on screen and off screen. Scenes are diven by frightening or melancholy music. Player’s who are limited to hearing the sound of the game miss out on these experiences that ultimately drive the tone of these scenes.

My Design Approach

By providing a setting where players can turn on closed captions, it invites players to feel immersive and emotionally on edge experience that the game intended.

subtitle and captions menu prototype

To demonstrate my proposed features that can allow players to customize their game experience, I designed a prototype that focuses on a subtitle and captions settings menu. This showcases to the player how these changes will effect their experience by introducing previews when players make a change to each setting option.


The Walking Dead: Final Season is the ending of a revolutionary series, that is considered what inspires many narrative based games today. This game connects the player through, our notable character, Clementine's journey. Games like this should be enjoyed by millions, however we have to consider our whole audience. Good design is good accessibility and they are one in the same. Identifying user needs brings more inclusiveness to any game and it should not be considered, it should be required.