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We put The Last of Us 2’s accessibility options to the test, and more from Speedrun

A reminder that games can be a force for good.

Graphic grid of images from The Last of Us Part 2 and Fortnite, and portraits of the host and co-host of Speedrun Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon

Like anything adjacent to the active minefield that is the internet, video games tend to create tension at a moment’s notice. But sometimes (maybe more often, but I’m an optimist) they can be a force for good.

Such was the focus of this week’s episodes of Speedrun. They function as something of a one-two-three punch of activism, advocating, and awareness within games and the communities surrounding them.

On Monday, we sat down with Kahlief Adams, host of the Spawn On Me podcast, to spell out the concrete, actionable ways developers and publishers can make the games industry more inclusive for Black people. While still a matter of funding creators and hiring more Black developers, there’s also the problem of access: In June, Adams responded to a PlayStation tweet telling the company to “give more Black media folks access so we can cover the platform.” It’s that kind of coverage that allows creators to showcase their work for a bigger audience. In the end, these steps aren’t that hard, Adams told us. “Do the work.”

On Wednesday, we brought on Steven Spohn, COO of The AbleGamers Charity, to parse the highly touted accessibility options in The Last of Us Part 2. While the offerings in Naughty Dog’s sequel are, in fact, impressive as hell, it was still a revealing conversation about the intricacies and challenges of accessible design — or rather, of good design. “No matter how accessible you get, you will never design a game that is both amazingly popular... and everybody with a disability is able to play,” Spohn said. “That’s not an attainable goal. Instead, what we should shoot for is to make the most fun game we possibly can. That is as accessible as you can make it.”

Finally, to round out the week, we jumped into Fortnite with Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen star Jordan Fisher. It was the first edition of our Hot Ones-inspired segment wherein we interview a guest while they kick ass — or get their ass kicked — in a game (more on that in the coming weeks). We covered a lot of ground during the chat, touching on everything from Jordan’s days as a GameStop employee, to the parallels between theater and streaming, to the time he’s spent advocating for mental health awareness.

So, yes, Speedrun has been great. Next week, we’re publishing some of my favorite episodes yet (I say this a lot). We’re exploring three of the medium’s urban legends, from an elusive shark in Sea of Thieves, to a forgotten island in GoldenEye, to the meme that become Warframe’s calling card. We took pains to tell these stories with an “embedded journalist” tone, and had a ton of fun in the process.

We’ll be back on Monday, and I’ll be back next Friday. Talk to you then.

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