TW: This blog post contains images of 3D rendered models of spiders
Apex Legends is one of the biggest battle royale games today. For those who aren’t familiar with the game and its game mode, Apex Legends is a shooter game with 60 players in a lobby where you win by being the last team standing. Each round the map will shrink to make it easier to find the remaining teams. However, EA announced a new map for the game’s next battle pass season and it comes with an issue for some: the map has new NPC beasts to fight in the form of large, web-shooting spiders.
Arachnophobia is an anxiety disorder concerning the fear of spiders and other arachnids like scorpions. According to a study conducted for a neurological journal in 2016, 3.5 to 6.1% of the global population is affected by arachnophobia (W. J. Schmitt). The manifestation of the fear can range from avoiding areas with clear traces of spiders like an attic with cobwebs to people having a panic attack when they are confronted with even representation of a spider, like a 2D drawing (H. Hatfield MD). The concern that has been raised by people playing Apex Legends is that since the spider-like enemies cannot be avoided due to there being a picture of them on the minimap, a part of the player base will not be able to play a large part of the game.
On Twitter, players of the game have asked the developers to add an arachnophobia mode where the model of the spiders is changed to look differently in order to make the game more accessible to those with arachnophobia.
What have games done in the past?
There are games that have arachnophobia safe modes, so it isn’t anything brand new. Two examples are Grounded and Satisfactory. In Grounded, the game offers 5 levels of arachnophobia safe modes. The higher the level, the less the spiders will look like spiders and more like a grey, amorphous blob without legs. This way, the players simply see a floating mud ball instead of a crawling spider charging at them.
In Satisfactory, enabling the arachnophobia mode will change the model of the spiders into a low-quality 2D image of a cat, completely eliminating the spiders’ resemblance from the game, as can be seen below.
These two examples have been mentioned in the debate on Twitter as options that the developers of Apex can draw inspiration from if they choose to add an arachnophobia safe mode to their game.
Accessibility in Apex Legends
Apex Legends has and lacks accessibility in different areas. Its greatest issue for me is that the game does not have truly impactful colourblindness modes. I don’t suffer from one of the three most common forms of colourblindness but from contrast sensitivity, meaning that shades of the same colour or more similar colours tend to blend together for me. Colourblind modes usually increase contrast and change the colour pallet of the game to fit the visual colour profile of the form of colourblindness in question. However, in Apex the colourblind modes only change the colours that denote the rareness of loot found and the outlines of teammates. It also doesn’t have a separate contrast setting, I had to change this in the game files as it does exist in there.
What the game does have, are extensive subtitle and narration modes. For those with audio processing issues, these modes are very helpful. The subtitle modes range from having subtitles for in-game announcements to including subtitles for voice lines said by nearby enemies. The narration mode will narrate what is said by teammates in text chat.
Because there already are accessibility options in the game, the community is optimistic that the developers will listen to their calls. I personally don’t have arachnophobia, but I can say that I will turn on the arachnophobia mode if they make one since I can definitely say that I find spiders to be nasty looking and their legs give me the creeps.
What does not help is that there are also community members on Twitter who disregard the seriousness of arachnophobia. People who remark that since apex is a shooter game, people don’t need to fear spiders since they can simply kill them. They also bring up the genre of the game. The game is violent, you have to kill others by shooting them and throwing grenades, so how can you then be afraid of some spiders? Luckily these people aren’t too vocal in their backlash and their arguments can be countered with the simple fact that they won’t be forced to use the arachnophobia mode.