In recent years, ensuring that games are accessible for people with disabilities “has gone from a niche topic to a key design factor that is on the minds of game professionals”
AbleGamers, an organisation that advocates for gamers with disabilities estimates that there are around 33 million people with disabilities who play video games in the United States alone. There are also examples of disabled gamers making money livestreaming on Twitch.tv and competing at esports events.
Polygon says “Accessibility also opens games up to people who don't have fast reflexes, interminable patience or a lifetime of experience with button-covered joysticks, or who are merely getting old”
Companies Involved in Accessibility Initiatives
EA has an an accessibility portal to keep their audience up to date on accessibility developments for their games.
Microsoft’s ‘Gaming for Everyone’ initiative (launched at E3 2016) involves helping “engineers better understand the needs of those with varying levels of physical ability” and giving “gamers more choice in how and with whom they play” on Xbox.
Game Accessibility Guidelines lists the different types of accessibility that developers can consider when making games:
- Motor (control / mobility) eg. Allowing controls to be remapped / reconfigured (best practice example: Overwatch)
- Cognitive (Thought / memory / processing information) eg. Avoiding flickering images and repetitive patterns (best practice example: Towerfall)
- Vision eg. Using an easily readable default font size (best practice example: Guacamelee)
- Hearing eg. Providing subtitles for all important speech (best practice example: Tomb Raider (2013))
- Speech eg. Supporting text chat as well as voice for online multiplayer (best practice example: Rocket League)
- General eg. Providing details of accessibility features on packaging and/or website (best practice example: Uncharted 4)
Steps for Developers to Take
Game Accessibility Guidelines also list 6 stages to follow in order to make games as accessible as possible
- 1) Familiarise (with the accessibility guidelines before the game design stage)
- 2) Evaluate & Plan (deciding which guidelines specifically apply to your game)
- 3) Prioritise and schedule (which accessibility features to include)
- 4) Implement (accessibility features in your game)
- 5) Inform (your audience about the accessibility features in your game)
- 6) Review & learn (from feedback and data)
- Everyone Can - “creating alternative control methods for anyone who needs them” (UK based)
- Special Effect - “putting fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games” (UK based)
- Able Gamers - “giving people with disabilities custom gaming setups including modified controllers and special assistive technology” (US based)
- Family Video Game Database - Searchable library of games, documenting and categorised by accessibility features.
- Game Access - Resources and guidance for accessibility in games, provided by the games disability charity SpecialEffect
- Accessible Games - Resources for developers and players with disabilities
- Can I Play That - Reviews of games from an accessibility perspective
- PixAll - an independent website for developers and studios to help them create more inclusive games, esports and workspaces, curated by Annie Grudeva