Video Games Becoming More and More Accessible


OverIn recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the field of accessibility of video games. Developers of all sizes have integrated accessibility features into their games, be it indie favorites like Tunic or big AAA releases like God of War Ragnorök. As for hardware, Xbox released its adaptive controller in 2018, and PlayStation recently announced Project Leonardo, which will be the company’s efforts to bring more accessible controllers to the PlayStation 5. The conversation about who is included in video games and how people play video games has never been so relevant.

Behind these striking versions is the work of accessibility advocates who consult and advise these games, paving the way for games that are more accessible to the disabled and to a wider audience. Sometimes companies also hire certain organizations that act as consultants during hardware development and / or talk about problems that arise. And now an awards ceremony is honoring this work when it takes place, celebrating accessibility in video games.

Take part in the prizes of the game Accessibility Conference.

The awards were launched by the Game Accessibility Conference, a conference specifically dedicated to video game developers interested in expanding their knowledge of accessibility in games. The awards, which recognize the work of those who “raise the bar for accessibility”, cover 18 categories and recognize work in various fields such as academic research, publishing houses that carry out work on accessibility and representation.

This year God of War Ragnarök won awards in the categories AAA Excellence and Best Deaf/High accessibility. The nominations are preselected by a panel, with the final decisions being made by a combination of a public and a jury vote. To learn more about the awards and the future of game accessibility, Polygon interviewed Tara Voelker, co-director of the Game Accessibility Conference Awards and senior accessibility manager at Xbox game studios. The interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

Polygon: How do you assess what makes a game accessible? (I imagine it’s hard and complicated.)

Tara: Judging what makes a game accessible is both simple and complicated. At its core, a game is accessible if players with disabilities can play it. However, different players have different needs and different barriers that prevent them from playing. A title can be incredibly accessible to deaf/hard of hearing players, but completely inaccessible to the blind. That’s the complicated part.

In order to correctly assess whether there is something available to a group of players, you need to understand their needs and check whether these needs are being met. For example, to make a game accessible to colorblind people, you need to make sure that no important information is displayed only by color, and that it is supported by shapes, patterns or text. To be honest, it is still very rare that a game is really available to everyone at the same time.

What makes an” accessible game ” accessible?

An accessible game is one that has thought about unintended barriers that can prevent players with disabilities from playing, and either completely avoids them or provides an opportunity to remove them. As a game developer, you know what kind of experience you want to provide to players, and the goal is to make sure that people can have that experience.

For example, the challenge of a racing game is to drive your car on the track as fast as possible. The challenge is not to press the right trigger button of a controller, because you have limited dexterity in your hands. This additional challenge can be eliminated by allowing the player to remap the gas to the A button.

I understand that this is a nebulous idea and how it manifests itself may be different depending on the title.

How have you seen how the field of accessibility of games has evolved over the years?

The field of accessibility in games has grown significantly over time. When I started the game, there were no full-time jobs in the field of accessibility. At all. And now there are several at the studio and publishing level. When accessibility began to accelerate, developers were rewarded and praised for things like colorblind filters, but now they are expected, and you will receive a lot of complaints if you do not have them.

Accessibility in games is on an exponential growth path, and the wave of accessible titles we’ve seen in recent years has been truly awesome. The most exciting thing is that the idea of accessibility is moving earlier in the development process of the game. For many years, accessibility has been modernized. A game would be created and then the developers would see how many “holes” of accessibility they could fix. Some of these holes were not repairable for reasons laid down much earlier in development. Now we completely avoid creating these holes.

Why is it important to celebrate work in this area?

Although accessibility is increasing, it is still a space that is largely focused on advocates. In many situations, it can still take a lot of emotional work to make sure that accessibility is a problem during development. This is real work. We want everyone who is committed to accessibility to know that they are appreciated and have a moment to see what impact they have had on the acclaimed players. It will not only cheer you up and charge you for the next fight, but it will also be easier to win the next time when you can point your finger and say: ‘Well, look at this award and recognition'”

Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?

The game has so many advantages and is really part of pop culture. Players with disabilities deserve to be part of the play area and our games will only get better if we take into account their development needs. Accessibility features are used not only by people who identify themselves as disabled, but also by gamers around the world.

The easiest way to make sure a game is accessible is to simply get feedback from players with disabilities. There are many who want to play their games and tell you why they can’t. Talk to them!

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *