One of the big areas of interest among game developers and others involved with the industry is how to make games more accessible for the aging population and for people with disabilities, with the International Game Developer Association’s Game Accessibility SIG leading the charge.
When most people think of disabilities, they usually think of the obvious ones, like the loss of a limb or blindness, but the reality is far more complex. Disabilities can include things like colorblindness, hearing-impairment, or really, anything that results in a mismatch between a person and their environment, resulting in often unecessary barriers to performing their everyday tasks.
The mandate of the Accessibility SIG reflects that, with guidelines for designing to address visual, auditory, cognitive, and mobility disabilities – guidelines which, if followed, can usually make game a better experience for players in general.
Just take a look at their top 10 suggestions for accessibility, and see how many just make sense from a player’s point of view.
1. Allow controller reconfiguration for improved comfort. Offer players freedom in repositioning controls (also known as remapping controls, or reconfiguring controls) to suit them and their possibly non-standard controller. Where relevant, allow adjustment of control sensitivity, y and x axis inversion and provide left-handed/south-paw modes. Ideally allow for a controller profile to be conveniently saved and accessed.
2. Provide alternative controller support. Do not limit the player to only using standard controllers or keyboards, or require a standard controller for use of your title. Seek to offer support for at least one alternative controller and/or simplified control scheme. Consider those unable to use traditional input methods such as joy-pads and microphones.
3. Offer sound alternatives. Aim to convey the mood, meaning and information of your game’s sound for those unable to hear. Consider full subtitles/closed-captions and creative use of other feedback methods, such as visuals and vibratio
4. Provide separate volume controls for music, sound effects and dialogue where applicable. Being able to tailor volume levels can aid comprehension and comfort levels.
5. High visibility graphics. Avoid or offer alternatives to small and/or indistinct fonts. Consider having a high-contrast color scheme or making it available as an option if not default. Highlight important items to aid comprehension.
6. Color-blind friendly design. Understand that certain color combinations can prove impossible to distinguish for color-blind players. Seek to avoid these combinations (e.g. red on grey or green) and/or offer alternative ways to convey meaning than color alone. If unsure of your color selection, please reference a color chart that displays colors as a color blind person may see them.
7. Provide broad difficulty level and/or speed adjustment where applicable. Realize that for some players there is no such thing as too easy. A very broad range of people can benefit from slower and easier versions of a game including sight-impaired players.
8. Offer practice, training, free-roaming and/or tutorial modes if applicable. These can help with comprehension, controller adjustments, skill development, and also simply offer a fun way in for those struggling with the standard game
9. Make menus as accessible as you can. Consider quick start modes, the importance of digital-input navigation and text alternatives such as text-to-speech and symbols.
10. List accessibility features and game requirements. Make efforts to ensure that this information is free and easy to obtain and understand. This information may be posted on a studio’s website or game packaging. Consider submitting for review to Game Accessibility review sites
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, and you’ll be in San Franciso around the time of GDC (the Game Developers Conference), the Game Accessibility SIG will be putting on their annual conference on February 27, 2017, bringing together people from all sectors of the industry – from indie to AAA, academia to accessibility specialists – to talk about what has been done, what work remains, and how we can ensure no player is unnecessarily excluded from the access to culture, recreation and socialising that gaming brings.
Presenters will include Naughty Dog Games (talking about accessibility and inclusion in Uncharted 4), Siobhán Thomas of the Enable Gaming Project, which brings computer gaming to children with disabilities in hospices, Giselle Rosman, Director of the Global Game Jam, and many more.
Early Bird Tickets available here for $65 until January 27, and $100 thereafter.