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Accessibility for Games - A Jumping Off Point

July 4, 2019

5 min read

I posted an open question on Twitter recently asking for accessibility resources that could help me get a deeper understanding of that world in games. Unexpectedly, I got a ton of helpful links and comments from peers and industry professionals alike! I thought it made sense to catalog these resources in a longer form post like this rather that leave it all in a Twitter thread to be forgotten.

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/ryrykubes/status/1145719672114802688

Does anyone have some good resources for learning more about accessibility in games? I've seen some pieces about contrast and color choices, but would love more in depth information! Particularly curious about mobile accessibility too!

#Game Maker's Toolkit - Designing for Disablity

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLc38fcMFcV_vvWOhMDriBlVocTZ8mKQzR

This series of videos was recommended by multiple folks. These videos are split across a few different categories ranging from hard of hearing to cognitive disablities.

#Game Accessibility Guidlines

http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/

A series of suggestions for making your games more accessible rated on a value based scale using the following criteria:

  • Reach (number of people who benefit)
  • Impact (the difference made to those people)
  • Value (cost to implement)

#Twitter Follows

Several folks specifically recommended people to follow on Twitter that are heavily involved in the accessibility world.

#GCAP 2016: Mobile Devices & Gamers With Disabilities - Ian Hamilton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaejtcKbIXA&feature=youtu.be

20% of gamers have some kind of disability, and many mobile gamers also encounter situational impairments, such as playing in direct sunlight, or holding onto a handrail on the underground. Small screens and touch interfaces bring some accessibility barriers and solutions that are specific to mobile devices.

This session will share insights on what accessibility and disability actually mean and why they are important. It will also share some easy mobile-specific considerations you can make in your own games, and the human and business impact that they can bring.

#Accessible Games

https://accessible.games

This site has two different resources, one is a collection of design techniques and patterns called: Accessible Player Experiences (APX). This quote form the site explains APX's intention best:

If you want your game to offer the edge-of-the-seat tension of stalking a wild animal through the forest then that’s the player experience you should be aiming for. What APX offers is a way to think about whether you could provide that experience to players with different types of disabilities.

Accessible Games also offers a neat service called AbleGamers Player Panels where they will match game project to players with disablities. This gives developers a chance to get real, actionable feedback.

#The Microsoft Accessibility Lab

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility

A large collection of a ton of different products and resources categorized into a lot of different areas of concern. Much of this is specific to settings in Microsoft products. It does seem like a good place to draw inspiration from since there are a wealth of accessibility options buried in these tools.

Also around the website you can find less product-y recommendations for things like designing accessible apps: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/design/accessibility/accessibility.

#Some Tips in Tweets!

Some great tips on specific accessibility changes you can make:

from @GravPollution

  1. remove any "twitch" mechanics or anything that relies on pressing buttons super fast or dying.
  2. No strobe flashes or blinking special effects.
  3. (on mobile) make the buttons very large, and be very forgiving with double tap or swipes.
  4. tutorials with audio and written instructions.
  5. large graphics, with high contrast against the background.
  6. very soft learning curve that lets player adapt.

This conversation gave some good thoughts on how to go about developing an accessible game. Start sooner rather than later and treat it like the design exercise that it is.

from @GoodfellowIsaac

keep in mind this is still a very developing area of study. But resources like the Microsoft accessibility lab are great. Accessibility is hard because it’s trying to solve sooooo many problems at once and developers / companies want a single solution

from @ryrykubes

Totally! The MS accessibility lab looks super helpful!

I was especially curious about gaming specific research, because games tend to have a lot more action and moving parts than other business-y software applications.

from @ianhamilton_

As well as the greater complexity of input and output and cognitive load the really fundamental difference is that the definition of 'game' requires inaccessibility; to be universally accessible you would need to remove all barriers, all challenge, meaning it's a toy or narrative

from @ianhamilton_

so what constitutes a reasonable set of accommodations is unique to each game, rather than a fixed universal bar. Which sounds trickier but it's actually nice, means it is a always a design exercise rather than the box ticking you sometimes get in other industries.


https://twitter.com/KariGaynor/status/1143577370588114944

Top #accessibility issues in games:

  1. Tiny text
  2. Subtitle presentation
  3. Button remapping

UX accessibility expert @ianhamilton_ giving an awesome tech overview to a packed house!! #a11y

#Contrast Checker

https://contrastchecker.com/

This is a handy tool so that you can ensure your text and background color choices has appropriate levels of contrast.

#Accessible Gaming Wish List

https://www.specialeffect.org.uk/accessible-gaming-wish-list

Make a start with designing your games for accessibility! There are many wishes listed here, we admit. But no-one expects all of these to make it into any one game, and many overlap. To include even just one item from each list would be a wonderful start. If you'd like us to be more involved with the development of your game's accessibility, get in touch.

#Got More?

If you've got more great accessibility resources that I haven't touched on here, I would love to hear about them! Send me links on Twitter!