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Gaming For Everyone & Game Accessibility

September 11, 2012

There is a great guy, Ian Hamilton, who’s been promoting the important idea about making games more accessible.  I came across him during the last Global games Jam where we were encouraging developers to consider accessibility issues as they made games.  Ian and others really pushed the issue:

With gaming becoming a more popular and pervasive form of entertainment, accessibility issues are starting to be recognised and tackled by the professional game development community. “There are four types of disability – visual, hearing, cognitive and motor,” says Hamilton. “By knowing and thinking about these groups upfront, game designers can easily avoid the barriers that may have prevented gamers with disabilities being able to enjoy playing.

“Even a simple thing, like choosing blue instead of green for a team colour, as Treyarch recently did with their colour-blind friendly mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops, can make your game playable by significant swathes of the population that would otherwise have had great difficulty. The red/green colourblindness that Treyarch addressed affects 8% of males, meaning they were finally able to tell their team-mates from their enemies.”

Hamilton reckons a big part of the challenge is helping developers to recognise that greater accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean masses of extra development time or resources. “Fully functioning and accessible games being produced in the space of 48 hours is a really powerful demonstration that accessibility doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult,” he says. “Also, the results are often great examples of nice simple design principles that can be applied across the industry.”

So at the Bristol event we were organising, we added a special prize for acessibility to spur the developers on; and there is more on the winner here.

Super Space Snakes in Space – an Accessible Game!

Building on this Ian has been developing more information for developers to help them understand the issue:

15-20% of gamers are disabled (PopCap). Other conditions that aren’t registered disabilities can also hit barriers. 15% of the adult population have a reading age of below 11 years old (NCES / BIS), 8% of males have red-green colour deficiency (AAO), and many people have temporary impairments such as a broken arm. Many more have situational impairments such as playing in a noisy room or in bright sunlight, and all players have different levels of ability – there’s no ‘typical gamer’.

This is all now stored at the resource: gameaccessibilityguidelines.com – we used these documents for Gamify Your PhD and will be including the information in all the game jams we run from now on. It’s also been great to see good media coverage of the issue, e.g. this from RPS.

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