What is accessibility in the games industry?
Accessibility can be understood as principles and techniques to be used when designing, constructing, maintaining, and updating online, PC, console, mobile and other kinds of games in order to make them more accessible to all users, including to people with disabilities.
Accessibility is a highly important topic in game design. For a game developer, accessibility secures the widest possible audience. For society, it guarantees that no one is left behind now when games and gamification are pushing the digitalization of our society forward and are becoming an ever more important part of our daily lives. Having accessibility as one of the key design principles in game development encourages developers to aim for clarity and usability in games overall, which is beneficial for everyone.
What games industry is doing to secure accessibility?
UX focused game design: More and more game companies are adding User Experience (UX) experts to their game development teams, who specialize in techniques and methods that are used to make a game useful, usable and enjoyable for its users. Similarly they can be used to improve accessibility for people with visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities.
Toolkits: At the moment, there are plenty of good toolkits available for improving accessibility and best practices are being shared among game companies and UX researchers. For example,
- practical check-lists helping developers plan and check their games’ accessibility features: http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/
- websites that listing and rating games based on their accessibility: http://game-accessibility.com
Knowledge sharing: IGDA runs a dedicated conference solely on the topic of accessibility, with editions both in the USA and Europe. For more information, please visit https://igda-gasig.org Furthermore, a number of other European game developer conferences and seminars are addressing the topic regularly.
Supporting research projects: The games industry is supporting and helping to disseminate the outcomes of local research projects focused on accessibility. See for example: http://powerup.dsv.su.se
The European games industry is committed to making games accessible to the widest possible audience. The games industry is characterized by rapid technological development and game studios do their best to keep accessibility practices up to date. Furthermore, it is crucial that game education institutions include accessibility in their programs so that new games industry talents learn these principles from the start of their education.
Due to extremely rapid technological development, strict regulations on accessibility become quickly obsolete. With new technologies, such as VR or AR, the best technological and visual solutions for accessible games are often developed through trial and error. This is why self-regulation and public support for accessibility initiatives are the key solutions in assuring accessibility in games.