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Gaming industry told that “tiny tweaks” equal huge accessibility boosts

Video game developers have been asked to make their products more inclusive for players with disabilities by sector experts at an event in London.

In a session on ‘Accessible games’ at TechShare Pro 2018 (a wide-ranging digital accessibility conference), three speakers explained to delegates why accessibility is so important in this area and explained what changes need to be made.

Games journalist Mark Brown – whose ‘Game Maker’s Toolkit’ YouTube channel has over half a million subscribers – started his presentation by stating that “video games are a particularly difficult topic for accessibility, because they touch on basically every category of disability.”

He then worked through ten points for developers to consider when creating new video games. These included: controller sensitivity, clear subtitles, volume controls for separate elements, visual contrast, difficulty customisation and simulation sickness (similar to motion sickness, causing some players to feel nauseous – often in 3D or first-person perspective games). He also gave examples of good practice, highlighting games where visually impaired players can turn off background visuals (‘Street Fighter IV’) and choose their own colour palette (‘For Honor’), for example, to assist with visual contrast and colour blindness issues.

Following on was Mark Friend, a senior user researcher and accessibility specialist for Sony Interactive Entertainment, the company behind PlayStation. Friend discussed his visits to numerous game development studios to explain to the teams what steps could be taken to improve the accessibility of their games at the beginning of the development process, flagging up common “unintentional barriers” that are often created.

An accessibility consultant and blind gamer known as Sightless Kombat was the final speaker in the session, discussing audio gaming and different approaches used by players with sight loss for various game genres. “It’s important for sighted gamers to engage with audio gaming experiences, because they are so integral to culture and social interaction,” he said.

Sightless Kombat then highlighted the importance of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), legislation from the United States which will require game developers to make communication interfaces and navigation elements in their games accessible for users with disabilities. The Act comes into force in the US on January 1, 2019, and is expected to have a significant impact on game development in the country.

Sightless Kombat then pointed out the increasing popularity of accessibility functions with a wider audience, noting that “Although these features were initially targeted at those with disabilities, they’ve expanded [to a larger audience] due to convenience.” He ended with a final request to game developers: “Tiny tweaks can make such a big difference, even small things – like audio cues – which may not be noticed by most people.”

Read more about visually impaired gaming at the Sightless Kombat website.

Find out more about Mark Brown’s work at the Game Maker’s Toolkit YouTube channel.

Find out more about TechShare Pro 2018 at the AbilityNet website. Presentations on digital accessibility topics discussed on the day are available for some sessions.


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