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Accessible games reach larger audiences and create a more positive gaming experience for everyone!
Video games are for everyone, but if game creators don’t consider the needs and abilities of different players, some people will be left out. Designing for accessibility means breaking down barriers that prevent some people from playing and enjoying games, particularly for players living with different types of disabilities (including auditory, visual, speech and cognitive). In addition to helping game developers reach wider audiences, game accessibility improves the gameplay experience for ALL players.
Game Accessibility Challenge
This year, G4C teamed up with Numinous Games through their new project, the Playability Initiative (funded by Novartis Gene Therapies) to teach and inspire the next generation of creators to design games that are more accessible than ever. Through the Game Accessibility Challenge – a new competitive award category for the 2021 G4C Student Challenge – we will recognize and award students who integrate accessible designs into their games. Remember: When we design in a more inclusive way, we can create a more positive gaming experience for everyone!
Explore the resources and tools in the sections below to understand why and how to integrate accessible design into your game projects!
GameMakers Toolkit offers a great series of videos that offer guidelines and best practices for making games more accessible to a wide range of players. They even provide an annual investigation into how some of the year’s biggest game titles addressed accessibility. Check them out!
Begin with Accessibility
Most accessibility features are easier to implement when you keep them in mind from the very beginning of your design. Trying to add accessibility into your design after the game has been developed is much more difficult than planning them in advance of development.
Focus on the Gamer, Not a List of Requirements
Every gamer is unique, their needs are more nuanced than any checklist can possibly express. If you want to design for someone with a particular disability, reach out to people and talk to them about their gaming experiences, find out first hand what they appreciate about accessible game design and what they want to see more thought put into. Ask them if they’d be interested in playtesting and offering suggestions.
Get the Entire Team’s Buy-in
Getting everyone on the same page about accessible design helps make sure that accessibility is built into your game design process across the entire experience. Accessible game design thinking should be evident in the game as a whole. (The gameplay can be amazingly accessible but if the menu screen isn’t, you’re still barring access to your game.) You may have a single accessibility point person who is responsible for checking in with everyone else, but everyone involved in the creation of the game should be thinking about how their work contributes to accessibility.
Keep Accessibility in Mind While Playtesting
Don’t just hunt for bugs in your playtesting, assign people in your team with different ways to play through the game. One person might play through with the sound off, someone could try playing through with their screen covered. One person can play through using mouse-only, another keyboard-only, another with a single button or switch adaptive controller. Maybe one person tries to play your game wearing thick winter gloves. Get creative about how your playtesting can help recreate the player experience of people with unique needs and abilities.
Creating accessible games means breaking down barriers that prevent people from being able to play. Below is a list of common accessibility features that can be included in almost every type of game (regardless of genre, game mechanics, length of gameplay, etc.). You may notice that more often than not, accessible design is guided by two principles:
Widely used accessibility features to consider including in YOUR game: