GAME ACCESSIBILITY RESOURCES

in partnership with

Novartis_1x
PlayabilityInitiativeLogoTransparentOnWhite
numinous_logo_black

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:

  • Communicate info in more than one way. Ex: text as well as speech; sound as well as visual cues; patterns as well as colors 
  • Offer flexibility. Ex: choice of controls, choice of speed and difficulty, choice of size and perspective

Widely used accessibility features to consider including in YOUR game:

  • Subtitles – Subtitles offer a text alternative to speech and should be included for all dialog; use an easy-to-read font, make the text large enough and in high contrast to background objects.
  • Remappable Controls: Give players freedom to assign the game’s controls to buttons and/or inputs they choose. (ex: remapping buttons or keys, adjust sensitivity, Y/X axis inversion and/or allowing for more than one input device.)
  • Colorblindfriendly: Including red-green and blue-yellow for color blind people; also, avoid conveying info via color alone; instead, include icons, patterns and shapes. 
  • High Contrast: Find and avoid low contrast; high contrast helps players distinguish text, objects, and other visuals in a game. (Check out the Color Oracle tool.)
  • Include Non-Visual Cues – For example, sound and haptic feedback can help direct players and navigate gameplay.
  • Tutorials / Training Mode– Tutorials help players understand gameplay, how to navigate the user interface (UI) and more.
  • Provide a Range of Difficulty – Let players choose a difficulty setting to match their abilities. Consider allowing players to turn off timers.
  • Zoom – The ability to increase the size of all objects on the screen.

RESOURCES & TOOLS FROM ACCESSIBILITY EXPERTS

Visual Disability
AccessibilityImage6
Motor Disability
AccessibilityImage7
AccessibilityImage4
Cognitive Disability
AccessibilityImage3
AccessibilityImage2
Auditory Disability
Visual Disability
AccessibilityImage6
Motor Disability
ablegamers-total-logo-hd-black-740x259
  • A website that offers tools and example designs to teach accessibility design principles to game designers.
  • Powered by AbleGamers, a charity dedicated to improving accessibility in video games and supporting gamers with disabilities.
  • Offers the Accessible Player Experiences (APX) tool, to help game makers understand the needs of players and suggest ways to create content that is accessible and supportive of players with different types of disabilities .
  • Accessibility designs to inspire YOUR games:  Clear Text, Same Controls But Different, Distinguish This from That.
  • Students might use this resource to get ideas for accessibility features to add to their game and learn best practices.
Can I Play That
  • Can I play that? is a website by disabled gamers, for disabled gamers offering accessibility game reviews, commentary, and news.
  • The site offers helpful Accessibility Reference Guides, which highlight design features that accommodate players with different types of disabilities .
  • Students might use these reference guides to double check that their video game offers all the features that a disabled gamer would find helpful, or to begin planning their accessibility features.
Family-Video-Game-Database
  • A database that offers lists of accessible games broken down by category.
  • Each game in the database has an accessibility section which details the accessible features within that game.
  • Tags games with accessibility features for easy searching.
  • Sponsored by The Playability Initiative.
  • Students might use this resource to see how accessibility features have been included in games they already play and gain inspiration for how to approach similar accessibility features in their own games.
logo-specialeffect
  • The Game Access website compiles video game accessibility resources, and provides information on games, equipment and software for physically disabled players.
  • Accessibility designs to inspire YOUR games: Intro to Voice Control, How to Set-Up Copilot, Jabberwocky, (a free utility for Android enabling gameplay via head movements and eye tracking).
  • Students might use this resource to learn more about the special software and adaptive tech that players with disabilities may be using as alternate set-ups and inputs to access their video games. Students who understand these options can design for them more efficiently.
  • A website that offers guidelines to creating accessible games, specifically broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced guidelines.
  • Offers a downloadable checklist.
  • A collaboration between many game studios and educators, it is actively updated and maintained.
  • Students might use this resource to set attainable goals for their inclusive design as beginner game developers.
BridgeMultimedia
  • A PDF you can download to see the types of barriers that may exist in video games for  individuals with the specific disabilities identified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Created by Bridge Multimedia.
  • A great tool that maps different IDEA categories to gaming considerations and accessibility features that would likely serve these individuals.
  • Students might use this resource to create their own unique player personas for the challenge, or to plan design solutions that will match a pre-written persona they have selected. They can use the mapping guide to specifically choose accessibility features and considerations to add to their video game.
Microsoft Logo
  • A series of short YouTube videos that give specific accessibility how-tos, exploring just a single topic per video. Each video is under 5 minutes long.
  • The videos reference popular video games to give specific examples.
  • Topics include: goals for Gamers, visual contrast in video games, text size in video games, gamer choice, audio customization in video games, enabling deaf gamers with subtitles and captions, enabling colorblind gamers, and narrated menus on the Xbox console.
  • Students might use this resource to learn more about specific accessibility features they’re trying to add to their video game.
Microsoft Logo
  • A website that shares Microsoft’s Inclusive Design perspective which focuses on creating products and experiences that can be enjoyed by people with different abilities and perspectives. This site includes many different resources including toolkits, booklets, and videos to help people think about inclusive design in new and creative ways.
  • The Inclusive Design 101 manual is a comprehensive introduction to inclusive design, created to inspire new ways of thinking about inclusion as you build and create.
  • This site provides first hand examples of how an inclusive solution can benefit a broader audience; it demonstrates how disabilities range from situational to temporary to permanent, and how “designing for people with permanent disabilities actually results in designs that benefit people universally.”
  • Students might use this website to expand their inclusive design thinking, share the basics of inclusive design with others, or just get some fresh inspiration.
PlayabilityInitiativeLogoTransparentOnWhite
  • A Facebook group for game developers, people with disabilities, and anyone interested in accessible gaming.
  • Monthly One-Button Game Design Challenges to practice your skills and learn from other accessible designers.
  • Students might use this resource as a place to ask questions as they work on solving accessibility issues and get help from professional video game designers who care about accessibility.