IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group

AbleGamers GDC 2009 News Flash

GDC 2009 Accessible Gaming News Flash. AbleGamers have been posting about this year's Game Developer Conference from an accessible gaming perspective. The most essential viewing has to be The One Question interview posed to attendees. "Have you ever thought about how disabled people play video games?". Illuminating.

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GDC 09 and Game Accessibility

Image of a long foot-tunnel swathed in deep red light with bright white light at its end. Text reads: Game Developers Conference. March 23-27, 2009. Moscone Centre, San Francisco.
Game Accessibility talks at the
Game Developers Conference 2009 next week:

Talk 1:

The Story of AudiOdyssey & My Journey through Usability
Speaker: Eitan Glinert (President, Fire Hose Games)
Date/Time: Monday (March 23, 2009) 1:30pm - 2:00pm
Location (room): Room 3007, West Hall
Track: Serious Games Summit
Format: 30-minute Lecture

Experience Level: All
Session Description:

"Not all serious games need to be those with visually exciting graphics or even graphics at all. AudiOdyssey is a game that provides the serious games community with an interesting twist - developing a game that can be used to engage visually impaired gamers and gamers together in the same shared experience. The story of AudiOdyssey is itself a journey not only into game design for the visually impaired but overall issues with how to create games with easy UIs and engaging experiences.

During this talk Eitan Glinert who built AudiOdyssey while at MIT will present the story of AudiOdyssey while also covering further issues in usability that are useful not only for improving access for people with disabilities but all levels of people learning, training and doing more with videogames. Together this talk provides some critical highlights of issues that are of paramount importance to games that don't get to be selective about their audiences and gives insight into a game that moved beyond presenting just a graphical experience. "

Talk 2:

Game Accessibility SIG
Speaker: Michelle Hinn (IGDA Game Accessibility SIG Chair)
Date/Time: Thursday (March 26, 2009) 9:00am - 10:00am
Location (room): Room 120, North Hall
Track: Game Design
Format: 60-minute Roundtable
Experience Level: All
Session Description:

"The Game Accessibility SIG exists to help the game community strive towards creating mainstream games that are universally accessible to all, regardless of age, experience and disability. This SIG meeting will briefly highlight our accomplishments from the past year. We are eager to accept input for new initiatives to tackle and we are actively recruiting volunteers and contributors. "

Talk 3:

Accessibility 101: Crash Course for Beginners
Speaker: Michelle Hinn (IGDA Game Accessibility SIG Chair), Mark Barlet (Editor-in-Chief, AbleGamers.com)
Date/Time: Friday (March 27, 2009) 9:00am - 10:00am
Location (room): Room 2002, West HallTrack: Game Design
Format: 60-minute Lecture
Experience Level: All
Session Description:

"Want to increase the size and diversity of your game's audience by including gamers with disabilities? This talk provides a list of 10 easy changes any game developer can use to start increasing the accessibility of their designs for ALL gamers, especially gamers with disabilities, with minimal effort but maximum impact. Learn what disabled gamers and developers are doing, from modding your game to your controllers, in order to play your games so that you can begin implementing these fixes right from the start of your development cycle!

Takeaway Session participants will learn at least ten concrete ways that game designers can use to get started in increasing the accessibility of their mainstream games titles, as well as some innovative ways of gaming that will interest all gamers, not just gamers with disabilities. Different disability types will be discussed - including visual (including low vision and color blindness), auditory, mobility, and cognitive disabilities - and how these different disabilities affect certain aspect of game play. Audience members will come away with many examples of how gamers with disabilities currently game and how their game companies can help assist these gamers through design variations to make their game play experience the best possible.

Intended Audience and Prerequisites: Designers, programmers, marketers, and publishers interested in a "crash course" to learn and ask questions about game accessibility - issues that gamers with disabilities face every day as they try and play your games. Information given will include an overview of the issues that those with specific disability types face, including color blind gamers, the top accessibility problems in mainstream games, and concrete solutions. No prerequisite knowledge is required - just come with an open mind and willingness to seriously consider making games accessible to MORE! "

Talk 4:

Game Accessibility & Developers with Disabilities Social Gathering
Speaker: Thomas Westin (Dep. Computer & Systems Science, SU/KTH, Stockholm University/KTH)
Date/Time: Friday (March 27, 2009) 10:30am - 11:30am
Location (room): IGDA Booth, West Hall
Track: Game Design
Format: 60-minute Social Gathering
Experience Level: All
Session Description:

"Social Gatherings are a chance for like-minded developers to get together for networking and open discussion at the IGDA booth. Come to meet your peers and engage in deep dialogue over your area of specialty - or just partake in witty small talk.TakeawayNetworking and discussion with your peers in a casual setting. A sense of community.

Intended Audience and Prerequisites: Developers interested in game accessibility and developers with disabilities."

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"Warhammer, the On Screen Keyboard, and The Reality of the Disabled"

On Screen Keyboard. AbleGamers.com have posted Steve Spohn's personalised account of the struggles he has had communicating on-line within the confines of MMORPG's (massively multiplayer on-line role playing games).


An Open Letter To Game Developers

Image of a lone protester stopping a train in its tracks. Michelle Hinn, chair of the IGDA's GASIG (Game Accessibility Special Interest Group) has posted an open letter to game developers over at AbleGamers. It's a heart felt plea for developers to make more efforts to avoid disabling gamers.

If you'd like to join the campaign, or simply would like to learn a little more, please take a look at the OneSwitch campaign page and IGDA GASIG blog entries.


BBC Radio 4 - Game Accessibility - In Touch

Mortal Kombat - blurred up. Played as an Audio Game. Graham Race of MERU kindly pointed me in the direction of an interesting Radio 4 "In Touch" item on Accessible Gaming. It reflects the experiences of many blind and partially-sighted gamers. Seems Mortal Kombat can work out as a playable game for completely blind players due to the diverse use of sound. The item includes direct contact with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft which was quite illuminating:


"I'm David Wilson at Sony. Whilst we have had experience of visually impaired gamers, to the best of my knowledge we have never had any approach from people who are fully blind. Because video gaming is such a visual art form we're not sure how we could recreate the experience of non-linear interactive entertainment for a blind gamer. Of course we would never seek to exclude anyone from the joys of video game entertainment and we have worked with people with disabilities to enable them to participate. For example, redesigning a controller for a person with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. But unless any of your listeners have some valid suggestions we are currently not sure how to adapt such a visual interactive medium without fundamentally redesigning the whole game to the point where it ceases to be the same product or experience."


"We are continually looking at ways we can bring our games to as broad and diverse range of people as possible. Creating video games that work effectively for blind or partially sighted customers is however a major challenge. While it is relatively simple to add a sound layer for DVD menus, for example adding audio assistance or tutorials, will not work with most existing games which depend on fast moving visuals, such as Mario Cart. Achieving a game such as this that works equally well for sighted and visually impaired users is unfortunately not practically possible. It is possible to create games based purely on sound and Nintendo published one such game in Japan for Game Boy Advance in 2007 called Sound Voyager which involved players using sounds from the left and right speakers to guide a target. These games are currently very rare but with the video game market and technologies evolving all the time this may change."


"We're still awaiting a reply from Microsoft."

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