Game accessibility guidelines aim to remove barriers

A photograph of an XBOX 360 controller. Shared on a creative commons license by Dan Rodriguez.

An exciting, free, online resource has launched to help game developers remove barriers and welcome players with cognitive, physical or sensory impairments. The Game Accessibility Guidelines is a comprehensive set of considerations to make sure that a game’s UI and controls are inclusive to the broadest range of people possible. Their about page highlights why every developer should care about accessibility:

15-20% of gamers are disabled (PopCap). Other conditions that aren’t registered disabilities can also hit barriers. 15% of the adult population have a reading age of below 11 years old (NCES / BIS), 8% of males have red-green colour deficiency (AAO), and many people have temporary impairments such as a broken arm. Many more have situational impairments such as playing in a noisy room or in bright sunlight, and all players have different levels of ability – there’s no ‘typical gamer’.

The guidelines focus on motor, cognitive, visual and auditory impairments, with helpful advice such as allowing controls to be remapped and providing both autosave and manual save features.

The resource serves two purposes – it shows all developers how their game design can be improved for greater accessibility, and also offers detailed advice for projects specifically targeted at differently abled communities. The ‘basic’ and ‘intermediate’ lists contain advice that is relatively cheap to implement and in many cases simply represents good game design that benefits all players. The ‘advanced’ list targets the more specific needs of niche audiences, with design practices that take significant resources to achieve, such as playtesting with “representative samples from relevant categories of impairment” and providing “full internal sampled self-voicing for all text”.

The result is a startlingly thorough resource for any game developer who wants to do the right thing. Overall, the message is about giving players the ability to choose how they engage with the game; giving players options about how input and feedback are configured, and communicating all important information with a combination of sound, visuals and text. By removing barriers that privilege some abilities over others, the experience of all players can be improved.

About Zoya

Zoya is a freelance writer and historian. Their particular interest is in video games: design, history, and how virtual worlds are inseparable from real-world social and economic networks. Zoya has written a book about the Dreamcast, is Editor of Memory Insufficient games history e-zine, and Deputy Editor at Gamesbrief.
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4 Responses to Game accessibility guidelines aim to remove barriers

  1. Jargo says:

    This is a great idea. A database like this will be very helpful as a checklist for stressed game designers who often forget simple accessibility mechanics when working on feature specification.

  2. qubodup says:

    Having a resource like GAG is great, because having a website that is dedicated to one issue makes it so much easier to convince people of a thing.

    Doesn’t always create dominating results though:

    Also there’s an self-ironic Easter-egg on GAG:

  3. Matt says:

    Much of this can do wonders for those of us with the disability known as not having the time or desire to wade through a lousy interface in hopes of finding some hidden gameplay gem. I can only imagine how much a widespread use of this can improve the situation of a gamer with an actual impairment.

    That said… most of what I play has no QTA bollocks but the need for precise timing of input is a fundamental emergent part of the core mechanics. Maybe it’s time for some part of me to admit that “some games are not for everyone” might go well beyond mere issues of theme, aesthetic and narrative…

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