Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Making games for Disabled gamers


 Over 20% of gamers have issues that prevent them from fully enjoying the current and best games. Gamer disabilitys can range from deafness to partial blindness to any other number of issues that disabled and handicapped gamers need to deal with. Finally the game industry has taken note of these issues and established guidelines for programmers to use in their games to allow everybody , irrespective of their physical condition to enjoy games.

 www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com has been created by a group of developers and experts, coordinated by Ian Hamilton, an accessibility and usability specialist with a background in game development. 

The website gives  developers guidelines on the simple changes that games need to have to make them more accessible for  gamers with a range of visual, hearing, speech, learning and motor conditions. 

How many gamers have an impairment?
 Recent research by PopCapshowed that as many as 20% of gamers are disabled.  Often there are simple solutions such as combining colours with symbols, or allowing text to disappear on a button press rather than a timer. Many of these practices have already been implemented in the game industry in recent years. Now skippable cut scenes are a standard, and configurable controls almost a must (to the relief of many a left handed gamer)

This creation has taken Ian Hamilton six months , his main motivation has been to do something about the number of studios who unwittingly ignore the needs of players through a lack of knowledge about the barriers disabled gamers face when trying to play their favourite games.
“The guidelines started really a few years ago as a personal project triggered by work I did whilst at the BBC, which included creating games and products for disabled children. That expanded into advising internal teams and 3rd party game studios on game accessibility, which made me realise firstly to what degree gamers were unnecessarily being shut out by the games industry through lack of awareness, and secondly the huge value that games have: it’s not just about delivering access, it’s about entertainment, culture, socialising, the very things that are the difference between existing and living. Gaming really does have a huge impact on people’s lives,” said Ian.
These are some of the big names in gaming that helped Ian Hamilton with the accessibility project:  Blitz games studios, Headstrong Games, Aardman Digital, OneSwitch and Stockholm University. 
“Through the process we’ve spoken to developers around the world, from small indies to large triple-A studios, and the support has been fantastic. There are already several games in development that are using the guidelines to deliver the best possible experience to as many people as possible.”
One of the developers that the guidelines have already helped is Poland-basedVivid Games, who sought Ian’s help when creating a PC version of its recent mobile and PS3 game, Speedball 2: evolution.
“When we were developing the mobile version of Speedball 2 we included a special mode for colour blind gamers, which changed the palette and increased the contrast to ensure that all the on-screen action was still visible.” said Remi Koscielny, President of Vivid Games. “For the PC version we wanted to increase the accessibility of the game, so we worked closely with Ian to ensure that every part of the game was optimised for impaired gamers. Having learnt what a major difference can be made to so many people with just a little extra effort, we certainly hope that all developers take on board the fantastic work that Ian has done.”
www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com is an open and free resource for anyone involved in the games industry around the world to use. It will continue to evolve, and feedback from developers is welcomed via the website.
Guidelines for Making Accessible Games for disabled gamers

General

Basic



Intermediate







Advanced



Motor

(Control / mobility)

Basic




Intermediate








Advanced



Cognitive

(Thought / memory / processing information)

Basic





Intermediate
















Advanced





Visual

Basic





Intermediate










Advanced









Hearing

Basic



Intermediate









Advanced


Speech

Basic

Intermediate




Advanced


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