Accessibility In Games

When creating a new title it is both easy and appealing for developers to buckle down and focus on their work. Crunch is all to familiar for game developers both on the student, indie, and professional level. However, this poses an issue that only now companies are trying to fix. Creators are so focused on creating the product they way they want it to be seen but do not think about others and their ability to take in the product. Accessibility features in video games has always been a problem but there are no excuses anymore. Providing a focus on accessibility in your game can only benefit the players, your company, and, for students: your portfolio.

February 1, 2019

Most, if not all, companies want to make their products accessible. There is no possibility for the inclusion of said features to saying ruin a game causing developers to avoid it. The issue stems from developers feeling like they lack time. On all levels of game development people are crunching day in and day out to just finish the product. Whether these deadlines are imposed by a producer, professor, or even yourself it does not matter. The issue of time is only an issue where developers put their game before their audience.

This feeling, however, is manufactured to push production. Accessibility must be an important and vital step in that production. Will this make development cycles longer? Yes. Will this require more employees? Yes. Will this require more technical challegnes? Yes.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. Accessibility is no longer an issue of is it possible but now is an issue of do we have enough time. For the future of interactive media, we must make time and stop using it as an excuse.

"Whenever a game adds an accessibility feature, it feels like it's made just for me. If a game makes an attempt to reach out to me I am going to remember that for the rest of my life"

-Steve Saylor

There are many benefits to including a vast amount of accessibility options for the users. However, lets focus on why it is important for the company. The most important part to a company is its image. The games they produce is a reflection of that company's values. Everyone is going to appreciate a company who has 10 pages of accessibility. Even more so, everyone is going to remember the company that had VO in their game but no subtitles because of they “lacked time”. It is a selfish motive but protecting a company's image is important to their success. Putting a focus on marketing your accessibility rather than your new physics system will make a larger impact with audiences.

DigiPen is a tough environment to develop games but, again, time is no excuse. For example, my senior game Takowana County in which I was the sole UI/UX developer featured captions,  which were re sizable by the user, game-pad support, and bind able controls. All of these features I led while developing the gameplay and all of the 2D/3D UI because accessibility was one of mine, and the teams, major pillars. I did this in a student game while working on 20 credits at DigiPen. My largest regret is not doing more such as colorblind filters, snap controls to free-cursor, etc.  

"I never have forgot the feeling of depriving someone of an experience just because I didn't think to add a button"

-Ian Holstead, Ubisoft

hiring people to work on the games overall usability. Producers need to schedule more time and check that each aspect of the game is doing the best it can to access to as many people as possible. Publishing platforms, such as Steam and Xbox Live, need to create usability guidelines that all games must adhere to in order to be published. Finally, users and other developers need to both praise those who make accessibility a focus, and call out studios who push it to the wayside. If we don’t speak out and offer helping hands we as an industry cannot improve.

In order for games to thrive we need to focus on fixing this issue. The only way to really fix it is to call it out and make time for it. Studios and teams need to make UX a priority in their development,

Students need to make a more conscious effort on UX and usability within their video games if they want to really stand out from the crowd. Not only is this an important aspect to the game itself, but will boost your portfolio and allow you to stand out as a developer. You cannot label yourself as a UX developer if you make no effort to increase usability. From my mentorship experience, UX has been a lost cause for most game teams when it should, and needs, be the opposite.

"Consider this - everybody who adds accessibility late in their current game might add it in early in their next one"

-Michelle Martin, MetalPop Games

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