Players with disabilities and chronic illnesses haven't waited around for console manufacturers to look their way. Here's how far we've come—and how far we have to go.
The AbleGamers Charity has long fought for the needs and desires of gamers with disabilities.And now, it’s trying to make those concerns easier to address.Today, AbleGamers launched Accessible.Games, a site with free resources for developers who want to make their games accessible to a wider audience.It consists of two major parts.First is the Accessible Experiences Portal, which is a comprehensive collection of tips and guidelines that offer suggestions on everything from how your game controls to letting players skip content if they can’t complete a certain section.The second part is the Player Panels, where gamers with disabilities can sign up to offer feedback on a game.
When the controversy around Sekiro broke, the idea of it needing an “easy mode” seemed silly to me.I had just won the title of Global Gaming Citizen at The Game Awards in December, a recognition for the positive work I’ve done in our industry including my life’s work at AbleGamers.I responded to the outrage with several of my own tweets explaining how games like Sekiro and Dark Souls can be made more accessible without harming the creator’s intent.“We don’t want to include a difficulty selection because we want to bring everyone to the same level of discussion and the same level of enjoyment,” Miyazaki said.“So we want everyone … to first face that challenge and to overcome it in some way that suits them as a player.”Sadly, Miyazaki and the many others who share those sentiments are not taking into account that for people with disabilities, the playing field doesn’t start everyone off on the same level.
Hollie Figueroa, developer at KinifiGames, moderated the panel, which included included Bryce Johnson, senior designer at Xbox and a creator of Microsoft’s Inclusive Technologies Lab; Bryant Cannon, lead engineer at Oxenfree creator Night School Studio; Heidi McDonald, senior creative director at iThrive Games; and Mark Barlet, founder and executive director of the AbleGamers charity.We released a game called Oxenfree two years ago, almost today, and we’re working on a game called Afterparty that comes out next year.Johnson: The one misconception about people who advocate for accessibility in games is that they don’t want difficulty.If you look at Nick Yee’s site, Quantic Foundry, he has a really cool survey that will spin out, “Here’s one of 14 motivations that are important to you when you’re playing.” There is a motivation called mastery, and that’s the people who love core games, the people saying, “I love Dark Souls because it’s really hard.” There is going to be a class of people for whom difficulty in games is a challenge and they love it.Other than that, I think difficulty has to do with things that might impede your player from having an enjoyable experience of your game.There are just certain considerations that go along with that.
AbleGamers Foundation has opened signups for three sponsorships that will send game developers with disabilities to Train Jam 2018 and the Game Developers Conference 2018.Interested developers can submit an application here.The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Pacific on December 3, 2017.Train Jam tasks its participants to form teams and create games during the 52 hour train ride from Chicago to San Francisco, where GDC 2018 will take place.GDC is the world’s largest professional gaming event.Both are great opportunities for developers.
Nonprofit charity AbleGamers has been helping gamers with disabilities get the technology they need to play since 2004.The idea stemmed from frequent calls from game companies looking for testers with disabilities, and from conversations with Xbox and PlayStation officials about how to advance more accessible gaming, AbleGamers COO Steve Spohn told PCWorld in a Skype interview.“It’s not just about doing the right thing [for developers], it’s about making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the game you created and poured your blood, sweat, and tears into,” Spohn says.“In order to do that, they need to be able to test those games [for accessibility]…We’re trying to bring two sides together to make a better gaming environment.”The only requirements for joining the Player Panels: You need to have some sort of disability, you need to love games, and you need to fill out this form.AbleGamers then acts as a go-between, connecting developers and researchers with gamers able to assist in accessibility testing and studies.
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