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A history of game accessibility guidelines

A look back at the decades long history of game accessibility knowledge sharing

This article is a follow up to a recent twitter chat, sharing a timeline of the development of accessibility resources.

This timeline is non-exhaustive, there will no doubt be things that I've missed or am not aware of, and there are a few internal sets of guidelines that can't be shared publicly too.

But hopefully it will be an interesting read, and give a sense of where we have come from, how knowledge and resources have grown, evolved, built upon one another, and how many passionate people from all across the industry have helped to push the field forward.


Guidelines for the development of entertaining software for people with multiple learning disabilities

Media LT, January 2004

Guidelines on design for people with multiple learning disabilities, primarily for entertainment software but intended to be applicable across software development in general.


Accessibility in games: motivations and approaches

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, October 2004

The SIG's first initiative, a white paper covering a range of information about accessibility, including a proposed set of guidelines which were also split out into a stand-alone web resource. This appears to be the first attempt at a comprehensive set of guidance across impairment types.


Why can't they play?

Barrie Ellis/Retro Remakes, April 2005

Top ten collection of accessibility fundamentals.


IGDA-GASIG top ten V1

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, September 2005

Top ten ways to improve game accessibility.


BBC Jam

BBC, June 2006

A presentation given in support of mandatory accessibility requirements (reqs doc itself no longer available) across BBC educational game output.


Guidelines for developing of accessible Games

Roland Ossmann & Klaus Miesenberger, July 2006

Attempts to define games accessibility guidelines helping game developers to design their products in a way that assistive technologies can interact with the game interface and that the parameters of usage can be adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Builds upon both IGDA-GASIG white paper and MediaLT guidelines.


Making Video Games Accessible: Business Justifications and Design Considerations

Brannon Zahand (Microsoft), August 2006

For game content developers and producers who want to reach this market by adding basic accessibility features to help people with disabilities or impairments.


Game Over!

Dimitris Grammenos (UA-games), April 2007

Guidelines produced as part of the Game Over! accessibility teaching tool.


helpyouplay

Eelke Folmer, May 2007

A collection of accessibility interaction design patterns.


Future Play Poster

IGDA-GASIG, game-accessibility.com and UA-Games, November 2007

Collaborative effort to produce a guidelines poster for display at the Future Play conference in 2007, but also used at GDC and made publicly available through the SIG website.


Design Tips For..

Barrie Ellis, 2008

Collection of articles detailing guidelines for eyegaze, single switch, head tracking, and subtitling.


BBC Accessible Games Standard 1.0

BBC, August 2008

First iteration of mandatory accessibility standards across all of the BBC's first and third party games.


Accessibility Options Ideas

Nathan Fouts, August 2010

Set of accessibility guidelines produced alongside the groundbreaking accessibility work in Shoot1up


Gaming on a Collision Course

7-128 & AbleGamers, 2010

Paper addressing changing U.S. demographics and their effect on accessibility issues in computer gaming, including a set of recommended considerations.


IGDA-GASIG Guidelines V2

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, 2010

Rework of the guidelines from the 2004 white paper, revisiting which items are included, and providing application / description / accomplishment / test for each item.


Guidelines for Building Blind-Accessible Computer Games

Dark/7-128, January 2011

A checklist for developers who want to make their Windows games blind-accessible


SpecialEffect Wish List for Accessible Game Design V1

SpecialEffect, May 2011

Wish list for accessible game design features. There are 20 wishes spread evenly across four different categories of accessibility.


SpecialEffect Top 5 Tips for Game Developers

SpecialEffect, September 2011

Top five accessibility tips to consider adding to your game.


IGDA-GASIG Top 10 V2

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, September 2011

A new list to better address the needs of gamers while making the features clear to understand to developers, produced as a foundation for Film Victoria's game funding accessibility criteria.


Buenas prácticas de accesibilidad en videojuegos

CEAPAT, April 2012

An extensive 250 page collection of accessibility experiences and studies from Spain, including guidelines on a range of topics..


Game Accessibility Guidelines

Collaboration, September 2012 (ongoing)

A collaborative effort between a group of studios, specialists and academics, to produce a straightforward developer friendly reference for ways to avoid unnecessarily excluding players, and ensure that games are just as fun for as wide a range of people as possible.

The launch of both this resource and Includification later in the same month marked the beginning of guidelines seeing broad uptake by developers


Includification

AbleGamers, September 2012

An easy-read guide to the most important accessibility options that can be included in a video game and what each one of them means to the end user.


BBC Inclusive Gaming Guidelines

BBC, December 2012

A refreshed set of guidelines for inclusive BBC gaming content.


Designing games for deaf children: First guidelines

Tania Di Mascio et al, February 2013

Guidelines with accompanying usage examples, compiled from a review of Deaf literature.


Design Guidelines for Audio Games

Franco Eusébio Garcia and Vânia Paula de Almeida Neris, 2013

Guidelines to help designers use audio to create more accessible audio games, especially for visually impaired players. They were proposed by the systematization of features, problems and solutions discussed on literature’s papers and accessibility guidelines, a case study and a user observation.


Film Victoria Accessibility Guidance

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG and Film Victoria, July 2015

Refreshed guidance for Film Victoria funding applicants, covering background information and specific guidance for each feature.


IGDA-GASIG Top Ten V3

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, July 2015

Expanding the updated guidance for Film Victoria funding applicants out into a full refreshed top ten list.


How to do subtitles well – basics and good practices

Ian Hamilton, July 2015

Top 3 basic fundamentals and top 10 general good practices, well established principles both from within gaming and from other related industries.


BBC Children's Game Accessibility Guidelines & Recommendations

BBC, 2015

Requirements and recommendations, tested at every stage of development.


Making Games Accessible

Microsoft, February 2017

An overview of game accessibility guidelines derived from various organizations, introducing the inclusive game design principle for creating more accessible games.


Platform Level Accessibility Recommendations

IDGA Game Accessibility SIG, March 2017

Guidance on how and why gaming hardware and operating systems can enable access for gamers with disabilities.


SpecialEffect Accessible Gaming Wishlist V2

SpecialEffect, February 2018

Make a start with designing your games for accessibility! To include even just one item from each list would be a wonderful start.


How to design accessible games

BBC, July 2018

Guidelines refresh, detailing how the BBC uses accessibility thinking to design experiences that everyone can use.


Accessible Video Game Design

Ruthie Edwards, January 2019

Comprehensive guidelines that feature classic design principles combined with modern accessibility standards.


Demystifying CVAA

Ian Hamilton, January 2019

Guidance on CVAA legislation, including suggestions on feature implementation.


Accessible Player Experiences

AbleGamers, February 2019

22 design patterns aimed at enabling studios to think holistically about disability and the barriers that prevent some players from participating.


CIPT Accessibility Reference Guides

Can I Play That?, July 2019

A selection of guides covering a wide range of accessibility topics.


Xbox Accessibility Guidelines V1

Xbox, October 2019

A set of best practices that have been developed in partnership with industry experts and members of the gaming and disability community. They are intended for designers to generate ideas, for developers as guardrails when developing their game and as a checklist for validating the accessibility of their title.


IGDA-GASIG Posters V2

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, May 2020

A set of posters for use in studios centred around design challenges, backed up by gamer quotes, high level guidance, and data. Inspired by great work by the UK Home Office and Amazon, amongst others.


Designing Accessible VR

Oculus, November 2020

How to design your VR experiences with a goal of making their experiences accessible to people with disabilities.


Xbox Accessibility Guidelines V2

Xbox, February 2021

Major update with improved language, clear goals, improved overview, scoping questions, key areas to target, background and foundational info, and implementation examples.


IGDA-GASIG Top Ten V4

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, May 2021

Expanding upon the 2020 posters work to form a new questions-focussed list, covering ten areas of consideration that all make a significant difference to the experience of disabled players.


Quite a journey! I hope that this serves as a useful historical record in days to come. A record of just one small aspect of the decades long push for accessibility, and a bit of sense of how broad the swathe of people who have played a part in moving us forwards really is.  And with each passing day the number of people contributing only grows larger, helping to take the industry to an ever better place.

Thank you to Barrie Ellis of Oneswitch for his help putting this together!

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