Feature: 'Designing Games That Are Accessible To Everyone'

In this Gamasutra feature, AudiOdyssey co-developer Eitan Glinert explains why usability and accessibility are vital for creating tomorrow's hits, focusing on de
Despite the numerous ways in which the video game industry has evolved to reach new and different audiences, designer Etian Glinert points out that games still have a ways to go before they're accessible to the disabled, such as those with visual impairments. And those that are, he continues, tend not to be enjoyable by the mainstream market also -- for example, a game designed for the visually impaired might not have graphical features necessary for playability by others. Glinert says that not only is it possible to design for both groups, it's practical. He lays the ground work: "While there are several important aspects to making such games, I believe that most of the critical groundwork can be summed up in three points: 1. Extract meaningful affordances around the genre you are dealing with, and make sure they match the audience 2. Design simple control schemes that make sense for the game 3. Test the game with all groups that the game is designed for, including mainstream and disabled gamers" Glinert then explains in depth each of the points -- for example, genre affordances are the aspects of genres that people automatically assume when they pick up a game of that type -- for example, players assume when they pick up a modern FPS game that they will have different types of weaponry, the ability to kill other players, and a multiplayer element. Glinert describes an example from his own experience: "This past summer, a team of students and I created AudiOdyssey, a prototype game designed to be accessible to both the sighted and blind, at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. In the early planning stages of development we wanted to pick a genre that had appropriate affordances, and ultimately chose to make a music/rhythm game, as the focus would be on the audio component. At the same time, we created engaging graphical elements to avoid alienating sighted users; the difference being that as opposed to normal games, none of the crucial game mechanics are dependant on visuals. We then spent more resources on how the game sounded than how it looked, granting both groups a similar audio-heavy experience." You can now read the full feature, with more core concepts and detailed examples of how designers can make a game that is truly accessible by anyone and everyone (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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