For today's Gamasutra feature
, we present 'Making Video Games Accessible: Business Justifications and Design Considerations,' originally given as a lecture at Microsoft's 2006 Gamefest business conference, which addresses questions such as: Do you make games with everyone in mind? How about the visually impaired? The elderly? The immobile?
Brannon Zahand, lead software development engineer in test at the Xbox Game Development Group, addresses the key issues of accessibility, from all aspects of development. From his intro:
"Game publishers and developers love to focus on features that will get their titles noticed by the mainstream gaming community, such as graphics and audio. But there is another audience, eager to take part in these games as well. These gamers come from the accessibility community—a community of people with disabilities, as well as those who care about their welfare.
This paper is for game content developers and producers who want to reach this market by adding basic accessibility features to help people with disabilities or impairments.
Often, when people think of accessibility, they think of things like wheelchair ramps and closed captioning on television. This is because these sorts of accessibility features stand out and are used by those with obvious disabilities. However, accessibility features aren't designed just for those with the most severe disabilities. Among US computer users who range from 18 to 64 years old, 57% (74.2 million) are likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology due to disabilities and impairments that may impact computer use. ("The Market for Accessible Technology: The Wide Range of Abilities and Its Impact on Computer Use," Microsoft Corporation) Being able to turn up a payphone's volume allows people with mild hearing loss to use them. A hand rail on a flight of stairs allows a mobility-impaired person to climb them more easily.
Sometimes, regular features of a product end up being features that can help people with impairments. For instance, someone with a visual impairment can use the contrast settings on a television to make the screen easier to see. A person with Parkinson's disease can use one touch dialing to make it easier to make a telephone call.
In the context of video games, adding accessibility means making a title usable to someone with one of these [five, including vision, hearing, speech, mobility, and cognitive] disabilities."
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the topic
, including more on the state of accessibility in the industry and a breakdown of the challenges in addressing those five disabilities (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).