Designing for Accessibility

John returns at last following the birth of his second child!

Upon getting back down to business this week, we started in on a topic we should have covered much sooner: accessibility in game design. I’ve always thought it was odd, some of the political baggage that gets heaped on this topic. If you design or develop video games, you should have a natural appreciation for the people who seek out and enjoy your work, and you probably have a genuine interest in helping them overcome anything that might stand in the way. 

I think maybe what keeps us from doing our best work in this area is a sense of being overwhelmed at the thought of designing for any potential impairment from which a player may suffer. This is probably fair, considering how easy it is to overlook whole categories of impairments: personally I’d hardly considered categories like temporary injuries or environmental impairments preventing a player from calling upon their complete faculties while playing. Maybe it’s too bright in front of their screen. Maybe there’s too much noise in the room. I’m sure I’m not helping to convince you you can cover everything.

Luckily in researching for this episode, I quickly came across an invaluable resource at Game Accessibility Guidelines. This is an in-depth guide to considerations that can keep your project from including crucial and totally unnecessary mistakes that might mean the difference between joy and disappointment for your players. While the entries range from “basically effortless” to “how would I even,” I was floored by the simplicity of some of the recommendations that would no-doubt provide invaluable access to players with disabilities.

John and I definitely marveled at the site for a while and discussed how best to leverage the compiled wisdom for use in your projects, but I really want to emphasize the importance of staying available to your players, before and after launch. Save some resources and energy; people will come to you with simple requests for features and design elements you won’t believe you didn’t think of, and your willingness to help will make all the difference in the world. This is how you will learn, and this is how you will build a bond with the people who appreciate your art. We spend so much time talking about the limitations and shortcomings of video games as a medium, but what other kind of artist gets the opportunity to reach in and gently reshape their work to make a positive impact in someone’s life?

So consider this a call and a primer for common sense accessibility. Listen to us stumble around and go learn from those who know the material so much better than we do. I believe that simply taking some time to internalize this need and familiarize yourself with the design concepts will forever change your approach in perhaps a small but infinitely meaningful way.

And as always, reach out, subscribe to come along for the ride, consider leaving a kind rating to help us grow, but most of all let us know what you think and what you want to hear about. We’ll always joke around like crabby old men protecting our lawns, but we couldn’t be having more fun putting the show together for you creators. We’re not making a dime. We’d like to, but for right now it’s all about community, and it’s a pleasure to be part of a community we enjoy so much.

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