Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Accessible Gaming: Know The Rules

Cloud - Final Fantasy 7 

This week as part of my series on accessible gaming, I’m looking into how the large games creators (EA, Activision etc.) are working to make their games more accessible to disabled gamers. Having just started out in the world of accessible gaming myself, I wanted to investigate.

Starting Out

 At the start of my research, I came across a set of guidelines on accessible gaming which had been specifically designed to enable games developers to adapt their games so that the reasonable adjustments were made for gamers with different abilities. These guidelines were introduced in 2012 and are available to view at: http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com. There is also a game called GameOver which is completely inaccessible to everyone in order to highlight the difficulties faced by those gamers who have additional needs. It is inaccessible to the point that there are now only screen shots of the game on the website! I think this game is making a brilliant point. In light of the disabled gaming guidelines, I thought it would be interesting to see which games, if any, follow them and how we can get commercial games to be more accessible to many more people.

What Do The Gaming Guidelines Say?

Outlined within the Gaming Accessibility Guidelines are a wide range of adaptations, from Basic to Advanced features of games that can be adapted to make them accessible to everyone. The Basic guidelines include putting accessibility features clearly on game packaging and/or the website, providing a wide range of difficulty levels within the game, and making sure that all of the settings are able to be saved or remembered as part of the game.

The Intermediate guidelines include allowing difficulty levels to be altered during the course of gameplay, including some disabled gamers within the participants who test the games, offering a means to ‘skip’ parts of the game that are not part of the core storyline or mechanics, including assist modes such as auto-aim or assisted steering, providing both manual save and auto save features within the premise of each game and allowing a preference to be set that could be used to play online multiplayer with/without others using accessibility features that could give a competitive advantage.

The Advanced accessibility gaming guidelines recommend including every disability demographic within the testing participants when producing and manufacturing the game, allowing gameplay to be fine-tuned to include as many variables as possible that can be altered either before, during or after gameplay; and allowing games to be saved to different user profiles of either game to any platform level within the game.

Accessible Commerical Games

The guidelines are extensive and very well thought out. Having found this, I then attempted to research a comprehensive list of all of the commercially available games that have followed these guidelines to the best of the creators’ abilities. Whilst I have been unable to find anything so far, I will continue my search, and of course, blog about it if I find anything. For now, I have found a website called game-accessibility.com which has a community forum that outlines ways in which to make games accessible, with ideas given by users of the site. This would be a good resource for anyone looking to get involved in the accessible gaming community. As mentioned above, GameOver is also a good educational resource.

Accessible Gaming Awards

And finally, my personal favourite – AbleGamers, (a website mentioned in my first blog in the series) actually has an award for the ‘AbleGamers Accessible Game of the Year.’ The results of the 2014 awards haven’t been published yet, so I presume they’re still working on allocating them! The winner of the mainstream gaming accessibility award for 2013 was Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The Final Fantasy game franchise is a series of computer games that are Role Playing Games (RPGs) with each game centering on a different storyline and set of main characters. It uses a lot of anime (Japanese cartoon images) along with computer generated graphics and other media. I myself am very excited about this as whilst I have not played Final Fantasy, I have played Kingdom Hearts, a similar game that uses elements of the Final Fantasy franchise, and found it to be completely accessible for me and very enjoyable. AbleGamers says of the accessibility of the latest FF game: ‘FFXIV covers almost every area of accessibility with high standards and practical application. The mobility area of the game was near perfect except for the inability to use only the mouse to play the game.’  AbleGamers also added that it was the mainstream game title that fulfilled the most requirements for gamers with disabilities.

What Can We Do?

Whilst I obviously feel a little disheartened that FFXIV was not able to be adapted for gameplay by using the mouse alone, I am very encouraged by what I have read and seen during my limited gameplay about its attempts to be disability accessible. I hope that within time, all commercial games are adapted to include every type of gamer, regardless of their impairment, and that we can work hard to make this happen, as the disability community and the gaming community working together. In the meantime, I’ve emailed the Gaming Accessibility Guidelines website – and I’m still looking for that ever-elusive but all-important commercial games accessibility list!

Links

GameOver: http://www.ics.forth.gr/hci/ua-games/index_main.php?l=e&c=563

Game Accessibility Forum on game-accessibility.com: http://www.game-accessibility.com/forum/index.php

Game Accessibility Guidelines Website: http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/full-list

AbleGamers.com Accessibility Awards: http://www.ablegamers.com/ablegamers-news/accessibility-awards-for-2013-including-mainstream-accessible-game-of-the-year

 

 

 

 

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