IGDA GA-SIG track at ArtsIT conference!

Hi all,

I’m very happy to announce that we will have a Special IGDA GA-SIG track in collaboration with IFIP at the ArtsIT conference in Greece!

See the call for papers here

It has not yet been published on the conference website but should pop-up in the next few days on http://artsit.org/2017/show/cf-papers

Best,

Thomas

co-chair, IGDA GA-SIG

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GDC 2017 Roundtable Notes

Hello all!

Below are the notes from the 2017 GASIG GDC round table. In line with the general feel of GDC this year there was an uptick both in attendance and in the level of AAA representation. Record attendance, lots of both old and new faces, some keen to get involved with actions, others just along to learn a bit more about the SIG or the topic.

Kicked off with a quick update on some of the general industry advances of the past year

– Continued implementation of accessibility functionality on consoles
– Valve adding remapping to Steam, and open sourcing their VR lighthouse tech
– Unity working on a new input model, including engine level cross device analogue <-> digital remapping
– iOS10 launch included a game specific update for a hold at point recipe, making iOS games such as Badlands, Alto’s Adventure and and Jetpack Joyride instantly compatible with accessibility switches
– Unprecedented levels of discussion of accessibility failings and opportunities in Pokemon Go, from gamers, developers, even advocacy groups who do not usually have much involvement with accessibility, such as Abilitynet and the American Foundation for the Blind.
– Accessibility in VR, still fairly nascent but plenty of developers implementing nice solutions and discussing issues, big step on from when motion or touchscreens were at this stage of development
– Many nice examples of individual games, but in particular Uncharted 4, which has sent significant ripples throughout the industry
– Microsoft Gaming for Everyone initiative launched, which explicitly includes accessibility for gamers with disabilities
– High level backing from Microsoft and Sony, with significant public accessibility commitments from Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, and Shawn Layden, head of Sony Worldwide Studios
– CVAA given another waiver until Jan 2018, although this time with fairly stringent reporting requirements.

Next a status update on the various SIG actions and initiatives

COMPLETED

– Advocate for greater accessibility at Moscone. Taken as far as it could go, GAconf used as a solution.
– Pre-GDC summit. GAconf held on the Monday of GDC week, great reception from attendees.
– Accessibility information for console developers. Content produced, now just needs to be uploaded to the SIG site and circulated to relevant contacts.
– Broaden Global Game Jam accessibility challenge. Organisers not keen on a separate event so fully integrated it with Global Game Jam instead, resulting in 6 accessibility diversifiers in the 2016 event taken up in the region of 3000 times, probably reaching something in the region of 10,000 developers.

IN PROGRESS

– Educate tool and engine developers about accessibility. Initial work done and contacts at a number of engines interested in the information, now need to collate into a document with examples and circulate.
– Research and produce bolt on curriculum material in higher education courses. Initial framework produced and presented, now looking for volunteers to help flesh it out.
– SIG website update. In process of being migrated to IGDA hosting, after that need UX work (personas, content auditing, journeys), retheming with an accessible responsive theme, and content production to fill any gaps that might be identified.
– Support for disabled developers. Gabby Taylor looking into the possibility of a separate group, supported initially by the accessibility SIG.
– Microsoft scholarship. Microsoft Gaming for Everyone offering a scholarship to a developer who identifies as having a disability. It is being administered by the SIG, so need volunteers to help review applications.

ONGOING

– Advocate for improved switch accessibility on mobile devices. This has seen great success so far, but there is always more to be done.
– Present at research conferences. Two academic papers presented on SIG activities, and workshop held at ICEC 2016 in September. Dedicated accessibility track at a European academic conference is currently work in progress.
– Speak on accessibility at gamedev classes and conferences. GDC, CSUN (both of which had record numbers of game accessibility talks in 2016), PAX, Nordic Game, Epic UX summit, and Playstation Experience and many others had member talks. GASIG invited to the Microsoft Ability Summit for a panel. Member (Siobhan) iniative “The Enable Gaming Project” won best educational initiative at the TIGA awards.
– Accessibility criteria in game funding programmes. Another national funding body is now interested in adding accessibility criteria, using Film Victoria as a case study.
– Accessibility in industry awards. TIGA award reestablished, AGDA accessibility award now in its 4th year.
– Accessibility how-to posts and articles on sites like Gamasutra. A number of member articles, and the SIG now has its own dedicated gamasutra account.

We were due to have Thomas and Jerome do a remote presentation on the educational framework next, but the internet was not being our friend! There is however a powerpoint presentation about the framework available. Instead we moved on to open discussion, starting off with the general state of the industry and then moving on to more specific ideas on new actions/initatives :

– Website content on how to source people for playtests and user research
– Greater efforts to shine lights on successes, such as posters at GAconf or some website mechanism
– A mechanism for gathering feedback across games and making it available to developers, along similar lines to EA’s existing internal efforts.

Unfortunately a decent chunk of the attendees had already left by the time we remembered about the group photo, but here’s what we did manage to capture:

If you would like to stay plugged in with the group and its activities, join the mailing list. If you are interested in getting involved, take a look at the above in progress / ongoing / new activities above, and see if there is anything that you would like to help out with. If so, just drop an email over to the mailing list.

Please consider Chad (chad [at] anacronist.com), Ian (i_h [at] hotmail.com), and Thomas (thomas [at] westin.nu) as resources if you have any questions and/or comments.

 

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Completed actions in 2016

We have made progress on several actions, some are now complete, some ongoing while others remain to do. Here is a compilation of all current actions and the status of each.

Advocate for greater accessibility at GDC/Moscone

Status: complete

Discussions had, not achievable due to the increased scope of the advocacy track, meaning that sessions cannot be scheduled close to each other, either in time or location. Instead, the feedback will be rolled into #GAConf plans, with all sessions taking place on a single day in a single room.

Educate tool and engine developers about accessibility support

Status: in progress

Further discussions had with key people at several engines. Two are now 100% interested in receiving materials, another is potentially interested. Now need to adapt Chad’s initial auditing work into report format and circulate, including examples either of other tools that already implement features, or games implement the desired end result. This is a key effort to lower the threshold for developers, and something we should put more focus into.

Research and produce bolt-on curriculum material for higher education courses

Status: In progress

Our efforts to research and produce bolt on curriculum material for higher education courses continues. A milestone was achieved with a curriculum framework in two peer-reviewed research papers. Now open educational resources need to be co-created and shared to ease the process for educators, as well as for auto-didacts. A piece of work to collate existing resources (tutorials, talks, articles) could be valuable.

SIG website update

Status: In progress

Now unblocked, Chad is currently working on migration of the current site over to the main IGDA servers. Once migration has been completed, restructuring and retheming work can commence. Restructuring will be a UX project, retheming will involve adapting an off-the-shelf responsive theme to be in line with WCAG2:AA.

Push for accessibility information in storefronts such as Steam

Status: In progress

Itch.io have now provided the SIG with full press logins, so auditing work can commence as soon as enough people have enough time available. Goal is to compare accuracy of the developer-submitted information across different categories, and propose any changes that might be helpful for improving accuracy, building towards a best-practice case study that other storefronts can learn from.

Advocate for improved switch accessibility on mobile devices

Status: ongoing

Previously complete, but reopened. Advocating for further improvements across platforms, such as the hold at point functionality that was introduced in iOS10 in September, making huge numbers of on button games compatible with accessibility switches overnight/

Present at research conferences

Status: ongoing

Two papers presented on SIG activities, and workshop held at ICEC2016 in September.

Research about game accessibility is also going forward in general. A search in Google Scholar on ”game accessibility” (exact phrase) during 2016 shows 74 results (excluding patents and quotes). A caveat is that this search also includes books and some articles may not be peer-reviewed. https://goo.gl/C09cqL

Speak on accessibility and silver games in game developer classes and conferences

Status: ongoing

Members speaking at a wide range of conferences, including GDC, CSUN (both of which had record numbers of game accessibility talks in 2016), PAX, Nordic Game, Epic UX summit, and Playstation Experience. GASIG invited to Microsoft Ability Summit for a panel. Ongoing educational content and guest lectures, including Siobahn’s Enable Gamers programme receiving industry recognition at the TIGA awards. Tara also doing great things through Evolve’s twitch channel.

Broaden Global Game Jam accessibility challenge

Status: Complete

Organisers not keen on having a separate challenge, so has now instead been fully integrated into the ongoing mainstream diversifiers process. Global Game Jam now has an executive producer who is a strong accessibility advocate (Giselle Rosman), as a result GGJ 2016 had a record number of accessibility diversifiers, taken up by many thousands of developers.

Accessibility criteria in game funding programmes

Status: Ongoing

Dialogue opened with a national industry body who are interested in implementing accessibility into an upcoming government investment programme, using Film Victoria/Screen Australia/Creative Europe as case studies

Festivals and awards: advocate for accessibility categories

Status: In progress

TIGA award re-established as part of broader diversity efforts, Australian Game Developer awards running their accessibility category for the 4th year

Pre-GDC summit

Status: In progress

Event announced, sponsors in place, most speakers confirmed, venue booked. www.gaconf.com

Support for disabled developers

Status: In progress

Looking into possibilities of supporting the initial stages of a new group, with some initial activity at GDC17

Accessibility how-to blog posts and articles on sites like Gamasutra

Status: Ongoing

A number published by members over the year, IGDA-GASIG gamasutra account now active for cross-posting of articles from the SIG website

 

Full action list available at
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vvDqoJkpcTiDZ3iyJpEk3eiQO1L62Ffd5DV1cxZo4Ns/edit#gid=0

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Accessibility highlights of 2016

[Update: this has been reposted on Gamasutra]

2016 has been a hugely significant year for accessibility in game development. The following is a compilation of articles, news stories and advances from throughout the year. Many are news stories shared on the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG’s mailing list, but there are also others included from other sources.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give a sense of the ever increasing pace at which accessibility in the games industry is advancing.

January

Global Game Jam, which had several optional accessibility challenges, taken up by thousands of developers: http://globalgamejam.org/news/ggj16-diversifiers-are

Rocket League and MLB: The Show win AbleGamers game of the year awards
https://web.archive.org/web/20160502003424/http://www.ablegamers.com/announcing-the-ablegamers-2015-accessible-game-of-the-year/

February

Gamecritics.com now includes info on controller options and whether the game relies on colour, in addition to audio access:
www.gamecritics.com/brad-gallaway/gamecritics-reviews-enhanced-information-on-accessibility

A demo walking through how blind gamer SightlessKombat plays Killer Instinct using audio cues and stereo separation alone, and some discussion of how community effort led to some blind-accessibility features making their way into the game:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THbVXGulDUE

AbleGamers interview with another blind Killer Instinct player, Xavier Quintero:
 http://www.unstoppablegamer.com/killer-instinct-and-accessibility-interview-with-xavier-quintero/

Heroes Of The Storm win D.A.G.E.R.S. diamond award:
http://dagersystem.com/2015-diamond-award-winner/

SpecialEffect’s new games room facility opened by a cross-party parliamentary delegation, including the UK Prime Minister
http://www.specialeffect.org.uk/specialeffect-news/david-cameron-officially-opens-our-games-room

March

Record number of accessibility talks at At GDC 2016:
https://www.reddit.com/r/disabledgamers/comments/432m11/gdc_2016_conference/

Chad Johnson managed the GASIG roundtable at GDC:
https://igda-gasig.org/2016/04/19/ga-sig-roundtable-meeting-notes-gdc-16/

Record number of game accessibility sessions at CSUN 2016:
https://www.reddit.com/r/disabledgamers/comments/42qsp1/csun_2016_conference/

Article on VR accessibility by Katie Goode:
http://www.triangularpixels.net/cms/development/vr-games-for-all-designing-unseen-diplomacy-for-disabled-users/

April

Sony employee builds a custom PS4 controller for a gamer with cerebral palsy:
http://www.engadget.com/2016/04/04/ps4-controller-for-cerebral-palsy-gamer/

IGDA-GASIG panel at Microsoft’s Ability Summit.

Unity announce development of new input model, which should include engine-level remapping functionality:
https://blogs.unity3d.com/2016/04/12/developing-the-new-input-system-together-with-you/

GDC sessions up on GDC vault, with most of the accessibility ones freely available without subscription. Great selection of topics and record attendance too, average of around 120 people per session:
http://ian-hamilton.com/gdc16s-accessibility-sessions/

UKIE Student Game Jam, which had accessibility advice and an accessibility award:
http://ukie.org.uk/content/brunel-university-announced-winners-2016-ukie-student-game-jam

One Click Jam, one button themed game jam held in various physical venues around South America:
http://www.oneclickjam.org/es

May

Overwatch and Uncharted 4 released, two of the biggest games of the year and both with a range of accessibility considerations, such as Overwatch’s sound design and per-class remapping, and Uncharted 4’s wide range of motor accessibility features:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls_CD4mB42s

One-handed Mode for Google Keyboard: http://thenextweb.com/apps/2016/05/03/googles-stock-keyboard-now-one-handed-mode/#gref”

24 hours of free online accessibility talks for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, including three on accessibility in gaming:
http://www.inclusivedesign24.org

Microsoft announce their ‘gaming for everyone’ initiative at E3, which includes commitments to accessibility:
http://news.microsoft.com/gamingforeveryone/

Accessibility interview with the developers of EVE online, including a request for public accessibility input:
https://www.themittani.com/columns/access-granted-accessibility-ui-interview-ccp-surge-part-1
https://www.themittani.com/columns/access-granted-accessibility-ui-interview-ccp-surge-part-2

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox congratulates Naughty Dog on their accessibility efforts in PlayStation exclusive Uncharted 4:
https://twitter.com/XboxP3/status/733701149916680192

June

Ian Hamilton’s Gamasutra blog post on highlights from the previous month:
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/IanHamilton/20160620/275289/An_exciting_month_in_accessibility.php

Phil Spencer at Microsoft says: “We believe gaming should be fun for everyone”
http://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2016/06/13/gaming-for-everyone/#sm.0008b6cvy1a1ndkdy092b7jnzhwsr

Madden 17’s accessibility featureset for impaired vision announced:
https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/news/2016/madden-17-accessibility

Karen Stevens of the Madden 17 team sets up twitter account and email address for public accessibility feedback across all EA games:
https://twitter.com/ea_accessible/status/741696820196343808

Final Fantasy XV wait mode announced:
https://twitter.com/FFXVEN/status/742846836386332672

AJ Ryan chosen as first recipient of AbleGamers Fellowship
http://www.trionworlds.com/en/news/2016/06/introducing-the-winner-of-the-ablegamers-fellowship-2016-alex-james-ryan/

The Great Steampunk Game Jam, which had accessibility advice and an accessibility award:
http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/great-steampunk-game-jam/

Cliff Bleszinski shares veteran encounter story:
https://twitter.com/therealcliffyb/status/744232111079571456

July

Surviving and thriving as a game developer with chronic illness:
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/277037/Surviving_and_thriving_as_a_game_developer_with_chronic_illness.php

Xbox confirm wheelchair avatars are in development:
http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/5/12095890/microsoft-wheelchair-xbox-avatars

Launch of Pokemon Go, inspiring a huge amount of accessibility discussion not only amongst gamers but also disability organisation that had not previously taken an interest in gaming, for example:
http://www.afb.org/slide/pokemon-go-accessibility
https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/pok%C3%A9mon-go-are-incense-and-street-view-key-more-inclusivity-disabled-people

Article on VR accessibility by Brian Van Buren:
http://www.vrinflux.com/vr-accessibility-why-changing-head-height-matters/

7128 top sites awards:
http://www.7128.com/top25/topsiteslists.html

First iteration of a Game Accessibility Curriculum Framework was presented and published at ICCHP 2016, Linz, Austria
http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-41264-1_68

August

Demonstration of Pokemon Go running with a single accessibility switch:
https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/05/teclas-tech-makes-pokemon-go-more-accessible-for-wheelchair-users/

One Button Jam, nearly 160 entries:
https://itch.io/jam/one-button-to-rule-all-jam#entries

Audiogame Jam, the best of which were showcased at Techshare:
http://jams.gamejolt.io/AGJam

Valve announce royalty free licencing for the lighthouse technology used in the HTC vive, opening up a path to accessible alternative controllers:
http://www.roadtovr.com/valve-third-party-lighthouse-api-steamvr-tracking-htc-vive-dev-kit-license-royalty/

Twitch partnership with Ablegamers, including a week of disabled streamers featuring on the Twitch homepage and a trial of new live captioning functionality:
http://kotaku.com/twitch-will-highlight-disabled-gamers-this-week-1785591255

Launch of Hue, which gained large amounts of media coverage of its colorblind support, simply through mentioning it in the game’s presskit:
http://blog.us.playstation.com/2016/08/03/vibrant-puzzler-hue-coming-soon-to-ps4-ps-vita/

Household Games hires Clint ‘halfcoordinated’ Lexa as an accessibility specialist
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/279775/Household_Games_hires_speedrunner_as_accessibility_advocate.php

September

Apple add ‘hold at point’ functionality to switch recipes, making a huge range of iOS games compatible with accessibility switches:
http://switchgaming.blogspot.com.es/2016/09/ios-10-hold-at-point-aka-momentary.html

Microsoft publish high level guidance on game accessibility:
https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/gaming/accessibility-for-games

IGDA-GASIG Game Accessibility Conference Feb 27th 2017 announced!
http://www.gaconf.com/ 

Seattle VR Hackathon, which had accessibility specialists present and an accessibility mentor:
http://vrhackathon.com/seattle.html

WAG workshop on game accessibility:
http://cedric.cnam.fr/~dupirej/IFIP-WG14.9/WAG.html

Warlock of Firetop Mountain launch, a text heavy game with a rarely seen number of reading accessibility features – wide range of text sizes, choice of font, and configurable line spacing
https://twitter.com/ianhamilton_/status/803185284758310914

Bosskey publish game accessibility survey to inform future development:
https://twitter.com/therealcliffyb/status/780429207717474304

Talk by Tom Lorusso of Microsoft on research carried out with deaf/hard of hearing gamers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0_3G-YSWRo

Second iteration of the Game Accessibility Curriculum Framework was presented and published at ICEC 2016, Vienna, Austria.
http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-46100-7_20

October

PSVR launch, with nearly all launch games offering a choice between motion input and controller input.

XX Jam, which had accessibility advice:
https://grrrlgames.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/announcing-the-xx-games-jam/

November

Nice talk from Brian Van Buren about VR accessibility:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=how99N0Pvj8

Ian Hamilton’s Gamasutra blog post also about VR accessibility:
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/IanHamilton/20161031/284491/VR__accessibility.php

And a great panel dedicated to accessibility from VRDC:
http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023932/For-Every-Gamer-Making-VR

AbleGamers aquires Get Well Gamers Foundation:
http://www.ablegamers.com/get-well-gamers/

Tangent wins the accessibility category of the Australian Game Developer awards:
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2016/11/here-are-the-winners-of-the-2016-australian-game-developers-awards/

Final Fantasy 15 includes accessibility section in game manual:
https://mobile.twitter.com/cherryrae/status/804166787415744513

Karen Stevens shares preview of EA internal accessibility reporting website:
https://mobile.twitter.com/ea_accessible/status/799049997262196736

Sony host a livestreamed accessibility panel at PlayStation Experience, including strong commitments to accessibility from Shawn Layden, head of Sony Worldwide Studios:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gslH30CTao

LSBU’s Enable Gaming accessibility education wins TIGA award
http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/about-us/news/winners-tiga-awards

December

Full CSUN lineup announced, including a record breaking eight accessibility talks:
https://www.reddit.com/r/disabledgamers/comments/5ktf7b/game_accessibility_at_csun/

Steam announce full remapping support for PS4 controllers:
http://www.unstoppablegamer.com/valve-supports-for-ps4-controller-opens-steam-to-more-accessibility/

Accessibility game jam in Poland:
http://rudydziobak.com/accessibility-game-jam-part-1/

Japan/Netherlands accessibility game jam:
https://twitter.com/gerritsen_marc/status/808650854655893504

Failbetter publish game accessibility survey to inform future development:
https://twitter.com/failbettergames/status/809384907583684609

FCC grant games software a further one year waiver from CVAA regulation:
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db1223/DA-16-1449A1.pdf

Ian Hamilton’s favourite quotes from the year:
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/IanHamilton/20161230/288519/

Research about game accessibility is also going forward in general. A search in Google Scholar on ”game accessibility” (exact phrase) during 2016 shows 74 results (excluding patents and quotes). A caveat is that this search also includes books and some articles may not be peer-reviewed.
https://goo.gl/C09cqL

Again the above post isn’t an exhaustive list, but even what’s here clearly shows a very exciting time for game accessibility, and 2017 is already shaping up to be even greater again.

/Thomas Westin (co-chair), and Ian Hamilton (member), IGDA GA-SIG

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GA Workshop

Please consider joining this academic workshop about game accessibilty.

http://cedric.cnam.fr/~dupirej/IFIP-WG14.9/WAG.html

Best regards,

Thomas W.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day

24 hours of free online accessibility talks for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, including three on accessibility in gaming:

http://www.inclusivedesign24.org/

(Thanks Ian)

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GA-SIG Roundtable Meeting Notes (GDC-16)

As promised, here are Game Accessibility resources and meeting notes from our roundtable discussion at GDC 2016. Please note: It is a slightly updated version of the list posted on our mail list a few days ago, and edited for better readability.

If you would like to stay plugged in with the group and its activities, join the mailing list. If you are interested in getting involved, take a look at the GA-SIG Action Plan and see if there is anything that you would like to work on. Please consider myself (chad [at] anacronist.com), Ian (i_h [at] hotmail.com), and Thomas (thomasw [at] westin.nu) as resources if you have any questions and/or comments.

Resources

IGDA Game Accessibility SIG

Other (just a few of them!)

News

Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

Legislation passed in 2010. It was originally intended for full compliance to be achieved by October 2013 (consumers would be able to start filing complaints after this date). A new waiver for game software only was granted until January 2017. The video games industry originally requested an extension until 2021, but was only granted a waiver until October 2015.

CVAA’s captioning requirements are for broadcast video only: they do not include video in the games. The FCC does not regulate captioning of home videos, DVDs or video games; DVDs have captions most of the time because TV shows, movies, etc. must contain captions in order to be broadcast (to be in compliance).

Any device that offers Advanced Communication Services (ACS) must make those communication services available to people with disabilities unless it is not “achievable” to do so. The CVAA defines ACS as:

  1. interconnected VoIP service
  2. non-interconnected VoIP service (does not require connection to the public switch telephone network); for example TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service)
  3. electronic messaging service (including text messaging, instant messaging, email and two-way interactive messaging through a social networking site)
  4. interoperable video conferencing service.

Three categories exist in the CVAA for video games: (I) game consoles, (II) game distribution and game play networks, and (III) game software. Products released before the expiration of the waiver are exempted (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, etc. are technically exempted). Businesses and organizations with less than 30 employees are exempted.

At the FCC’s discretion, requirements can be waived for equipment and services that are capable of accessing Advanced Comminication Services, but are designed primarily for purposes other than using ACS.

Consoles, software and online distribution services that offer broadcast video, such as television shows or movies, must provide users with a set of options so they can manipulate how subtitles are displayed. For example, YouTube, Netflix, iOS, Android, etc. currently offer full control over text size, font, and letterboxing when viewing online videos.

Accessibility features on consoles

Xbox One

  • screenreader
  • magnifier (also in-game)
  • closed caption presentation (with API)
  • high contrast
  • limited button remapping (at the system level)

Playstation 4:

  • limited screenreader
  • magnifier (also in-game)
  • closed caption presentation
  • high contrast
  • bold text, large text, text speed
  • limited button remapping (at the system level).

Nintendo Wii U and 3DS:

  • Nothing as of yet – probably won’t appear until the next round of consoles are released.

Steam:

  • Nothing as of yet – this potentially puts the company out of compliance with the CVAA, but it may depend on how the exemption for preexisting devices and services is interpreted (for example, what constitutes a major update to the service?)

Publisher-level accessibility evaluations at SCEE and BBC

The game user research team at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has started to offer accessibility evaluations as an internal service. Offers expert game review, player-behavior observation testing, diary studies, and general analytics. 2. This internal tool consists of two parts:

  1. A spreadsheet with a straightforward list of possible accessibility considerations, with additional columns to indicate whether each is relevant to a gameplay mechanic, how feasible it is, and recommendations for implementation
  2. Detailed support document with precise specifications for platform-level certification of accessibility features

This is currently an optional internal service at Sony Europe, but it will eventually be shared with the wider business and game user research community. The BBC produced a similar list/procedure this year for use across its first and third party games

  1. The BBC is publicly funded so has a strong accessibility culture, meaning their list is a set of requirements and is not an optional service
  2. Requires its games to comply with as much of the list/procedure as is reasonably possible

Continued increase in accessibility implementation in the industry

Big increases in developer considerations, in particular for accommodating epileptic and colorblind gamers. There was a strong social media reaction to the lack of colorblind friendliness in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and The Witness; this is compared to only two years ago where games such as Sim City and Borderlands 2 considering colorblindness was unusual enough that it received significant press coverage.

Two AAA console games intentionally patching in accessibility for completely blind gamers

  • Mortal Kombat X added optional extra sound cues for background objects and power meters
  • Killer Instinct received a patch to add a HUD UI slider and additional sounds for moves that didn’t yet have unique sounds

Other accessibility considerations outside of developing features

  • Turtle Rock Studios published an accessibility statement for its game Evolve, which details what considerations have already been made; the company also made a public commitment to further work in this area
  • The Witcher 3 received many accessibility patches by its developer CDProjektRed in the weeks following its launch; the developers prioritized accessibility features in a critical fix; this included full controller remapping, colorblind mode, and improving the size and contrast of text
  • Harmonix was actively soliciting for accessibility suggestions on their forums during development of Rock Band 4; this has resulted in more than 18 pages of suggestions from players

Awards

  • Rocket League and MLB: The Show 15 winning AbleGamers awards
  • Heroes of the Storm winning DAGERS award
  • Ryan North’s To Be or Not to Be winning the accessibility category at the Australian Game Developer Awards

Work of accessibility advocacy organizations

Accessibility charity foundations have seen increases in their donations which has allowed them to ramp up their outreach work.

Special Effect recently opened a Games Room in Oxfordshire along with the Prime Minister, other members of government, and industry professional. The Games Room helps people with disabilities benefit from the fun and inclusion of video games and other forms of leisure technology

AbleGamers launched AbleGamers Expansion Packs which are bundles of assistive technology to be installed in various locations that serve people with disabilities, such as group homes, special needs daycare facilities and long-term living centers. Also launched the AbleGamers fellowship, aimed at improving diversity through scholarship funding and mentorship for disabled students.

GA-SIG Action Items

This is a follow-up what has been done since GDC 2015 where most of this action list was defined.

Accessibility of sessions at GDC

  • Not much in the way of improvements over previous years. There are still significant distances to travel between accessibility talks—it was requested that these sessions be grouped together to make it easier for attendees to get from one to another
  • Some grouping coincidentally occurred in the West Hall, but the advocacy track expanded significantly making scheduling requests like this unrealistic to accommodate (sometimes six advocacy sessions were occurring at the same time)

Educating Tool and Engine Developers about Accessibility support

  • Traditionally engines have been a sizeable barrier for accessibility. Unity now allows full controller remapping at the system level; Unreal includes a colorblindness simulator; both have built-in captioning
  • A well-established engine developer has shown some interest in the GA SIG’s list of possible improvements that tools and engines can make for game accessibility
  • A significant future step to advocate for is fixing of screen readers in games for blind gamers; multiple technology layers (OS + middleware + game engine, etc.) are currently hindering adoption of screen readers, preventing developers who want to develop blind accessible games from being able to do so

Educational Material in Higher Education

There are a number of people collaborating between the IGDA Education SIG and Game Accessibility SIG on a Game Accessibility education framework. Contact Thomas Westin for more information

IGDA GA-SIG Website

  • Hosting moved to the IGDA web servers
  • Need to update the theme and general structure of the websit and move the content

Accessibility Information in Storefronts (such as Steam)

  • Some small developments with Steam: now filters games that have captions
  • Nothing for colorblindness, button remapping, etc
  • Itch.io offers these types of filters
  • Evaluation of how Itch.io works and filters its games would be very valuable, if anyone is interested in working on this

Advocating for fixed-point mode for Switch users on iOS

  • Switch accessibility means allowing access to custom controllers based on one or two simple on/off controls; for example, a sip/puff tube, headrest button, blink detector, etc.
  • iOS and Android (to a lesser extent) offer built-in support for switch accessibility when using native interface elements
  • iOS has a workaround for apps that aren’t developed natively (i.e. most games): the game scans the screen and the player interacts when the desired coordinates appear
  • There are thousands of one button mobile games that should in theory be switch-compatible, but the fixed point mode doesn’t work with them, as it is incompatible with games that require any kind of timing
  • Barrie Ellis of One Switch / Special Effect created a video with wide backing from the game accessibility community about what works about it and what doesn’t; Apple have since implemented an additional mode (switch recipes) that allows repeated presses on a single point, removing the incompatibility issue from all of those thousands of games overnight

Presenting at Conferences

  • Over 20 talks by members on a wide range of topics at a wide range of different conferences, both industry and academic
  • Five accessibility talks at GDC with record attendance (three years ago, average attendance was about 30, in 2016 average attendance was about 130)
  • Six gaming sessions at CSUN (cross industry accessibility conference—a lot of web and apps

Expanding Accessibility at Global Game Jam

  • Global Game Jam (GGJ) and other game jams have proven to be powerful awareness raisers for Game Accessibility
  • GGJ hired accessibility advocate Giselle Rosman as an executive producer to oversee the organization of the 2016 event
  • Six optional game development themes related to game accessibility (e.g. one handed controls, no visuals)
  • Thousands of developers took up one or more of those six optional game development themes
  • AbleGamers planning to offer a 24 hour hotline operational during GGJ 2017 to offering game accessibility support and advice

Film Victoria Refresh

  • Film Victoria is a government funding body in Australia for game development and provides accessibility criteria to developers to help determine how to allocate funding This was out of date due to advancements in technology, but was recently made current
  • In the three years the Film Victoria funding has been available, there has never been a single developer to fail to fill out the optional accessibility questions
  • The Melbourne game development community in general is really knowledgeable of game accessibility, largely as as result of Film Victoria
  • It is important to increase engagement with funding bodies so that game accessibility is a consideration for funding allocations
  • Creative Europe, an EU-wide funding body, now has similar accessibility criteria and used Film Victoria as a case study

Accessibility Awards

  • Further push for embedding accessibility awards within general industry awards
  • TIGA awards in the UK accessibility award was replaced this year by a diversity award; looking to bring it back in 2016
  • Australian Game Developer awards through Giselle Rosman has been offering an accessibility award for the last three years

Coordinating Blog Posts

  • Ian’s post at Gamasutra about best practices for subtitles in games; see article here
  • In general, anyone who writes an accessibility-related article or blog post should ensure that it is reposted to sites such as Gamasutra for higher visibility

New Action Items

Accessibility at GDC 2016 (and what to do for GDC 2017)

There was a big line up for press people to use the wheel chair lift; the press area was located upstairs and the Moscone Center was working on its elevators so these areas could not be reached by people that could not use the stairs

The session Audio Driven Gameplay was essentially about blind accessibility in games but was on the Audio Track and not the Advocacy track. It was intentionally put on the Audio Track because it was expected that it would have broader appeal; however, this limited the number of people that could attend (because advocacy sessions are open to all types of passes)

Accessibility Summit at GDC 2017

  • Would be similar to 2005’s GA-SIG GDC event: Selection of talks/activities/mini-expo (for potentially half a day) to allow control over accessibility of venue, distance between sessions, and a greater number and variety of sessions than the regular GDC Advocacy Track can support on its own
  • Invite people from ALT.CTRL.GDC that have created gaming hardware that lends itself to game accessibility; presenting these devices within an accessibility context will drastically change how they are interpreted (a lot of people just look at these devices like they are these fun, goofy inventions)
  • Invite hardware manufacturers that produce accessibility devices to present, such as Gimp Gear
  • Don’t schedule summit in a way that will conflict in any way with the Game User Research (GUR) Summit as there is potential crossover between the audiences of both summits. GUR summit tends to shift between Monday and Tuesday

General discussion

Storytelling: include diverse character roles that account for accessibility representation

  • Some gamers would not like to choose to play as a disabled gamer in a game, because they play games for escapism
  • Other gamers have strongly identified with characters that have minor or major impairments
  • A German indie game called The Unstoppables has four different characters with different accessibility obstacles; it is a puzzle game where characters must combine their abilities to progress through a level

 

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