Game Accessibility Arcade to be Presented at Game Developers Conference 2008

Game Developers Conference 2008 event to Showcase Solutions for Creating Accessible Versions of Commercial and Independent Games and Game Controllers for Gamers with Disabilities.

IGDA Game Accessibility Group to Host; Corporate Participants Include Emotiv, NaturalPoint, and more.

The Game Accessibility Special Interest Group (SIG) of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will be presenting its popular Accessibility Arcade session at the Game Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, February 18 – 22.

SIG members hope that these sessions will provide the opportunity will help raise awareness amongst game developers and the gaming media that people with disabilities also want the chance to play commercial games and game controllers that have been re-designed for computers and the latest console systems. “The message we hope to convey at GDC 08 is that games are for everyone and are an important part of life today that cannot continue to be inaccessible for people with disabilities,” said Michelle Hinn, chairperson of the Game Accessibility SIG, game design instructor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Game Accessibility Researcher at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. “The majority of games on the market remain unplayable by up to 10-20% of the population. This is not only an opportunity for developers to increase revenue – it is an issue of social injustice that must be corrected.”

SIG members also want to convey that Game Accessibility does not mean non-creative, non-innovative games. Hinn welcomes both skeptics and supporters of game accessibility to see the opportunities for fostering a more socially aware industry and “to educate themselves and help break down preconceived notions about configuring games and controllers that can also include gamers with disabilities.

Come take a look at some of the incredible next generation controllers that we’ll have on display from Emotiv, Natural Point, One Switch, as well as game accessibility solutions such as Doom3 and other games with complete closed captioning by Reid Kimball of Games[cc] and “Blind Hero,” which allows the blind to play guitar hero using a haptic device developed by SIG member Eelke Folmer at the University of Nevada, Reno. And find out more about our partner sites, and One Switch, to see how we are getting information not just to the game development community but also out to gamers with disabilities themselves about games and controllers that are or can become accessible at one of the kiosks we’ll have to showcase these web communities. These are just some of the many examples we’ll have for session goers to interact with. And, hey, who doesn’t want to do the Jedi Mind Trick?” Commercial controllers that help represent the future of accessible game play and controllers that will be shown include those by:

Emotiv: A pioneer in brain computer interface (BCI) technology, Emotiv Systems creates technologies that allow machines to take both conscious and non-conscious inputs directly from your mind. Currently focused on the gaming industry, its Emotiv EPOC wireless nueroheadset enables video games to respond to players’ emotions and expressions and allows players to manipulate objects in the game using the power of their thoughts. This entirely new interface will dramatically change the gaming experience by making it more immersive, intuitive and personal.

NaturalPoint: NaturalPoint’s SmartNav™ has been making gaming possible for people with physical disabilities around the globe for seven years. Complete computer independence is achieved with this hands-free ergonomic mouse by using only slight head movements. Elizabeth Ryan, SmartNav Marketing Director, says “Optical head tracking has been a breakthrough in assistive technology, making PC gaming accessible for those that can only move their heads.” One Switch is a UK-based organization/web site that reaches out to gamers with cognitive and mobility disabilities throughout the world. One Switch provides controllers that have been “rerouted” in order to allow gamers with disabilities to play commercial computer and console games, as well as Do-It-Yourself guides for those who want to modify their own controllers to make them accessible.

The response by the industry toward adding in game accessibility features into their products “…has been dismal. The gaming industry cannot just assume that because these controllers hacks exist that they are off the hook,” Hinn added. “There are many types of disabilities that impact game play in different ways. Even if someone is using these controllers, many are quite costly – often more than a game and even a console system – and many games still remain impossible to play due to issues such as button combination choices that seem to be complex just to be complex and cannot be reconfigured.

But this criticism has not only been made by disability advocates – Industry veterans such as Ernest Adams and Peter Molyneux have also spoken out on the game complexity control issue for gamers in general. Solutions that help gamers with disabilities can enhance the game play experience for ALL gamers.”

The Game Accessibility SIG will be presenting the following sessions at GDC: Accessibility Arcade: Or How to Do the Jedi Mind Trick (Day One): Wednesday (Feb 20nd); 4:00pm – 5:00pm; Room 121, North Hall Accessibility Arcade: Or How to Do the Jedi Mind Trick (Day Two): Thursday (Feb 21st); 9:00am – 10:00am; Room 121, North Hall Dynamic Closed Captioning for Your Game Date/Time: Thursday (Feb 21st); 1:00pm – 2:00pm; Station 2, 2nd Floor Game Accessibility & Developers with Disabilities Group Gathering Date/Time: Thursday (Feb 21st, 2008); 2:30pm – 3:30pm; IGDA Booth, West Hall For more information about these sessions, the SIG, or to schedule an interview about any of the sessions or game accessibility in general, contact Michelle Hinn, IGDA Game Accessibility SIG Chair, at hinn{at] — Members of the SIG will be available the entire week of GDC.

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