The Voxel Agents win industry award for recognising the importance of inclusion in game development

31 October 2013

The Game Developers’ Association of Australia (GDAA) have announced Puzzle Retreat by The Voxel Agents as the winner of the first accessibility award at the 2013 Australian Game Developer Awards, sponsored by Epic Games, the GDAA, and State and Federal government.

This follows Film Victoria and Screen Australia considering accessibility when allocating funding to game development projects, meaning that Australia is now not only financially supporting, but also recognising excellence in the field of game accessibility.

Accessibility in this context means mainstream games that make an effort to avoid unnecessarily excluding people with motor, cognitive, hearing, speech or vision impairments. Screen Australia’s Investment Manager, Justin Halliday said “Accessibility was one of the key issues raised by the industry during the consultation process for Screen Australia’s new Games Fund. We recognise that accessibility in gaming brings some huge benefits, not only the obvious economic benefits of being able to reach wider audiences, but also quality of life, allowing access to culture, entertainment, and socialising for many people who have limited recreation opportunities.”

The award was judged by an international panel of designers and game accessibility experts including members of the IGDA’s accessibility SIG. They unanimously voted Puzzle Retreat as the winner, with a wide range of considerations including the elegant approach to tutorials, simple controls, no time constraints or fail states, ability to skip levels, and visuals designed from the ground up to be colour blind friendly.

“The entries received this year not only varied in their genre and platforms, but in their approaches to making accessible games” said judge Tara Voelker. “Accessibility features planned in early development incorporate seamlessly into a title. They benefit all gamers, and not just gamers with a disability. For us, it was clear that Puzzle Retreat was the perfect example of early planning and great implementation.”

And from fellow judge Lynsey Graham “I was very impressed with Puzzle Retreat. It was clear that accessibility had been considered in all areas of the game, both visually and in terms of gameplay. These touches allow the game to be enjoyed by a wider audience – a good job too, as it’s a fantastic game!”

Accessibility specialist Ian Hamilton added “Puzzle Retreat is a great example of what’s possible if you think about accessibility early enough in the design process. It just becomes a natural part of the game’s design instead of an add-on, and becomes highly profitable too, allowing you to make your game enjoyable by many more players for very little cost.”

“Awards have been given in the past by individuals and charities such as AbleGamers in the USA, but this AGDA category is to my knowledge the first time that accessibility has been recognised in this way by an internal industry body, which is a really significant and exciting landmark. It has perfectly set the stage, and with the level of accessibility provision that the Screen Australia funding programme has now inspired, the future can hold only good things for accessibility in Australian games.”

The awards night was held on Tuesday 22 October in conjunction with 2013 Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) conference at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre 21-23 October.

For further information on game accessibility see http://www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com.

For further information on the award contact

Giselle Rosman
Game Developers’ Association of Australia
gisellerosman@gdaa.com.au

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