Wrap-Up: GA-SIG Roundtable, GDC-16

Thanks to all who attended our roundtable at GDC 2016, as well as the other accessibility related talks. Your support is crucial to continue the progress of game accessibility

Attendee affiliations included industry (e.g. Google, Playstation), universities (in the USA, Germany and Sweden), as well as independent designers, consultants and game accessibility specialists. Congratulations to all winners of t-shirts in the Game Accessibility Quiz during the roundtable.

GDC round table 2016 attendees

Below is a wrap-up of the roundtable, which was run by Chad and Ian. The agenda was to discuss our action list – what has been done since last year, what is still work-in-progress and what new actions we should take. I was listening in via Skype as I sadly could not attend this year. Big kudos to Ian and Chad for their great work!

Looking back at 2015 it was a landmark year in many ways. At GDC 2016 there were five accessibility talks, which saw record attendance, averaging around 130 people per session. And also at the CSUN accessibility conference the following week there were six gaming talks, which is another record. Further, gaming hardware and gameplay networks are now included in the CVAA act, meaning game accessibility is no longer optional. Important advances during the past year include:

  • Some really significant progress in accessibility of consoles themselves, thanks to Microsoft and Sony
  • Unity now is in the process of implementing full remapping of game controls, joining Unreal’s colourblind simulator and subtitling system to form a good start of what we and others have been pushing for, for many years: accessibility solutions in game engines to lower the threshold for all game developers.
  • Internal accessibility evaluation checklists now in use at Sony Europe (optional) and the BBC (mandatory)
  • Charities have seen increases in donations, and been able to launch iniatives such as SpecialEffect’s upgraded games room, and AbleGamers’ expansion packs and fellowship scheme
  • New accessibility websites have launched, including the relaunch of industy stalwart game-accessibility.com
  • Itch has introduced tagging for accessibility info, which is a good opportunity for analysis of their approach to build a case case to push for Steam and others to do the same.
  • Accessibility in games themselves has continued to improve, in particular for colourblindness, epilepsy, and also blindness, with two current AAA console games (Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat X) receiving blind accessibility patches. The improvements are reflected in the winners of the various game accessibility awards this year – Rocket Leage, MLB: The Show, Heroes of the Storm, and Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be
  • How accessibility is approached has also improved, for example Evolve publishing an accessibility statement, Witcher 3 treating accessibility issues as top priority issues to be patched immediately after launch, and Rock Band 4 publicly asking their community for accessibility input during development

The GA-SIG progressed several important actions during 2015:

  • Global Game Jam (GGJ) 2016 expanded to provide six optional accessibility themes, resulting in many thousands of developers considering it, and UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) Game Jam is including accessibility in their 2016 event
  • Film Victoria in Australia has now refreshed the accessibility criteria in their funding programme, taking it to three years that it has now been running for – a very successful collaboration for the SIG.
  • Enhancements to fixed point mode in iOS successfully lobbied for, making thousands of one buttons games compatible with switch accessibility
  • Featured Gamasutra blog post about subtitling best practices
  • Australian Game Developer Awards have have included accessibility for the third year running, TIGA in the UK had it in 2014 and hopefully will have it again this year.
  • Engine developer wish-list produced, good lines of communication opened with engine developers, one of which has shown interest in the wish-list
  • Educational framework now well underway, collaborating with the education SIG
  • SIG hosting resolved, which will allow progress on theme and structure update
  • Large number of talks given on a wide range of topics, at both industry and educational conferences

We still have many actions to do, and there are also new things to take care of. At GDC there are two things that we should keep trying to achieve until 2017: 1) having all accessibility sessions in one place to make it more, well, accessible, and 2) having the Press-room in an accessible room. Further, we discussed having an Accessibility summit for GDC 2017, similar to one we had in 2005, coordinated with the Game User Research summit, to allow extra sessions on top of what the advocacy track can support, and full control over venue accessibility. We have also begun talks with the Independent Games Festival about a possible accessibility category.

The winners in the quiz recieved a very nice shirt (thanks Chad!):

Game Accessibility at GDC 2016 t-shirt

The quiz questions were as follows:

Super Easy
Q: Name a common types of colourblindness?
A: Deuteranopia, protanopia, tritanopia (will accept deuteranomoly, protanomoly, tritanomoly, or red-green, or blue-yellow).
Q: What are the four main categories of disability?
A: Motor, hearing, vision, and cognitive, as defined by the world health organisation.
Q: Name a current gen console that has accessibility features.
A: XB1 and PS4 added accessibility features for the first time in 2015.
Q: Apart from the SIG, name another game accessibility organisation or website.
A: SpecialEffect, game-accessibility.com, AbleGamers, DAGERS, abilitypowered, audiogames.net, AccessibleGamer, etc., etc.
Q: Name a funding body that has accessibility criteria.
A: Film Victoria or Creative Europe.

Q: What year was the Game Accessibility SIG founded?
A: 2003.
Q: Which popular game engine has a built-in colour-blindness simulator?
A: Unreal.
Q: How many iOS games are listed on applevis.com as being fully blind-accessible?
A: 230 (within 50 to get it right).
Q: Who is the #1 ranked Chun-Li player in the world?
A: Mike Begum. He can’t operate a controller with his hands due to arthrogryposis, so he plays using his mouth.
Q: Why do Ubisoft require subtitles in all of their games?
A: In response to complaints about the first Assassin’s Creed game not having any.
Q: When gamer Brice Mellen challenged Ed Boon, creator of Mortal Kombat, to a game of Mortal Kombat and beat him, why did it get so much coverage?
A: Brice Mellen is blind.

Super Hard
Q: What games company adapted a range of their coin-operated arcade machines to make more accessible to disabled people in Japanese day-centres and rehabilitation clinics?
A: Namco.
Q: In what decade were the first skill based electronic coin-operated one-switch games first created?
A: The Rotary Merchandiser in the 1930s [we think].
Q: Who wrote the one-switch PC game Donkey in 1981, possibly the first ever “PC” game?
A: Bill Gates and Neil Konzen for IBM.
Q: Why were keyboards invented?
A: The first working typewriter was built in 1808 as a way for blind people to be able to write letters.
Q: What type of games did Matthias Nordvall present on at GDC 2013? (Or easier… what demographic of disabled players?—rather than what type of games—might give people a better chance.)
A: Haptic games for people who are deafblind.
Q. Name one of the earliest game console controllers, by a big company, designed to enable physically disabled players.
A. The Atari Kids Controller 1983 (designed for young children who found the standard Atari joystick too unwieldy to use) or The Nintendo USA Hands-Free Controller 1988 (designed for chin and sip-puff use for players paralysed from the neck down).

Finally, Ian had produced some really nice flyers as hand-outs during GDC:

Accessibility at GDC 2016 Flyers

Thomas Westin,

Co-chair of the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG.

0 comments on “Wrap-Up: GA-SIG Roundtable, GDC-16

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *