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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