What is Game Accessibility?
One task that we had to address was the lack of a definition of “game accessibility”. While there were already definitions of “accessibility,” we felt that they did not meet our requirements.
Therefore, the following definition was developed by the GA-SIG:
- “Game Accessibility can be defined as the ability to play a game even when functioning under limiting conditions. Limiting conditions can be functional limitations, or disabilities — such as blindness, deafness, or mobility limitations.”
What are the Types of Disabilities and Limiting Conditions?
There are a variety of different mobility conditions that could limit a person attempting to play a game. The primary categories encountered in gaming are limitations in mobility are listed below.
- Paralysis could occur as the result of accident, birth defects, or disease. In paralysis, the nerves that control the voluntary muscles of the body are no longer signaling those muscles. Depending on the cause, the person may have only a limited ability to move any part of their body.
- As a result of paralysis, certain types of games requiring excellent hand/eye coordination or the ability to rapidly press a button (“twitch” games) are not really accessible. Other types of games such as turn based strategy games may be more suitable, assuming they could work with adaptive hardware.
- Certain neurological disorders can cause mobility issues. An example is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease). Due to problems with transmitting impulses to muscles, people with neurological disorders also suffer many of the same issues affecting paralysis victims.
Repetitive Stress Injury
- Repetitive Stress Injuries are a result of repeating motions over a long period of time. There are a variety of related forms such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Trigger Finger, or Tendonitis (as well any several others not listed here).
- Most of these injuries are readily treatable, but can reoccur if the person goes back to the same habits. In many cases, changes in the ergonomics of where they play or use of a different type of controller may remove the problem.
Age related issues:
- As the “baby boomer” generation starts to approach old age and retirement, we will begin to see more of these issues appearing with respect to games.
- Even controllers can cause problems for an increasingly older population. With slower reflexes, “twitch” games become more difficult. A game that required a lot of mouse motion and rapid, accurate clicking on the screen will probably not appeal to older gamers.
Lack of mobility
- One of the unfortunate aspects of aging is the gradual loss of flexibility in joints and difficulties moving as fast or as well as one used to. Degenerative diseases like arthritis become more common. Games requiring the player to participate with their whole body, such as “Dance, Dance Revolution,” may not be appealing or physically possible. This also applies to many Wii games, or games featuring the PS3 move or the XBox360 Kinect.
Lack of steadiness
- Along with the problems listed above with lack of mobility, there is a gradual loss of muscle tone, making fine movements more difficult. Other factors like Parkinson’s Disease can also affect the ability to control a game.