Game Accessibility

10 Jan 2016

Video games are hugely popular, with around 70% of Britons playing them, and the global games market expected to be worth over $100 billion by 2017. According to some sources, 20% of casual gamers have some form of disability. These numbers make it obvious that making video games accessible for people with disabilities is an important and worthwhile task.

Fortunately, guidelines exist to help game developers do just that. These guidelines offer well-founded advice for overcoming gamers’ disabilities in 4 key areas: cognitive, vision, hearing and mobility. As such guidelines make clear, the majority of these problems can be overcome through design. For example:

  • Design your game to use the simplest possible control system (cognitive, motor)
  • Allow controls to be customised so players can use different buttons other than the default (motor)
  • Allow the game to be paused at any time (cognitive)
  • Ensure that no essential information is conveyed by colour alone (visual)

However, not all mobility problems can be eradicated through game design. Consider a person who cannot use any kind of traditional game controls at all, even a simple button or touchscreen, perhaps because they can’t control any part of their body very well. In addition, many people have the cognitive, visual and auditory abilities to play more complicated video games, but simply can’t use a conventional game controller.

Special Effect is a charity, founded by Mick Donegan, which seeks to address these situations, by providing customised and novel game controllers for people with all kinds of disability. They work with people on an individual basis, assessing their needs, and providing some really ingenious solutions to their problems. This could be anything from a simple stand to keep a game controller steady, through joystick controllers with larger buttons, to games which can be controlled by eye movements, voice commands, or facial gestures.

You can see some of this really amazing technology in the video below. And most importantly, you can see just how much joy it can bring to people with disabilities to do something that so many of us take for granted – play a video game. You can find out more about the great work they do here.

Posted by Nigel Robb