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May 01, 2007



I keep it to myself : i love my Formula 1 Ferrari , with its 18 air-bags ,two lateral ramps for wheel-chairs , no pedals and a max of 50 Mph. I just had a loan of $500 billions , to build a factory for such sport cars and i'll set a new Nurburgring , a Monza and maybe an Alps Skying venture too. Im so happy imagining the huge crowds gatering there and the cash flow. But the most important : if the idiocy is a disability , then i did it ! I'm rich ! My MMO is already full of idiots believing in ownership, democracy, rights , privacy and all . My greatest concern is that i'm gonna lose the blind potentially customers ones : no $ left for a massive change in design / hardware . Well yes the huge market for it is there but i'm just too damn idiot or blind to see it.




It seems that content creators see accessibility as something limiting them- constraining their creativity instead of expanding on the possibilities. It's seen as more cost with less flexibility... the feeling that you have to omit something that may exclude part of the disabled market- a feature that's lost.

That's a common sentiment I hear from colleagues when they have to work websites or software to "Section 508 compliance." It's a misperception, for the most part, but with a grain of truth that makes the attitude very difficult to combat.


Yes, Chas, we deal with that misperception quite a bit. This month I'll be talking about some really cool and amazing "accessible" games and peripherals that will hopefully start to shed some light on how accessible games may just be cooler than doing the "same old" in game design. There's a lot of exciting stuff that throws the "constraining creativity" idea out the door (off the blog?). :)

I'll also talk about easy ways to increase accessibility without taking away from the aesthetics of a website or a game. And, of course, the ever applicable "reasonable accommodations" laws for serious games -- who is responsible if a teacher uses a game in the classroom? Linden Labs? Blizzard?


I completely disagree with the idea that accessibility features will constrain game design. Let us not forget that videogames are the one of the few entertainment mediums that deal with 1's and 0's, bits of data that can receive and output more data. In other words, the presence or lack of accessibility features is entirely up to user! A player who doesn't turn on accessibility features can play a game as the designers originally intended. Those who use accessibility features will see things slightly different. Neither group will suffer from the others use or lack of use of accessibility features because the game settings can be customized per player.

I'll use a third person action game as an example. Person A is able bodied and can play the game without any accessibility features. He plays the game and thoroughly enjoys choosing which enemies to face and attack at will using a variety of multi-button combo moves.

Person B is completely deaf and can't follow the story. However, in the options menu, there is a closed captioning choice they select. From then on, they see all sounds captioned and enjoy the story.

Person C has limited use of their hands which would normally make it impossible to play this third person action game. However, there is an option in the gameplay menu that allows them to turn on Auto Targeting and Movement mode. When they begin the game, at the sight of an enemy, the character automatically faces and targets the enemy. It also makes the player avatar walk towards the target automatically to get within attacking range. All the player has to do is press the face buttons to attack and do combo moves.

These are just a few examples how games can be made more accessible without ruining the style of play for other players. In the case of Person C because of their impairment, they use two hands to press the four face buttons. Still, with this completely optional accessibility mode, they are able to enjoy the game just as much as the others.

-Reid Kimball


Great examples, Reid! Yes, it's easy to think of accessibility as "limiting" but it's more about providing more choice in game play -- and that's up to the user as long as the options are there for them.


Check out a game called Strange Attractors.


Only requires use of the space bar. Excellent fun. It is an excellent starting point to the discussion.


Yes, we helped feature Strange Attractors at one of our sessions at GDC 2006 when it was up for an Independent Game Festival award and won a Retro Remakes award. There's a sequel on the way! It is a great game and, you are right, it's a great game to feature. We call these "one switch" game in the GA world but they are also the same as one button games that are all the rage in the mobile phone industry.


Sure, why not ?! Make a game yourself, using your own money and launch it on market. I wish you good luck . But dont try to drag me into that hole. I have better things to do with my own work , game and money. Money talks. I need money to develop my game. Ask your govt to sponsorship , ot the Church. I dont " see as limiting " and if it's a " misconception " then it's my risk on my own money and business anyway.My proirity is to make as much and as fast money as possible , in order to improve the game-play, to pay my employees and to pay the taxes .Sure, the ppls having any sort of disabilities are welcome to join , but i wont spend a penny trying to make them happy in a place where God made them less able to perform. I wont build wheels-chair-ramps on Everest, not as a Business Owner that i already have there ; i'll donate to the Church for such a noble mission. But im happy for those having fun building and playing such games. I , myself, i need more players with money in their wallets. If my business in the games-industry relays on that type of market/customers , then i'm in a deep need of help .


Amarilla -- You are a very angry person, whoever you are. But you raise an interesting point whether or not you realize it -- on deck for discussion is information on tax breaks in various countries that development studios can receive for adding in accessible features. Pretending for a moment that you are actually a game developer with your own studio with the top mission of making money rather than creating fun gaming experiences, I'm sure that you'll find that future post full of delicious information! Stay tuned!


Michelle : i'm a jew and a person with a disability .I am sometimes angry , and sometimes i'm not, as any other living person. You gonna have a point only when those discussions will become laws and regulations .Then my accountable and lawyer will advice me accordingly. Making money is not " rather than " but is the primary condition wich allowes me to create fun gaming. And a living. I pay my staff and my lawyer and my devs-team and i base my decisions on their advices and on my guts.And my brother-in-law is a taxman. Thank you for your informative posts.



There IS a fear of being regulated into providing accessible services, and that is the face that most people see in the accessibility debate. Some see it as an inevitable progression from encouraging voluntary action to tax breaks to legislative requirement.

There's another side of things:

Every year, my father takes disabled students to an event at a local ski resort. They have chair-skis that look like elevated toboggans, tethers for emergency stopping, even "seeing eye skiiers" to assist the visually impaired. I've been able to attend as a helper a few times. It's a great event.

It doesn't impair anyone else's ability to use the slopes. It doesn't cost the ski resort any extra money to support it, but it DID require their understanding (and the training of their personnel) to our specific needs (rules on chair-life behavior need to be flexible so we can have a "lifter" get the skichair on board, for example). It also requires quite a few volunteers willing to make it happen.

Nobody's talking about legislation to require ski-rental services to offer these skichairs or requiring resorts to have "seeing eye skiiers" on staff. There's no mandatory period set aside every year just for them.

That's not necessary. It isn't a natural progression.

Over two and a half decades ago, I witnessed my first blind softball game. The ball had a high-pitched beeper inside that players could track by the doppler effect. Volunteers acting as 'shouters' stood at the bases, letting people know where to run to next. It wasn't major league play, but it was a helluva lot of fun.

Twenty-five years later, I've yet to see people demanding beepers in all standard-issue softballs or requiring base umpires to act as shouters.

Some sports will never be fully accessible. I was surprised to learn that my dad took paraplegics waterskiing in the summer. The wheelchair basketball games go well enough, but nobody's talking about full contact 'chair football. (Not yet, anyway. Not that I know of... (shudder)) Likewise, some video game mechanics will never meet much of a level of accessibility. That's fine.

The goal is not to remove the challenge of gameplay, but to reduce the unnecessary challenges to experiencing that gameplay.

Captioning is an excellent example of a proven technology that's easy to do and even rather commonplace (many developers realize that gamers will have situations where they want to play without disturbing housemates/roommates so they'll have the sound low/off). Similarly, we may find that simply making data available to an API might be sufficient to let a 3rd party utility take the obvious next step.

Nobody's suggesting wheelchair ramps on Everest, but it would be a shame if the only reason you couldn't make the trip was that the expedition leader chose sleeping bags too small for you to fit in.

Let's discuss the limitations that can be lifted with a little awareness and forethought. Let's talk about specific costs and benefits and see if maybe, just maybe, it's just damn good business sense to go down that path.


Sure, let's talk. It looks very nice and dandy.Sexy, if i may say so. I do have a lot of fears about regulations ; you obliged me to pay insurances to the state and private entities wich then at Katrina vanished with my money telling me BS. Tomorrow you'll oblige me to marry with a gay.Or with a disabled. If the only reason i could see for not being able to climb the Everest is a too small sleeping bag , who the fish prevents me to buy myself a bigger one or to make my own team ?! Or to just stay home or to join your father's resorts. Now let talk the limitations, costs and benefits : i do care for any limitations wich could redouce the quality of my game; i dont want them;i'm in charge to decide what is quality and what's not , in my game. I wont invest even a penny trying to adapt my game to a potential market of - let say - more 300-500 whatever new paying accounts. I do have a proper ideea about what that financially and technically means to my business . I want the govt to stay out of my business as much as possible , and now i'll give you a reason to hate me : i dont trust those preaching the " noble and christian mission to help those in needs " when it's about business.
You tell me about " let remove the unnecessary challanges " ?! Then you have no ideea of how many and serious challanges the game already pose to me , by its natural evolution and interactions with the players , the technique and the Law , already. This is a business based on scarcity and i face big challanges right now and i need any available resources to keep my game alive and also to assure its growth. Making my game more accessible to the disabled ones is not a reasonable priority to me at this momment. Exactly because of limitations, costs and benefits. But feel free to experiment , are your money, time and work, afterall. I'm very selfish when it's about my money.


Well, before we associate me (and I'm not speaking on behalf of any group I'm with) with Christianity...I am an atheist. So what I "preach" is about helping improve the quality of people's lives -- positive psychology that leisure affords us -- not anything to do with a church.

One thing that I hear a lot about is "why should we make games accessible for the disabled? shouldn't we protect them from the horrible nature of all games?" THAT is offensive. That tells me that the person is coming from the idea that those with disabilities cannot make their own choices and that they are very misinformed about the wide variety of game genres. And that's what helps fuel MY interest in game accessibility -- freedom of choice by making choices available. I do not advocate for/against types of games because I am not part of the so-called "morality police" that rails against games. I DO advocate for adding changes to games that can only INCREASE the number of gamers -- gaming is business and we all know this. Game accessibility is so misunderstood as "game limitations." It is, instead, game possibilities.


Good for you.I'm not interested in protecting anybody, nor in offering " choices ". For me, your " freedom of choices " does not equals some sort of my obligation to provide the availability.
Anyone is free to mistake, including those with disabilities. What, tomorrow you will propose to implement different in-game spaces for smokers and no-smokers ? C'mon....I, only me , i can decide what is limitation and what is possibility for my game , for a simple reason : only I have the dates . And i wont discuss them in a blog, obvious . As an ideea , sure, your initiative is nice and informative.


Chas- too late, its been done


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