Our gaming accessibility resources
Over the last few years, the team have been sharing some fantastic resources and links on making games accessible, as well as educating ourselves further on how we can do better.
To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we decided to put some of this information together and share it as a helpful list you can refer back to.
Here is our selection of resources worth checking out:
Can I Play That
If you haven’t come across this website yet, do check it out. This platform provides accessibility focused game reviews and news – for disabled gamers, by disabled gamers. Here you will find in depth accessibility reviews for games, commentary and opinion pieces from disabled gamers, helpful accessibility guides, and a Community Soapbox feature where you can get to know members of the community.
The guides on their site are particularly helpful, and if you’re thinking about making your own game, or your role involves promoting games – there is something here for you.
SpecialEffect’s Video Game Accessibility Resources
SpecialEffect are a fantastic charity we love to work with at London Studio (more about them at the end of this blog!) They recently put together a resource called Game Access, which digs deeper into video game access! There is information on games, equipment and software for physically disabled players all laid out in super clear way so you can filter through topics.
An Introduction to the SpecialEffect Devkit
This talk is headed up by Bill Donegan, Projects Manager at the charity SpecialEffect. In it, they list lots of resources and talk about how they structured their DevKit to make sure it was fit for purpose with lots of example videos of how developers have implemented features.
They also have a series of videos designed for developers to help improve accessibility in the game over on SpecialEffectDevKit.info
StarGaze is a initiative set up for people with sever disabilities to still be able to play certain games. EyeGazeGames.com is a browser based website set up with accessible browser games that take advantage of Gaze technology.
Accessible.Games is powered by the AbleGamers Charity. It is a free resource designed to make the world of video gaming a more accessible space.
If you’re a game professional that wants to design more accessible games, want input from players with disabilities or more – there are a range of panels and tools available to help support you. The resources are continually evolving and their aim is to connect players with disabilities with the games industry as well as help inspire people to create accessible solutions so that everyone can play. Check them out.
RNIB Accessible Gaming Research 2022
This presentation reports on a new multi-method study combining qualitative and quantitative user research from blind and partially sighted people and an industry consultation.
While the gaming industry has focused on making video games accessible, many blind and partially sighted gamers reported major accessibility issues. The study shows that while most platforms offer an accessible environment with support for access features, like screen readers and subtitles, these features are not universally available within games and there is a significant gap to bridge.
Our key takeaways are:
- Accessibility should be prioritised earlier in development to account for budget, knowledge, resource and tooling/engine support.
- Industry needs to address accessibility or accept negative perception.
- Best practices across industry should be shared, from the earliest stages of a games development process.
Accessibility in UR: From Advocacy to Action
We recommend this talk for accessibility champions and anyone involved in user testing. This talk discusses the challenges and tips for advocating accessibility within your teams and highlights that it’s much easier nowadays, as there are lots of good examples from competitors and other studios. Look at what those other studios are doing and take inspiration from them!
- How you need cross discipline teams focussing on accessibility. (QA, Design, User Research, Production)
- People can have a lot of accessibility experiences from their own play, family, and friends. You need to create a platform they can bring that knowledge to.
- Internal resources/knowledge base that people can read in their free time can help a lot.
- Lean on QA/Dev Support. They have a much wider/clearer view of the game and are brilliant to involve in accessibility discussions.
Gaming with a severe progressive muscle disease
This is a great talk from a person based in Holland. They began in music and created a musical instrument that was accessible for more people to use (wind instrument). This turned into a wireless wind instrument that could be used to create games/apps. In 2020 they created NMAgaming – a website about how you can play games with a severe disability.
Some of our key highlights from the talk are:
- They have a think-tank group for workshopping new ideas with volunteers.
- They created an adaptive controller for PS3 (game it) and have a built in sip and puff switch, along with other ports for different controller parts.
A perspective from the spectrum
We highly recommend this talk if you want to hear the personal experience from someone on the spectrum. In this talk the discussion explored is whether there’s a line in society where we accept some people and not others.
Is there a reason we treat people differently
- because they make us uncomfortable?
- because we are uncomfortable with ourselves when we shouldn’t be?
- because we’re making someone else uncomfortable?
Humans need social connections. But for someone on the spectrum, who is constantly in a hyper aware state, there’s a conflict that leads to feeling isolated, depression, emotional trauma.
This talk is packed full of scientific evidence, as well as information about the impact of Covid, what we can learn from tabletop games and more. The talk explains that rather than targeting a demographic based on the disability they have, you can target a demographic based on the story they want to experience. Changes to this mentality will provide the biggest difference.
A Typical Gamer
This talk is led by Andrew Bromilow from Everyone Can, a Manchester, UK based charity who run gaming assessments for players with disabilities. This video talks through 3 separate people with their own requirements to play games.
It runs through everything from a deep dive into different adaptive controllers and highlights that players want to be playing the game games everyone is playing, not watered down versions or bespoke ones (all the time).
Games that allow them to be eased in with a slower pace to start, really helps. Video games are being used by speech and language therapists to help them get their users to use eye tracking hardware and get used to it and give them lessons in how to communicate.
Make it a Pillar: Prioritizing Accessibility in the AAA Market
This talk is fantastic for Product Directors setting pillars for their game as well as everyone in UI, Design and Audio.
The talk is from Ryan Green, Lead Game Designer from Playground games and Forza Horizon 5 is used as a case study.
Ryan talks about needing to become the resident expert for accessibility. They run Inclusivity Sprints and in-studio training with experts. The video discusses how there was a a huge shift in perspective among the team and how this led to learning things such as bolding keywords help players pick out key info when playing the game and speed reading text.
It identifies the Forza Horizon Pillars:
- They added a new pillar for Community. Players need to feel welcome, inclusive, and accessible.
- They took a holistic approach and had a wide range of options and customisation and a deep dive on sign language support in order to push the envelope for accessibility.
The talk also identifies the challenges they faced, as well as giving a thorough explanation that hard of hearing is a long spectrum and you need to understand this if you are planning to add sign language to your game.
Understanding challenges and barriers to accessible game development
This talk is led by Joe Kulik, PhD Researcher at the University of York. Joe worked on Onrush, Surviving Mars and Life is Strange 2. He has moved away from user research/UX and is now in accessibility.
This video discusses how accessibility is improving at some Studios but there are still a lot of games with a vast array of accessibility issues. Joe interviewed 12 game developers from different studios to find out what the barriers are for studios implementing accessibility features.
It’s a really great talk to watch and here were our key takeaways:
- Connections and feedback with players who have disabilities can fill in gaps in knowledge and give the studio a better understanding of accessibility.
- Have roles dedicated to accessibility. This can opens pathways for questions and to raise concerns.
- Allocate resources and time early in development.
- Many accessibility issues require a multi pronged approach. You need to make sure the studio is focused and that there are dedicated people with resources and time available.
One Handed Gaming
Led by Barrie Ellis, Director, of OneSwitch -this is a snappy presentation with some interesting takeaways divided into history, problems and solutions:
- One Handed Gaming can be for amputees, injuries, people with preferred sides, people with paralysis, gamers who prefer simpler controls, those who are doing two things are once e.g. twitch streamers.
- Full Remappable Controls can allow players to remap to make layouts that work better for One Handed Play
- Offer a one handed play option in the game e.g. Animal Crossing.
Dyspraxia in Gaming
This talk is great for someone who wants to understand issues some people can have with fine motor skills and run through a range of games as examples. It talks about the differences in dyslexia, dyspraxia and irlen syndrome as people who have these disablities have varying severities, so the problem wildly varies too.
For Dyspraxia, physical pressure is an issue and it can be difficult to write properly. E.G. like holding a hand but unintentionally squeezing too hard.
The talk explains that gaming is great for fine motor skills, but that one issue that is major: analogue controllers.
Advocacy And Me
This talk is bout the speakers journey into accessibility advocacy. They were diagonised with spinal muscular atrophy at a young age which progressively weakens muscles. Eventually their hands got so weak that they couldn’t use a pen, so computers were very important. They talk about how SNES/GB was great, but shifting to 3D, console gaming no longer worked. They were still interested in games but just couldn’t play.
It was after watching an accessibility talk at PlayStation Experience 2016 on Uncharted 4 that they gave it a go and discovered that they could play it! It wasn’t perfect for them, but playable so they got a PS4 and tried different games. This is when they began sharing their experiences on social media on what worked and why.
The speakers is now advocating accessibility in games in Germany , gives guest lectures at various universities and Gamescom and regularly publishes articles on this topic.
Build a Better Champs Program, Learn Community Management
Tara Voelker, Senior Xbox Game Studios Accessibility Lead, outlines how to build a good champ program.
To build a better champs program you need to know what a champs program is!
Champ programs are when you spread responsibility for accessibility throughout a studio by having champs in different areas. When building a champs program you are building a community.
- Advocate (for yourself, for the team and for the project)
This talk explores how we can push champs from new member to advocate, and connect members and encourage them.
Big Brain Plays: Gaming with cognitive differences
Stacey Jenkins is a disabled content creator and passionate advocate for accessibility in gaming. Their talk shines a light on what it’s like to be a gamer with cognitive difficulties and how some of their favourite games have provided the tools to break down those barriers. There are lots of great examples of how other games have made themselves more accessible for players with cognitive differences helping to break down barriers.
Morgan is an Accessibility Lead and Game Designer, and we particularly love the blog/project section of her site where she shares a lot of in depth information to help others identify what they need to change and consider from the get go of creating a game. You can access all of her write ups here, but to call out a few that we found particularly interesting – check out the When/How to use Deaf Accessibility Tools write up. Info about the accessibility consultation she worked on with Naughty Dog for The Last of Us Part II and one about Advocating For Accessibility In Video Games.
Accessible Game Design – Infinite Play & Infinite Time
This is a great talk by a father of two children with Hereditary spastic paraplegia. He created a custom version of the Microsoft controller to be used on the switch for Breath of the Wild. Here he discusses the limited amount of games that his children can actually play and describes how the hardware is really improving but games aren’t as fast, as many games don’t really tailor themselves to players with motor/cognitive based disabilities. Online games don’t allow players the aim assist they need and don’t allow players to take their time when making decisions.
Accessibility in Last of Us Part II: A 3 Year Journey
This talk is led by Lead Designer, Emilia Schatz and Lead Systems Designer, Matthew Gallant from Naughty Dog. They deep dive into the whole host of accessibility settings available in the game (over 60 settings!) They discuss the development process, including an in depth focus on the features designed specifically for blind and low vision players – a first for the studio. They review how these features were planned for, tested, iterated upon and shipped, as well as key learnings.
Karen Steven’s GDC Talk, ‘I can’t hear you.’
In 2019, deaf game developer and the EA Sports Accessibility Lead, Karen Stevens gave a practical presentation to demonstrate best practices in creating games that the deaf and hard of hearing can still play fully. Some of the topics covered (with concrete examples and suggestions for best practice) will include captioning and subtitles (and the difference between the two), alternate cues, audio channels and more.
Game Accessibility Guidelines
This platform is a collaborative effort between a group of studios, specialists and academics, to produce a straightforward developer friendly reference for ways to avoid unnecessarily excluding players and ensure that games are just as fun for as wide a range of people as possible. There is big range of resources, ranging from the category of basic (easy to implement, wide reaching and apply to almost all game mechanics) to advance (complex adaptations for profound impairments and specific niche mechanics). To start with, check out their help and advice section on how to work with the guidelines.
There are many more resources available and we recommend subscribing to the IDGA YouTube channel for access to many free talks well worth watching. The International Game Developers Association are also the organisers of the annual Game Accessibility conference, dedicated to the advancement of game accessibility. Registration for the event will be coming soon.
Last but not least, we wanted to give a shout out to a charity very close to our hearts. SpecialEffect is a UK based charity which uses video games and technology to enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities. (They recently gave a talk about their devkit which we’ve listed in our resources above). By using technology ranging from modified joypads to eye control, they find a way for people to play to the very best of their abilities. By levelling the playing field, they bring families and friends together and have a profoundly positive impact on quality of life.
They don’t charge for one to one support and they don’t sell anything. That’s why they rely on donations large or small, and whether involvement is through a donation of time, skills, or funds, simply raising awareness about what they do makes a huge difference.
If you are able to, please do consider donating.