ExPlay 2012: Panellists discuss the importance of opening up play to the disabled

#ExPlay12 Reaching a wider audience

ExPlay 2012: Panellists discuss the importance of opening up play to the disabled

In a panel titled 'games accessibility and the practicalities of inclusive game design,' ExPlay 2012 attendees were treated to a discussion about how to open up their games to disabled players.

Accessibility consultant Ian Hamilton explained, "if you try to retrofit accessibility, it can get quite difficult and expensive."

Instead, developers should consider accessibility from the start of their projects. It needn't be a hugely complicated process, though.

Instead of attempting to accommodate every medical condition, Hamilton said, it's much simpler to just design with a consideration for those who might not be able to see, hear, understand or control things as well as others.

Extra options

"Sometimes it's just about freeing up options, allowing players to tweak things as required," added Barrie Ellis of UK charity SpecialEffect.

A host of examples were given. A game might allow players to fully modify controls, for instance, or to set background colour and brightness levels. Subtitles help deaf players, of course, and one-button modes, or auto-fire options can help too.

These steps can make games more accessible, opening them up to a wider audience. That's good in itself, of course, but a wider audience can also equate to greater potential revenue, which is good news for developers.

Ultimately, the best way to make games accessible is to test them.

"Testing with disabled players is really important," stressed Hamilton. "That's what Valve does, and it shows."

To find out more about accessibility and inclusive game design, visit the Game Accessibility Guidelines website.

James Nouch
James Nouch's news editor 2012-2013