AbleGamers mission to ensure everyone can play is important for the simple reason that videogames are important. Going beyond entertainment, games let players connect with others, have deep artistic experiences, do things they cannot do in real life, challenge themselves, unwind after a hard day, and even manage pain. The problem that we are trying to solve is when a player wants to play a game and can’t. Wasting hard-earned money spent on a game is bad enough – being excluded from the play itself, and thus the beneficial experience associated with it, is worse.
Barriers to Play
For players with disabilities, it is all too common to buy a game and start it up excited to play, only to find that the game itself prevents them from doing so. Players with disabilities may quickly find that the controls of the game require movements they are not capable of, are too complex to process, or otherwise create barriers that they cannot overcome. While we can address many control issues by helping the player get the control setup they need, hardware-related issues are just the start.
Even after a player has a setup that works for them, what if the player has decreased reaction time due to cognitive or physical disability, and the game is moving too quickly for them to use the controls? What if a player has visual disabilities, and cannot distinguish between different elements of the game – like the character, enemies, and background? What if the player is hard of hearing or Deaf and cannot make out important audio cues that let them know what is happening in the game? All of these barriers and more are things that cannot be solved without help from the game developers themselves – which is where AbleGamers Professional Development comes in.
Accessible Player Experiences
AbleGamers Professional Development works closely with game developers, educating on the needs of players with disabilities and instructing them in proven approaches to accessible game design, using our Accessible Player Experiences® (APX) design patterns. Our APX patterns are an approach to accessible game design that draws directly from research, insights, and experiences of players with disabilities. Using player research as a basis for APX makes it an approach that keeps both player needs and the goal of player experience front and center.
In order to best ensure game developers understand and use APX during game development, our Professional Development team created an intensive, highly interactive, 16-hour certification course in Accessible Player Experiences. During this course, developers learn why accessibility is important, and how to find and solve barriers to play in Control (layout, complexity, and precision required from the player), Presentation (the way their games give information to the player visually, audibly, and through tactile feedback), and Challenge (the tasks the player is required to do to progress in the game). By teaching game developers about the needs of players with disabilities and how to address them, we help to improve game accessibility from the start, leading to players getting their desired – or required – experiences in games.
Help Us Help Players
Every player is different – and games themselves need to let players engage how they want and need to. By supporting AbleGamers and our Professional Development Pillar, you are directly helping to make gaming more inclusive for all players and to support a more diverse, player-focused gaming industry. After all, everyone deserves to play, and when games are created using accessible design, everyone can.
Improving Player Experience by Changing the Game Industry
Professional Development goes further than just consulting and educating game developers as a means of improving game accessibility for players. With our partners and allies in the space we are changing the game industry, so that future games have accessibility and broad perspectives built in. The game industry currently has a lack of representation from diverse voices, including developers with disabilities, developers of color, non-male developers, and more. leading to games that don’t capture the realities of all players’ lived experiences. Through our Developers Promoting Accessibility and Diversity (DPAD) Initiative, launched in August of 2020, we grant free registrations to our Certified Accessible Player Experiences® Practitioner training to marginalized developers (including developers who are disabled, people of color, women, and/or members of the LGBTQIA+ community). Having this certification gives them a unique advantage in the game industry and helps to bring a variety of views to gaming that leads to games for all. Registration is open for those who qualify.