Accessibility in games is being talked about more and more, but still not enough in my opinion. As game developers we have full access to tools that will minimize accessibility issues for our products. But still the topic is underestimated. Why?
Why accessibility in games is important
One in five gamers has a major or minor disability. This percentage is 5% higher in occasional gamers than in the rest of the population. This is often due to the fact that gaming is a pastime that does not require leaving the house. There are diseases that go beyond the definition of disability and make it difficult to interact with games.
Vision defects, (visual impairment, or color perception disorders. Here too we have about 10% of the population. Temporary impairments (such as fractures of the upper extremities). If you add to that the fact that nearly 15% of American adults have the reading comprehension skills of an 11 year old (Basic Prose Literacy Skills). Scary? Yes. But this data didn’t come out of nowhere. Link to the study.
If we add in situational factors (lighting, noise, etc.) we get a very large group of players who cannot fully experience what we have prepared for them. For reasons beyond their control. Downplaying this topic goes significantly beyond ignorance.
#1 Control & mobility in games
Allow for personalization of control (and pressure intensity). Sometimes the player can’t control the game the way we envisioned. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated/intuitive our control idea is. With some people, it just won’t work.
Let the intensity of the haptics be controlled. Very popular with game developers – haptic sensations (vibration, pulsing, etc.) can be a nuisance for some and significantly hinder the game experience.
Simplify the controls as much as possible. The interface should be accessible via the controls used in the game. On consoles we are “naturally limited” to the capabilities of the pad. It’s also worth keeping this in mind when designing interfaces for PCs.
Clickable elements should be at an appropriate distance from each other. This is important not only on mobile screens. For obvious reasons. But proper separation of elements on the interface makes it easier to navigate between them. It also affects perception. See below.
#2 Information Architecture in games
The presentation of information should be done using the simplest language. Using all elements of font legibility (default family, lineheight, kerning etc.) Make sure the information architecture is clear and understandable. Make it as simple as possible!
Check that the language you use is understood by everyone. Use tools that check the complexity of your text. E.g. textinspector. Let users absorb all the information at their own pace. Provide tutorials if possible. Preferably interactive. Avoid flickering elements.
Starting the game should be the primary action after starting the game. An action that does not require additional menu navigation.
#3 Player’s senses: sight, hearing
Formatting text should enhance its readability. Contrast between font and background should be high enough (7:1). Focus should be clearly underlined. Also, try to keep the dependent elements visually grouped appropriately, but remember to keep appropriate spacing to allow for ease of use on small touch screens.
Enter transcriptions for all in-game dialogue. Allow personalization of volume levels separately for each element (music, background, effects, dialogue, etc.). Don’t make key information dependent on sound alone. Maintain maximum playability for people playing without audio experience (disability or situational limitations)
Never should speech controls be a necessary part of gameplay. Augmented reality games are governed by additional laws, but about that another time.
Accessibility in games – summary
Removing barriers in digital products should be a best practice, not a feature. I have provided a basic list of features. You can find an advanced list here.
Remember that things like the difficulty level of a game also have a direct impact on its accessibility. Save all settings for them and let players focus on gameplay. Because those experiences are key.