[games_access] Jonathan Chetwynd's comment, Reid's comment

Lynn Marentette lynnmarentette at gmail.com
Sat Dec 1 12:06:58 EST 2007


I think there are some barriers to game accessibility that go beyond
changing the attitudes among game developers. I agree with Jonathan that we
need to focus on what other things we can do that will make a difference.

I just returned from a two-day assistive technology conference, and the only
thing related to game accessibility was the materials from a booth regarding
a community bowling program for people with visual impairments.

Most of the software and devices discussed during workshops and demonstrated
in the vendor's booths were geared to helping people increase literacy and
language skills, carry out the hum-drum activities of daily living, access
the computer, or gain job skills. Of course, these are important.

Recreation and leisure activities were glaringly left out of the picture,
which troubles me. There were many university students at this conference,
and it is a shame that they left the conference without information about
ways technology can support recreation and leisure activities- including
playing games!

My impression is that many of the AT folks are so focused on learning,
literacy, education, development of daily living skills, job skills, and so
forth, that they just don't have the inclination, or time, to think about
the recreation/leisure needs of their students or clients. My colleague,
Kelly Cross, a speech and language therapist, noticed this, too.

On Thursday evening, I attended the regional meeting of the Research
Triangle chapter of IGDA, held at Destineer Studios in Raleigh, N.C. I went
to the presentation about leadership, which was worth my time. I had a
chance to meet a woman who teaches computer programming and game design at a
community college. Many of her students were there.

In hindsight, I could have asked this group to provide me with a few
brochures or short hand-outs, since there were probably 100-150 people in
attendance. I had a chance to talk with a couple of people who work at
Destineer and didn't get the impression that they would scoff at the ideas
behind game accessibility.

At any rate, this is what I can volunteer to do:

Kelly and I will be participating in a poster session at another AT
conference in February. We thought we could showcase some of the things
that we're doing with our students from the "whole child" approach, which
includes addressing leisure and recreational needs.

Would there be a chance to obtain a few brochures about game accessibility
to share with others at the upcoming AT conference?


Lynn Marentette

Jonathan's comments:
Speaking from my experience, ten years is not long enough.
I can imagine it being another thirty....

Conferences are fine for meeting and greeting, those that came to
Brighton will know it helps to place a face. They also raise general
awareness, in an indefinable way. And it's also possible to generate
business, though usually this is confirmed after the event.

However as I mentioned earlier there is much useful work to be done
in publishing white papers, standards and guidelines. These are then
available for interested parties at any time of their choosing. They
also provide evidence of change, and something to "Shout About".

Indeed if there is some amazing breakthrough a conference is a
fantastic place to be. But we're not there yet. I took a group of
adults with learning disabilities to try the pre-alpha eye toy at GDC
Europe one year, it was way ahead of the field at the time.

My feeling is that too much time is spent chatting and commiserating,
which could be more usefully directed at conceiving, writing, editing
and publishing documentation. Well usually I just let it pass ~:"

I happen to be acutely aware this documentation is needed. The web is
moving from a model of static documents to one more nearly
identifiable with gaming environments.


Jonathan Chetwynd
Accessibility Consultant on Media Literacy and the Internet



Message: 2

Please, can we stop with the negative talk about GDC and the game
industry? I work in the game industry for LucasArts. Just last week I
talked to a highly respected programmer and he's 100% behind us and
wants to talk about what we can do to improve accessibility in our
games after our current milestone is finished. There are dozens of
people at LucasArts that support game accessibility. Nintendo totally
gets it, EA Games totally gets it with their Family Play modes in
their sports games. Peter Molyneux gets it, Will Wright... the list
goes on and on.

It's offensive to me when people of this SIG accuse developers of not
caring because WE DO CARE. The last thing you want to do is insult the
people you have to work with. It's the quickest way to turn them away
from our cause.

So, instead of complaining, lets do something about it! First,
everyone here needs to understand what it's like for developers and
why it's so hard for them to adopt accessibility features.

1. Limited financial resources - Games are very expensive to make and
any new features adds to the cost. Before you can add accessibility
features you must have a game and that's where most of the money is
spent first.

2. Limited time - Game development is incredibly complex and hard to
tame. No matter how much extra time gets budgeted into the production
schedule, it always runs out well before all tasks are complete. When
this happens, features get cut in order to save the core of the game
and again, without a game, there can't be any accessibility features.
Because this usually happens so late, there isn't enough time to work
on accessibility features before the game has to ship.

3. Limited information - Even if a developer was pro-active and
scheduled the development of accessibility features into the games'
development schedule, there's still a major lack of knowledge and
tools that enable them to do their job. The SIG has been thinking
about accessibility features for years and we have all the solutions,
but developers don't yet. We need to make ourselves known and readily
available to help them.

What can we do to solve these issues? We need to develop our
relationships with developers and offer our assistance. Our attempts
to work with GarageGames is a good start. When a new game is announced
we should contact them and offer our expertise.

We have GOT to get a website up so that we can communicate our
abilities and expertise to our target audiences (game developers).

But there are technical issues and many of us are volunteers and so
things move very slowly.

Several of us are writing guidelines for implementing certain features
but again, this is a slow process. Others are doing research. Going to
conferences is awesome. Writing articles to Gamasutra is great as

Eitan is right, we have to "sell" our expertise. It's not that
developers don't care, they don't know that they SHOULD care.



Message: 3
Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2007 00:17:57 -0800
From: "Eelke Folmer" <eelke.folmer at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [games_access] GDC 2008: VERY Bad News
To: "IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List"
<games_access at igda.org>
<836db6300712010017jfe1a297tfd5fc483093b545d at mail.gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

With so many interesting talks going on and such expensive prices for
the passes game developers rather go to talks on the geometry shaders
used in Assassin's creed then listen to our talks. Given the current
state of the games industry with the ever increasing budgets and high
risks of failure, many game companies struggle for survival, so there
is really no incentive for them to make games accessible UNLESS we can
sketch out the potential payoffs, which is hard for certain
disabilities. I think 10 or 20 years ago we could have had a bigger
impact since game development didn't involve so much money and risk.
Given that observation, why not focus on those who will shape the
future of the games industry? --> Independent game developers.

Cheers Eelke


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