[games_access] Sid Meier and Barry Caudill Sit Down With AbleGamers

Barrie Ellis barrie.ellis at oneswitch.org.uk
Mon Jun 25 13:17:49 EDT 2007

Great interview, cribbed from AbleGamers: http://ablegamers.com/content/view/41/63/... We should get in touch with them too I think...



Written by Mark C. Barlet
Saturday, 26 May 2007
I have been working on getting able gamers an interview with the legendary Sid Meier for over a year. Sending my first inquiry to Firaxis on May 18, 2006. At the time we received a positive response, but it seemed the activities around Railroads! caused our interview to be derailed. So I was all excited when a little over a month ago I was able to get the attention of the folks at Firaxis again. In short, Ablegamers was able to get an interview from Firaxis, but Sid was to busy for the interview. I admit I am disappointed, the views of someone as legendary as Sid would help the plight of disabled gamers all over the world, because when Sid talks, game developers listen. He was able to give us an opening statement, and for that I am grateful.

That being said, Barry Caudill, Executive Producer, Firaxis Games sat down with us. Now I admire Barry a l lot, and he and I have a lot in common, he is a musician, as am I. He also started life as in the Quality Assurance department, and I have been in QA for 12 years, currently heading a QA department here in the tech corridor of Northern Virginia. Someday I hope to have Barry's job, just don't tell him.

I am still holding out for an interview with Sid...

Sid Meier:

Hello AbleGamers!
We're happy that Mark approached us for an interview. Its been a great introduction to your website and the start of what we hope to be a mutually beneficial relationship with your community. We want our games to be played and enjoyed by as many people as possible, and we're always looking for ways to achieve that goal. Firaxis has a very active and vocal fan community and the thoughts, ideas and concerns we hear from them have a big impact on the games we make. We invite you to become part of our community and look forward to hearing from you.
Stay Civilized,

Sid Meier

Ablegamers: Do you take into account this large disabled segment of the US population (comparable to other nations as well) when developing games?

Barry Caudill: We do make attempts to accommodate as many people as possible when designing our games. For example, we did include the ability to map any key to any action when we were developing Pirates. Mostly we work to support the predominant control systems available (keyboard, mouse, gamepad, joystick) wherever we can so people can choose what they want to use where it makes sense. We would be interested in hearing more about what the disabled community needs from our games.

AG: Do you think that the disabled demographic is an underutilized market for mainstream games?

BC: I have no frame of reference from which to answer this question. I think you'd be a better judge of that.

AG: What is Firaxis Games doing to support the people with disabilities within the gaming community?

BC: There is such a wide range of disabilities which makes it challenging to know exactly what players with disabilities need in games. We've made some accommodations with keyboard mapping, better user interfaces, and more graphic visuals and sound. Again, we're open to hearing more from disabled folks in the gaming community, we want everyone to enjoy our games

AG: When you take a game into beta testing, have you ever intentionally brought people in that are disabled?

BC: No we haven't specifically looked for people with disabilities for our beta testing teams. We want folks who are passionate about our games - we don't ask questions about their physical and mental abilities when looking for testers. Having said that, there may well be folks with disabilities on our beta teams, they just haven't identified themselves as such.

AG: I know a few that would help (*Wink*)

BC: We can always use more help (wink right back atcha ;) and we'd welcome your participation.

AG: Simple changes to game interfaces, such as the ability to custom map actions to the keyboard or other input devices on the market (many for people with disabilities), or alternatives to the drag and drop (very hard for many) could make games better gamers with disabilities as well as those without.

Do you think it is worth a developer's time to add these features to games?

BC: I think we are in favor of adding anything that helps people play the game - provided it doesn't somehow hamper the overall intended game experience.

AG: Nate, my partner in crime on AbleGamers.com, has a motor/muscular disorder; he says the best way for a fully able bodies person to understand what it is like to suffer from tremors or tactile issues is to try imagining the following scenarios: That one or both of your arms has fallen asleep, how well could you play the game? That you are shivering from the cold, how would that affect playability?

Imagining that, would you still want to play the games you loved? If so, how would you do it?

BC: I don't have a clue. It's incredibly hard for me to imagine exactly how I would feel under such circumstances and it's equally hard to imagine not being able to play the games I love. If Nate has some ideas to share with us we'd like to hear them.

AG: Let me ask you something that has stumped me. There are 7.9 Million people in the US who have a vision-related disability, with 1.8 million unable to see at all (according to the US Census Bureau), do you think main-stream gaming industry could do a better job trying to make games accessible to the visually impaired? Any ideas how?

BC: The mainstream gaming industry is a very visual medium so it's definitely a challenge figuring out how to create the full game experience for the visually impaired. I think there could be an alternative kind of game designed around auditory clues or other forms of sensory perception. Games like this would probably require some form of private funding to get off the ground.

AG: In addition, before we go, we at AbleGamers.com want to thank you for your time, I am sure that you are a very busy man with the expansion to Civ4 and maybe a Railroads! expansion also being worked on.

So my last few questions:

Has this interview made you further consider the issue of people with disabilities and how they play video games?

BC: Yes it has. I'm looking forward to hearing more from the community with ideas on how we can make our games more accessible.

AG: Will you factor that thought into currently developing games, or future works?

BC: It will remain a part of the design discussions and we will do our best to make accommodations where we can.

AG: Any final thoughts on this subject?

BC: Thanks for the interview and keep the feedback coming.

AG: What are you working on now? What can we look forward to from such a famed game designer?

BC: We're working on a game that could very well be the best game we've ever made. Stay tuned for more details soon!

Last Updated ( Saturday, 16 June 2007 )


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