[games_access] Ideas for GDC 2008

d. michelle hinn hinn at uiuc.edu
Mon May 21 20:30:15 EDT 2007

Ok...so now's the time to get the write ups going for the proposed
SIG sessions for GDC 2008 (it always takes us a bit to get things
finalized and GDC is even earlier in 2008) and I some ideas that I
want to run past people.

We've talked a lot already about applying accessibility to how it
would help people that don't have a disability (like curb cuts that
help bicyclists and parents with baby strollers, etc). What if we had
a session called "Innovation: Game Accessibility for Able Gamers"
with the session planned around taking what we know about
accessibility and targeted the solutions for the "abled" in order to
help them out by taking them out of the lull of "boring, predictable
gaming"? This would be a session for the really "out there" stuff
like biofeedback and games like demor. When I presented at last
year's Montreal Game Summit, I found that it was the "wow" stuff that
got people thinking about the whole issue of accessibility being
"cool" -- it was the carrot that got them to listen to the more basic
design information. After that, people came up to talk to me about
how they never thought about accessibility as NOT limiting game

I'm not totally sold on the title (I just came up with it now so
catchier titles would be greatly appreciated!) but it would give us a
way to present accessibility information pertaining to disabled
gamers, sell it as something that helps more than just disabled
gamers without straying too far from the fact that we are the game
accessibility SIG.

Another thing to think about is not how gamers is with disabilities
are limited but, instead, how maybe the increased skill in another
area makes them even MORE competitive and so "able" gamers should
know about these -- it's a turn around of telling them what they are
doing RIGHT in games by pointing out that they could even the score
with regard to accessibility by keeping these things in their games
(I know...that last one's trickier because it could lead to a
developer thinking that they are unbalanced in their gameplay by
making things easier for one user group...even though they already do
that when they are INaccessible).

I've seen how easy some find it to forget the original audience that
a design was aiming for by making changes that end up not serving
that original audience. So that's why I remain resistant to totally
taking the word "accessibility" out -- I'm afraid of NOT reminding
the industry to keep gamers with disabilities in mind because it's so
easy for them to come down with selective amnesia. We've tried a LOT
of tactics over the years -- from serious to humorous, from
roundtables to much more ambitious workshops. So we need to think
about what we've learned from the four years we've presented as a SIG
at GDC. We won't do "accessibility idol" again but I think we
*should* do another competition (and we can again -- we got the
tentative "thumbs up" to do an hour-long competition, rather than the
two hour overkill). I'll write another email about ideas for a
competition that removes us from "idol" but helps us better make
accessibility into a challenging creative design process rather than
this "forced, non-creative" thing that it's rumored to be (and this
year I know to jump on the signage and web advert issue immediately).

BUT...as a SIG I think we should stick to a fun competition (with the
devs that showed interest last year but couldn't do it but can this
year), the expo (with the fall back of another "arcade" thing, only
not three days worth), a "wacky session" like "innovation," and some
sort of longer session (like a tutorial) where we can have "short
burst" info about the things that SIG members have been doing -- ie,
Eelke might take 20-30 minutes to discuss his stuff, Dimitris taking
the same amount of time to overview his latest, Barrie and his stuff,
etc, etc, etc. Then if any one person wants to do a longer
presentation on their own stuff, they can do so at their own session,
promoting it at the SIG workshop. And if it helps, we can present the
more solo-acts as SIG-sponsored sessions to make sure it gets on the
schedule better -- I know Reid and others have had a really hard time
getting onto the schedule as solo acts. But in the end the longer
presentations would be the onus of the person who is presenting their
work and not something that the entire SIG needs to be there to set
up for, etc (that doesn't mean that we all wouldn't try to be there
for them!!).

We learned in March that 78.4 SIG sessions (ok, 8) isn't the way to
go but I also think going back to the single roundtable isn't the
answer either. So now we have to find our happy medium that allows us
to all ATTEND other sessions and help increase the buzz about all of
our sessions, our existance, etc but also maximize our limited
(simply by the fact that there are just a few of us that can make it
to any one GDC) efforts in the sessions that we do. And we have to
find our happy medium so it's not just a couple of us pulling
all-nighters the weeks before! So instead of me being in charge of
every session for the organization, we can share the wealth a bit by
having some on the committee for the competition, others on the
tutorial/workshop committee, and so forth. I realize that we aren't a
big lot but even NON attendees can help serve on committees to help
share ideas!

Ok that's the end of this email that had started out short and sweet.

:) Sorry -- just feeling the GDC pressure and I realllly want to get

as many people involved as possible so we can present a more united
effort and help best support one another!!

Thoughts? Reactions? And, yes, I'm now very removed from the emotions
of GDC 2007. :) But please be thoughtful in your suggestions --
underneath that black leather jacket I keep wearing to GDCs (for good
luck?), I can get rather down sometimes (yay! depression!) and I'd
hate for us to have a flame war. I promise I will count to 10 before
hitting the "send" button if I find myself taking things too
personally. Ok, deal? :)


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