[games_access] Game control question...

Reid Kimball reid at rbkdesign.com
Sun Jan 20 22:35:29 EST 2008

I haven't read this whole thread but I suggest we can make GA an
easier sell by saying they work for everyone, not just the disabled. I
got as much email from foreign language players who wanted to use
Doom3[CC] to learn English as I did from deaf players.

When you think about the growth games are enjoying now, I believe it
will peak sooner than later if developers don't adopt more
accessibility features. Someone who's never played an FPS may give up,
unless there's a feature to use auto aiming, which some games have,
but not all. I think we should say game accessibility features can
help developers reach more gamers and increase sales across a wide
spectrum of people. This wide spectrum includes people that have never
played to people that currently can't but really want to.

The idea of game accessibility for the disabled is foreign and scary
for developers. Yet, the Nintendo Wii has made the concept of game
accessibility... accessible to developers.


On Jan 20, 2008 7:01 PM, d. michelle hinn <hinn at uiuc.edu> wrote:



> On Jan 20, 2008 5:59 PM, d. michelle hinn <hinn at uiuc.edu> wrote:

> > Heh -- that's interesting to know. And kind of not surprising, sadly.

> > Oh, I think we could spend some major cash on hiring people to do all

> > kinds of work. What were those investor's names? ;)


> I'll let one know we're working on something and see if he has

> suggestions. Once we've got something together to present, we'll see

> if/when he has time for introductions. Trying not to bug him too much

> without giving him something solid with an action plan - he gets

> people asking for money for the craziest things all the time, and I

> want to stay above his noise level.


> That I understand all too well!



> > Well, awareness has been our purpose and what we've been trying to do

> > for most of this decade. But without slick packages (back to that

> > whole "ask for millions and you have a better chance" thing) and

> > demonstrating how a company can financially benefit from including

> > accessibility, that's where we get stuck.


> Don't get stuck on the financial benefit part. If I thought there was

> a way to make game accessibility profitable enough to make serious

> business sense, I'd raise venture capital to start a company for it

> and make millions instead of spending my spare time writing free code

> for it and working at a good but not exactly stimulating or life

> enhancing day job. But it's really not a huge-growth market from my

> analysis (snide comments about political trends in the US bringing us

> more customers aside) - if you do make a company in the accessibility

> area you have to charge high prices to make up for low volumes and

> you're keeping your fingers crossed hoping the insurance companies

> will pay them. I'd put money on it that KYE operates at a loss or at

> best break-even, and only exists because he's a nice guy with noble

> values.



> Unfortunately the reality is that game companies will say what we are doing

> is great...but can we guarantee numbers? I completely understand that we can

> get stuck in the numbers game forever. And in the end? A company probably

> isn't going to make huge amounts of money -- who can guarantee who would be

> gamers if they could be and what kind of games they would play? But GDC

> after GDC...there's always people who will smile back with this clouded over

> look in their eyes and say "this is great, yes, accessibility is what we

> should be doing...but we're fighting budget cuts and the game industry is a

> tough industry so in order to do any of this we need financial details."

> Every single time. So while I (and many of us in the SIG) don't want to get

> caught up in the financial quicksand...the social justice argument just

> doesn't hold.



> And yeah, I bet KYE is not a fortune 50000000 company.




> I think we'd do better trying to make it stupid simple and cheap for

> companies to make their products more accessible and show them how

> rather than trying to convince them to do the research, development,

> and testing themselves. Then it's more a question of what the right

> thing to do is than whether they have the time, expertise, and money

> to spend on figuring out what they need to do and how to do it.



> I agree with us doing the work of figuring out what will work -- that's what

> we strive to do. But to get someone to put in anything? It seems like a no

> brainer...but we haven't exactly seen a whole lot of change because it comes

> down to that damn financial question again and again and again. That's what

> we face in the industry -- there's always this insistence that nothing will

> happen until we can show that it's going to be cheap, not lose customers,

> and maybe even sell a few more units...and that it's going to be more

> important than adding in some other feature that has nothing to do with

> accessibility but that they want to do because they can.




> Accessibility is a really broad field, and from what I've seen there's

> no clear list of how to make a game accessible that's useful when

> implementation time comes - even for a narrow set of disabilities.



> That's largely because disability itself is complex. There is a huge range

> even within the most narrow set. And then how many people are we talking

> about when we tell a company "here are some guidelines?" And who are we

> shutting out when we let in one group (ie, what is accessible for the

> hearing impaired usually isn't the same thing as what is accessible for the

> visually impaired)? We've created lists only to replace them with other

> lists or guidelines or patterns -- the task is huge. But we still chip away

> at it.




> Closed captioning is one exception, and I think Valve did a pretty

> nice job on Half Life 2 supporting it - because someone there thought

> it was important and the right thing to do. I'd fully expect that if

> they've seen what Reid and his group did with Doom 3, we might even

> get an audio radar in HL3.



> Ah...I'll let Reid tell the story but the hearing impaired community went

> after Valve. Valve has also seen what Reid has done and they know him. And

> it remains the only commercial game to date with closed captioning (not just

> subtitles). And that was years ago...and yet why hasn't another company done

> that? Other companies have been complained to...and we've talked about it so

> much at conferences you'd think that by now half the industry would have put

> in closed captioning just to get us to shut up about it. The Doom3[cc] mod

> was even up for a mod of the year award (unfortunately it didn't win) at GDC

> a few years back. If I had to guess, it's the feature we talk about the most

> to the industry about...again...that financial question rears up and we need

> a better answer to that question.




> But while every textbook says "Configurable input is the key for

> physically disabled gamers", Valve and Id developers would say "Well,

> our games are completely configurable for inputs!". Problem is,

> they'd be right and they've obviously put some serious time and effort

> into making their games that way, but their games still don't work

> worth squat with a QuadController without external software - and the

> QuadController, from what I've seen, has more inputs available than

> just about any other solution.



> Well, not every textbook...just the more recent ones. But the trouble with

> every textbook is that they only have so much space to talk about the issue

> -- at GDC I'll see the final contracts for the first time but the SIG will

> be producing a book (for real this time...).



> But I think we could go on and on about the value of showing developers how

> their own game can or cannot be played. And I agree -- there's got to be

> someone on the inside of every company that says "you know what? we're going

> to put in this one feature to make our game more accessible to people with

> XYZ disability." But they get stuck somewhere in the system.



> This is where I/we get stuck -- there's the financial question...and then

> there's the legal question. These surpass the "right thing to do" issue -- I

> don't like to believe it does...but after a while, we have to wonder what is

> going on. Is it really a financial question? Is it a legal question -- and

> if it is, how? and if it is...how much would we see the industry turn

> against us if we made that case? There are a lot of rough lessons to be

> learned from other media...just because something does fall under, say, the

> Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't mean that change will follow quickly

> (or even follow) -- there are way too many cases locked up in courts around

> the US just to take the captioning in movie theatres question to task.



> So Mike I'm not bringing up all these things to say that you are not right

> -- there's a long history with the SIG and we've tried many things, many

> that you have brought up. But I bring them up to say that things haven't

> been as simple as they might seem with regard to impact in the industry. I

> bring them up to remind myself of the battle that we are about to go into

> again -- ie, GDC 2008. I also bring them up to say that we haven't had

> enough bandwidth to really have as big of an impact as we all would like.

> Maybe it's been timing for some strategies. I really don't know. I like your

> idea of targeting a company or two and sending them controllers, calling,

> emailing -- asking them what they think and if they say that they can't

> afford to implement any one thing ask them to at least be honest and tell us

> why exactly that is? I hope that those of us going to GDC can identify a few

> companies that are most likely not going to completely ignore us and/or let

> what we send them sit in the corner. I hope. I just keep hoping for that day

> when we can say "wow, they did this because we helped make it happen." I

> think one of these days that will happen. We need more than money -- we need

> the commitment of more people like you who aren't waiting for a financial

> payoff on a grand scale...or at all.



> So anyway, I hope you'll stick with us because we need more people like you

> who feel like what we do is the right thing to do and won't accept "we can't

> afford it" as the final answer from the game industry. I just want us to

> remember what we face/have faced/will face so that we take it not as

> discouragement but as encouragement -- hey, regardless of whether or not we

> buy into the financial excuses/realities/whatever people want to call it,

> the fact that people are even responding tells us that they know we are out

> there.



> There's a quote that my advisor told me years ago that keeps popping back in

> my mind recently. It seemed super obscure when he brought it up. It was a

> quote from Miguel de Unamuno -- a Spanish philosopher -- who said in his

> book "The Tragic Sense of Life" (If you are rolling your eyes already, don't

> worry -- I had the same reaction as I often do when I hear something obscure

> come out of someone's mouth):



> When the disillusionment of the mind and despair of the heart come together

> then you finally have something to build on.



> Maybe that's where we are now? Maybe we've finally arrived at the place

> where we have something to build on?



> Michelle



> PS -- Ok, ok...this may have been one of my crazier emails but, no, I

> haven't completely lost my mind! I think it's just the energy of it being

> the eve of Martin Luther King day (from wikipedia):



> The national Martin Luther King Day of Service was started by former

> Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis,

> who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act. The federal legislation

> challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen

> action through volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The federal

> legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23,

> 1994. Since 1996, the annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service has

> been the largest event in the nation honoring Dr. King.

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