[games_access] Game accessibility survey journal article

Steve Spohn steve at ablegamers.com
Tue Jul 6 05:11:38 EDT 2010

[replying to the most recent e-mail as to keep the conversation all included
- forgive the length of the e-mail]

To Barries email:

You might be correct about the intent of the author to focus on one group
with two disabilities, we would need clarification to be sure. Just to be
forward about the fact that I did speak with several individuals both in
real life and on-line who confirmed that they believed it was speaking about
two groups that share the same barriers, I requested outside opinions
because I wondered about that sentence as well.

YouTube is an excellent place to find videos of exceptional players. I've
seen the videos of people who can play professional level first-person
shooters with sip & puff. I've even interviewed N0MAD who uses his face to
play games quite remarkably. But we will have to agree to disagree on the
abilities of one-switch gamers. Especially as it is your particular area of
expertise, whereas mine is in motion impaired.

There are no doubts that for individuals who can only use one input any game
we can give them to continue gaming is a victory as far as I'm concerned.
However, I do believe that video games are nothing more at their core than
finding multiple inputs. Therefore, if you continue adding one switch upon
one switch you increase the complexity of video game that the individual can
participate in.

Also, no one really gets into the quality of gameplay in most discussions.
Take for example, I enjoy playing counterstrike source on occasion even
though it is outdated. When I do play its not impressive, I'm relatively
bad at it because I have not purchased enough accessible technology to get
the required inputs. I run only forward with the ability to turn and shoot
(6 inputs) - after having hundreds of conversations with other gamers who
use similar tricks of shaving off inputs can be a viable way to play.

Again, I believe the caveats of this conversation is where you set the bat
of who is disabled and who is critically disabled, to use the author's
terms. Critically disabled to me, is the point where no accessible
technology featured on either of our sites can help the gamer and they are
purely down to one button. At that point, only the exceptional gamer will
be able to continue to play commercial RPG's.

However, as long as someone is able to use some of the head mice as we have
covered on AbleGamers or EyeGaze mice as was covered on one switch, playing
RPGs is viable. At least some. I could turn this into a very long e-mail
but suffice it to say that also depends on which game you choose. World of
Warcraft requires no reading you can simply follow the arrow and go kill
stuff, whereas something like oblivion requires in depth reading and
comprehension of complex quest chains.

Furthermore, my comments often call upon on my own experience coupled with
the discussions I have with disabled gamers in our community. For the most
part, what I hear again and again is that first-person shooters are the most
difficult genre and the first most motor impaired gamers give up.

Which is kind of what I was getting at by my disheartening comment, which
I'm glad was understood. And it was not aimed at this paper in particular.
I do enjoy reading white papers such as the one by Eleanor and Stephanie,
and this one, and others, but they don't ever going to talk to actual people
(actual gamers).

I do not personally have the desire to write white papers, but if I did, I
would love to make one where I would go out and personally speak to 100 or
1000 gamers and compare the ways that they game as opposed to relying on
statistics and census numbers.

To Michelle's email:

Indeed an interesting question to which I honestly do not know the answer.
I disagree that people who enjoy MMOs gravitate towards AbleGamers over
other genres but if the reason that it appears so is because World of
Warcraft is such an amazingly large juggernaut of a videogame. that is
something I can't answer because it's entirely possible and let's face it
World of Warcraft changed how we view video games (150k used to be an
amazing amount of subscribers and now it is considered a failure).

On to the rest of the e-mail, although we all have our differences of
opinions on this sig, I am in complete agreement with you that the
developers only care about the bottom line, well I should say that the
investors care only about the bottom line. I have interviewed plenty of
developers who generally care but either don't know about disabilities or in
a few situations were told that they could not spend the time needed to
include accessibility.

I also agree that when approaching developers we must use the standpoint of
the almighty dollar. However, when we are speaking amongst ourselves as we
are now, it honestly boggles my mind why most of these conversations revolve
around statistics and figures.

I remember when Chuck from VTREE flew off the handle at the bickering back
and forth. One of his comments was that these types of lists often make for
a lot of conversation but very little actual action. Which is generally
where my opinion comes from as well. Take for example the wonderful
MyFootball game his company produced, which I purchased a copy of, that
videogame complies with everything we ever want from any developer.

Yet, other than the extreme amount of coverage that AbleGamers gave - the
title was largely shoved under the rug. Now, please don't misunderstand
that comment as touting the AG line or a slam against any other website.
I'm simply bringing up the fact that we can get what we want but in the end
is it really what we want?

Although this e-mail has already horrendously long, I would like to give you
a brief example. I've recently been reviewing one particular video game
that has every single feature AG looks for in the accessible game of the
year award. I'm not going to give that title away until we run the feature,
but suffice it to say the game has built in auto-pilot with the ability to
kill monsters what one button push only one time. One button push to turn in
quests. One button push to make your character Ron where you want to go. The
environment is fully developed and 3D with World of Warcraft type graphics.

That's everything we want developers to do. It's friendly for the motion
impaired, it has changeable colors and fonts for the visually impaired, it
has quests that can be completed but only pushing one button for the
cognitively impaired and it has everything subtitled or close captioned.

But after reviewing the title for two weeks.. I was BORED and I mean like
amazingly bored. This has fundamentally changed my opinions on what we want
in videogames. I believe it is now more important than ever to tread the
waters between accessibility and what the nondisabled fear the most "dumbing
down games."

I also dislike absolute statements or so-called one solution fits all. I
was very pleased when our accessible game of the year award went to a game
that included the cognitively impaired because they often are overlooked in
AAA gaming because of the nature of the games themselves.

And I do not take offense at your Asterix comment. I completely agree, no
matter how I come off to the sig, or developers, or the community at AG it
is never my intention to say that one of us has superior solutions to
accessibility issues. As far as I'm concerned, if a tin can and some string
allows you to play a video game then great I have done my job and I feel
good about it.

However, yes there is always a however, it is absolute human nature to
formulate plateaus or mile markers of success and defeat. Therefore, I
believe there are solutions that imply giving up. Personally, and I have
gone on record in gaming magazines as saying this, I view using sip & puff
as a defeat.

Categorically when you are at the point when you need to use such a device
you have already exhausted most other means currently available from
assistive technology today. Although, that statement is slightly false
because it is now the 3rd from last resort as you can turn to IR and Eye
technologies when all else fails. Still, on a personal level that is my
opinion of being defeated for myself.

On an even more personal note, I viewed having to go to using Dragon
NaturallySpeaking to do my typing as a defeat. But it increased my
productivity but nearly 1000%... it's difficult to argue with going for
something that makes you be able to accomplish more in a day but that didn't
stop me from feeling like I was giving up on typing.

Now, where I will agree with you is that it should be up to the individual
to as to what is considered necessary for the optimal quality-of-life. The
cochlear implant is an excellent example because each disabled community has
its own version of what they considered to be "last ditch effort." But, I
think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that almost everyone has the
so-called mile markers.

Maybe it's how much money is in your bank account, what job title you have
finally managed to get to when you thought you would be higher by the end of
your career or a certain point, what types of amenities you can afford, what
level of skill you possess, what movement you have remaining, etc. I
believe everyone has something that they look down upon and say to them
selves "at least I'm not at that point yet."

And finally, to both of your points about discussions. No, discussion is
rarely a bad thing. There is some underlying bad blood between different
groups. But I found even at that after people with their heckles down - the
sharing of the viewpoints is the only way to see something from outside of
your own shoes.

I think that's why I have such a unique investment in AbleGamers. This is
not an academic cause to me or something I want to spend my time writing
white papers about. Someone else can do that and it will help in its own
way. But for myself and most of the staff at AG - we deal with the
impairments that everyone else is talking about, every day. However, if
talking about my opinions or our staff and the way we see accessible gaming,
accessible technology, and accessibility as a whole from the standpoint of
someone who actually has to go through using it, not as an option but as
necessity, actually helps someone to make a better controller or a better
video game then so be it.

Apologies for the long email and any dragon errors.. Man Mark would love it
if I would go back to writing these long drawnout and thoughtful posts in
article format. lol

Steve Spohn

Associate Editor

The AbleGamers Foundation

<x-msg://855/www.ablegamers.com> www.ablegamers.com

<x-msg://855/www.Ablegamers.org> www.ablegamers.org

Find me on Skype! Username: Steve_Spohn

From: games_access-bounces at igda.org [mailto:games_access-bounces at igda.org]
On Behalf Of Michelle Hinn
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 4:05 AM
To: IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List
Subject: Re: [games_access] Game accessibility survey journal article

Great discussion!

Regarding stats, I think the point Eelke is trying to stress is what Eleanor
also mentioned on the list earlier is that we have statistics on disability
(even though they are complex and hard to separate from one another when
talking about complex issues like cognitive disabilities and multiple
disabilities) but the question that has been asked for so long by the
industry is how many WOULD be gamers...and that's the hardest part to make a
good estimate of regardless of how complex a statistical breakdown you do.

:( I wish it were easier...but it's what the industry keeps pushing back on.

It becomes what is beyond the "right thing to do" as we know and what's the
"proven" percentage of those who would purchase what is necessary to be
gamers (as if we can predict with a large enough degree of confidence that
takes game type preference in mind as well) and without that, it's a
continued excuse for many companies to continue doing nothing at all.

I also have a chapter in a book with the 2008 stats (the chapter was
published in March 2009) that state similar stats but again the question is
only disability rather than a survey on the percentage of those who want to
game versus the percentages of disability breakdown. Perhaps this percentage
will be higher than those without disabilities. But we don't know that
beyond what I think we most of us are passionately convinced will be the
case. And then the question of game preference comes up...and accessibility
does not equal desire to play. So we struggle on with this one! I agree,
with you Steve, that multiple solutioned approaches are badly needed -- one
solution does not fit all...with the bigger question of whether one solution
fits very many people overall!

Because of the enormity of the category of cognitive disabilities, I am not
of the same opinion that strategy and RPGs are the most accessible game
category for many who have disabilities in this area, like myself. One
question that I think that deserves discussion -- and I'm not suggesting a
"right or wrong" here, just a point of discussion -- is, again, access
versus preference. I know that I have a few cognitive disabilities using
multiple definitions of what constitutes a cognitive disability but do I
enjoy games in the genres that may be "most" accessible (and by what
definition)? No, not at all especially if we stick to a definition of that
gaming category that does not necessarily include sports and music
simulations. WOW and similar games hold very little interest to me.

This is not to say AT ALL that my preference is the same as others with
cognitive disabilities. But that's just it...preference.

And due to the tradition of AbleGamers as a community, many who enjoy MMOS
gravitate to the site. And that is absolutely needed. But it is only one
slice of a picture that we all are trying to map out with any type of
impairment. And AbleGamers has certainly widened it's initial scope but
there are still many who look to the site as something vital to the types of
games that they prefer -- MMOs. There are definitely more than a few
thousand motion impaired individuals but is the reason that so many of this
slice of those with mobility impairments play MMOs if they choose to game
because they enjoy them most of all, because those that frequent and benefit
from AbleGamers the most are more interested in these games, or because
they are statistically the largest game genre that game players with
mobility impairments play? Or is the answer somewhere between all these or
even just a part of these things in addition to other reasons?

Re: the mouth controller, it is still quite used even if it may not
necessarily be the most ideal for even those who use them -- but once you've
invested in this type of AT, how much more can many spend? I agree that it
is far from the only way to play but it's a way to play that some still use.
But I defer to you and your expertise on that and don't assume at all that I
have the more full individual and well thought out experience that you have.

**note this is not a comment about you but just a comment I have overall **
One thing that I don't like to see is that when those do use one solution
over another that it is a form of "giving up." I understand the sentiment
with regard to everyone's individual goals and preferences on how they wish
to live their lives including the technologies that they use. But I do get
sad when I read that to use one solution versus another is somehow
incorrect. I am not saying that you have said this or mean this -- but it is
just something that I have noticed in the disabled community in a multitude
of areas within and outside of gaming. I may be not be understanding every
issue but it reminds me of those within the hearing impaired community that
get offended by those who choose to have a cochlear implant versus those who
do not -- is there really a "right" answer as long as the individual is
comfortable by what they decide on?

I do completely understand your frustration with the nature of research
surveys -- but that is also my frustration with the entire field of game
accessibility. Lumping "cognitive" impairments together is an example of
this and yet it is done all the time by research and advocacy groups. This
is something we are all guilty of so we must be aware of when we do it
ourselves (and I've done it too so I am not free from this either!). It's
easier to lump than to wrestle with smaller categories...certainly
"soundbytes" in the media do not lend themselves well to things like "but
really these categories are much too large and we cannot make any
recommendations because it's all too complex."

Thanks to Eelke for posting his student's paper and to all who have
participated in the feedback loop so far! These are the things that we all
wrestle with and if we don't...who will? So discuss on! :)


On Jul 5, 2010, at 6:05 PM, Steve Spohn wrote:

Indeed a good paper. Here are my thoughts on some issues.

2.5 Game accessibility statistics

''How many people cannot play video games because of a

disability?'' is a key question to investigate because, to the

authors' knowledge, such data has not been determined

Actually 7-128 software and the AbleGamers foundation put out a white paper
on those statistics which can be found at http://www.aging.ablegamers.org

3.1 Switches

The motor impaired gaming area is something I've largely dealt with, mainly
because I'm a motor impaired gamers who counsels other motor impaired gamers
on how to play.

The mouth controller shown here is largely outdated and a relic in some
respects. Someone who has ability left to use a device like this is not
limited to single inputs at one time. Something like broadened horizons
versatility would be wonderful. Those who specifically need one-switch
games that utilize the large red button type of switches would be critically
disabled but for the most part, one can adapt many of the switches Barrie
has listed in combination to become a gaming rig of sorts.

Which leads into...

4.3 Directions for research

Game genres: As discussed in Sect. 3, severe motor and

visually impaired players can only play games within a

limited number of game genres. Popular game genres [20]

such as strategy, sports and role playing games are not yet

available to those groups. Unlike hearing impaired players,

severe motor impaired and visually impaired players typically

face critical barriers preventing them from playing the


For a large number of motion impaired gamers strategy and role playing games
are the number one most accessible genre available today. Strategy games
often have pause features that assist not only motion impaired but the
cognitively disabled as well. Strategy games are largely accessible
especially in the casual category such as risk.

As for role-playing games, World of Warcraft is one of the most played by
disabled motion impaired gamers title I've seen yet. Ablegamers is a
community of well over 1000 gamers who are primarily comprised of motion
impaired gamers and have often discussed what they play in no relation to us
or anything that we recommend. Most every single motion impaired plays
role-playing games because they are easy and accessible by their nature.

RPGs like Sid Meier's civilization are turn-based and allow as much time as
you need between taking turns. Games like WoW or EQ can be played with an
input device that only allows two buttons and a directional mover such as
eye or headmice.

As Eleanor mentioned earlier, it would be more interesting to see statistics
on multiple accessible technology being used in conjunction. As a large
part of what our organization does is figure out combinations of accessible
technologies that allow for the most input multiple no matter how severe
your disability.

4.3 (Cont.) However, one popular game genre, FPS, has many

accessible games for almost every type of impairment

Although I do not disagree with the statement on the whole, the paragraph
when all put together is slightly misleading. First person shooters are the
first genre of games taken away from motion impaired gamers, particularly
those with degenerative diseases. Even then AT can compensate for some

First-person shooters take the absolute most dexterity, timing, and hand eye
coordination among all other video game genres.

However, that does not mean that with the right combination of accessible
technology that first-person shooters will remain off-limits. The author
suggests first-person shooters are extremely accessible due to
modifications, but the truth is many disabled gamers who are far more motion
impaired than I am (and I can only use a mouse) play first person shooters
with no modifications whatsoever.

People like Corey Krull who played video games using a Morse code device to
allow multiple inputs with relatively no muscle control whatsoever.


As a side note, I find one thing disheartening about research papers is that
I have gotten to know several thousand disabled gamers in my multiple year
career fighting for disability, as I'm sure many of you have. Yet, these
type of papers tend to lump gamers into generalized categories that are only
vaguely accurate at best.

The best way to bring true awareness to the cause is to show people the
lengths disabled gamers will go to to play even the most simple casual and
hard-core games.

Steve Spohn

Associate Editor

The AbleGamers Foundation

www.ablegamers.com <x-msg://855/www.ablegamers.com>

www.ablegamers.org <x-msg://855/www.Ablegamers.org>

Find me on Skype! Username: Steve_Spohn

From: games_access-bounces at igda.org [mailto:games_access-bounces at igda.org]
On Behalf Of Barrie Ellis
Sent: Sunday, July 04, 2010 6:16 PM
To: games_access at igda.org
Subject: Re: [games_access] Game accessibility survey journal article

Just finished reading the Game Accessibility survey. Very good! I found the
bulk of it really smartly explained, with excellent diagrams and tables.
Very useful. Very Nice!

My 10 pence worth...

p7. 3.1.1: One-handed controller typically provides only one analogue
input... Apart from the Wii, the only game console one-handed controllers in
recent production I'm aware of have both analogue sticks available (Access
controller and "one hand controller" -

p8. 3.1.2: OneSwitch.org.uk isn't actually non-profit, although there is
tons of free stuff. Over 100 one-switch games now for free. Thank you for
the mention!

p9. 3.1.3: Frogger - all good points about this game, but might have been
worth mentioning that you can move left and right, when you hop on the
moving logs and turtles.

p14 3.5: Universal design does not indicate that all impairments are
supported, but rather that multiple types of impairments are supported... I
always thought it did, but simply hasn't been managed yet. Doesn't seem to
make sense to me otherwise.

p16: For example, a one-switch racing game does not allow the player to
brake or speed up because certain input options may have been removed to
allow for one-switch
input... Can be done. Using the 4Noah utility and Destruction Derby on a
PSone emulator, at Kit 4 Kidz in Leeds earlier this year, we had tap to
cycle between left-nothing-right-nothing-(and repeat) for steering, and hold
for a couple of seconds then release to cycle between
accelerate-nothing-reverse-nothing-(and repeat). Because Destruction Derby
has helpful barriers all around the track to help keep you on course, plus a
self-righting system if you get spun in the wrong way, it's quite playable
for someone with really accurate one-switch skills. You could also have a
game with auto-braking (e.g. F355 Challenge and Forza 3), and perhaps Mario
Kart style speed ups on the track.

p16 4.3: ...severe motor and visually impaired players can only play games
within a limited number of game genres. Popular game genres [20] such as
strategy, sports and role playing games are not yet available to those
groups. Unlike hearing impaired players, severe motor impaired and visually
impaired players typically face critical barriers preventing them from
playing the game.... I guess it depends upon the degree of visually
impairment, but wonder if some of these would be playable:
http://www.oneswitch.org.uk/2/sd-sport.htm ?

My final thoughts links to the lack of games for cognitively impaired
players. I do agree that it's a complicated area, but when taking into
account learning disabled users, I'm surprised only a handful of games were





am+Resources&pid=161> &pid=161





In my experience, a lot of more severely "learning disabled" people have
reacted well to some one-switch games, or games that use relatively simple
interfaces, such as eye-toy and basic joysticks. Some of course get on
better than I do with complicated games.



From: "Michelle Hinn" <hinn at uiuc.edu>
Sent: Sunday, July 04, 2010 9:02 PM
To: "IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List" <games_access at igda.org>
Subject: Re: [games_access] Game accessibility survey journal article

> I've read the article and it is very, very good! Because the permissions

are owned by the journal, he cannot post it online because they (Springer)
are very strict with permissions. But he can send you a copy as he said. :)
Eelke didn't mention it but he's second author on it and although it goes
without saying...the quality is excellent!


> Michelle


> On Jul 4, 2010, at 1:53 PM, Brannon Zahand wrote:


>> Eelke,


>> Can I get a copy as well?


>> Thanks,

>> Brannon


>> -----Original Message-----

>> From: games_access-bounces at igda.org

[mailto:games_access-bounces at igda.org] On Behalf Of Kestrell

>> Sent: Saturday, July 03, 2010 7:15 AM

>> To: IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List

>> Subject: Re: [games_access] Game accessibility survey journal article


>> Eelke,


>> May I request an electronic copy of your student's paper on game



>> Thanks!


>> Kestrell



>> ----- Original Message -----

>> From: "Eelke Folmer" <eelke.folmer at gmail.com>

>> To: <games_access at igda.org>

>> Sent: Saturday, July 03, 2010 2:13 AM

>> Subject: [games_access] Game accessibility survey journal article



>>> Hi,


>>> For those of you interested in: 1) a comprehensive overview of

>>> academic literature on game accessibility; 2) a synthesis of

>>> strategies used to make games for sensory, motor and cognitive

>>> impairments; and 3) data on how many people in the US are unable or

>>> limited in playing video games per type of impairment, a journal paper

>>> called: "Game Accessibility: a Survey" written by my student Bei Yuan

>>> is available online at:


805933963a70f&pi=0> &pi=0


>>> Email me offline if you would like a copy of this paper and you don't

>>> have access through a university library.


>>> --

>>> Best, Eelke


>>> Eelke Folmer

>>> Assistant Professor

>>> Department of Computer Science and Engineering

>>> University of Nevada, Reno

>>> http://www.eelke.com

>>> _______________________________________________

>>> games_access mailing list

>>> games_access at igda.org

>>> http://seven.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/games_access


>> _______________________________________________

>> games_access mailing list

>> games_access at igda.org

>> http://seven.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/games_access


>> _______________________________________________

>> games_access mailing list

>> games_access at igda.org

>> http://seven.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/games_access


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