Because of the new stories being told in video games, many marginalized players are starting to see themselves represented more than ever, thanks to diverse characters and narratives that shine a light on social issues, mental health issues, and more. There is one area, though, where developers are committed to making even more bold improvements to the games we play, and that’s accessibility.
The Game Accessibility Conference (GAconf) is a one-day conference filled with conversations that explore how to make games more accessible to gamers with disabilities. “Disability is a mismatch between a person and their environment, resulting in barriers performing day-to-day tasks, including gaming.” Games are made more accessible when these unnecessary barriers are eliminated.
While our first thought in making games more accessible may be to simply enable subtitles on in-game dialogue (and that’s definitely a huge part), it’s a lot more comprehensive than that.
— GA Conference (@GA_Conf) February 8, 2018
Video games are such an important medium for accessibility, because gaming is about having experiences that you wouldn’t normally have- roaming ancient Egypt, forming relationships in a zombie apocalypse, or robbing thousand-year old tombs- and everyone who calls themselves a gamer should have these equal opportunities.
Companies like Xbox and PlayStation have been working to make its games more accessible for players. PlayStation, for example, has settings where players can enable text-to-speech, zoom, invert the colors, and make text larger. The dualshock buttons can also be customized and set to control automatic scrolling.
On the Xbox side, there are a myriad of options available, including (but not limited to) Xbox assist, American Sign Language (ASL) Xbox support, and game transcriptions. The great thing about GAconf, though, is representatives from these companies can come together and discuss room for improvements and new innovations.
According to the GAconf website:
Attendees can expect a wide range of topics from all sectors of the industry – indie to AAA, academia to accessibility specialists – and leave with inspiration, new contacts, and practical knowledge of how to ensure their vision is able to reach as wide a range of players as possible, so no player is unnecessarily excluded from the access to culture, recreation and socialising that gaming brings.
The GAconf is hosted by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Game Accessibility Special Interest Group. The conference will take place on March 19th at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco. Tickets are still on sale here.