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Game Accessibility

games people accessible designed

Definition: A new generation of accessible games is emerging, designed to offer multimodal interfaces that allow people with disability to play as equals with all the other players.

On-line entertainment improves the quality of human life and represents a relevant aspect of human culture and communication. Playing games is a basis for discovery, learning and, finally, growing. Playing is a way to observe, try and manipulate things or ideas, to make experiments, understand and invent. Moreover, playing with others consistently involves people in mutual communication. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual’s ability to be an active part of the society, including when it mainly supports entertainment activities. These considerations encouraged designers to make on-line gaming an inclusive technology that supports access for anyone, regardless of disability. The development of accessible games is fully supported by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), through a specific workgroup, the Game Accessibility Special Interest Group.

Currently, on-line games are mainly based on inaccessible interfaces and people with disabilities have difficulties or are totally left out of the game. As an example, people who are totally blind or visually impaired cannot play most of the available on-line games, which are exclusively based on visual cues. More generally, there are a variety of different conditions that could limit a user in playing a game. There is a vast range of difficulties that arise from limitations in vision, hearing, mobility, or cognitive issues that a disabled user could suffer from.

To overcome these limits, there exist several games designed to meet special requirements of a particular group of disabled users. A significant example is offered by audio games that are based only on an auditive output and are typically played by blind users. This approach is now becoming obsolete because it fails the purpose to be inclusive, creating new forms virtual barriers. A new generation of accessible games is emerging, designed to offer multimodal interfaces that allow people with disability to play as equals with all the other players. Commercial examples of inclusive 3D games are now available including, for example, those games that offer visual/audio hybrid interface and could be played by both sighted and blind players.

Accessibility is also a key issue for serious games i.e., video games designed for non-entertainment purposes (e.g., military, education or healthcare). Digital Game Based Learning (DGBL) represents one of the newest trends in e-learning and combines content provision with computer games to obtain a more effective way to learn. When games are used in support to teaching/learning activities and can be considered as edutainment applications, accessibility could become a legal requirement. Different countries have laws regarding minimum accessibility constraints for didactical materials that have to be applied also to DGBL applications. Finally, similarly to what happens with Web Contents Accessibility, an accessible design could effectively improve the game experience also to mobile players that use portable devices with low bandwidth, slow CPUs or small displays.

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