From Designing Games to Impact: How to Improve Game Accessibility

What happens when developers and artists collaborate?  Why game accessibility matters? How to raise awareness and education about game accessibility? Meet academics and professionals who are seeking the answers to these questions at ArtsIT 2017, 6th EAI International Conference: ArtsIT, Interactivity & Game Creation (October 30-31, Heraklion, Greece). We have had the pleasure of talking to Thomas Westin (Stockholm University) who is one of the people who contributes to making games more accessible for gamers with –  and without – disabilities.

What is the central topic of ArtsIT 2017 and why is it important? What is this event’s vision? 

ArtsIT is the conference where IT and Arts meet which is important since digital technology concerns so much more than computer science – it is the foundation for the entire digital culture, where human and social sciences are key. Computer games is a great example of this mix of arts and technology, as both engineering and design are necessary to create a good game.
Furthermore, to make a game playable by all gamers there is a need of inclusive design as well as technical know-how to implement such design. Accessibility is now part of the CVAA legislation in the US, which has already had an international impact (e.g. Sony in Japan, who now has accessibility options in PS4). This is why the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG special track is so important at ArtsIT 2017: to further creativity by making games more accessible.

What kind of contributions are you looking for in the submission papers?

We would like to see contributions from both academia and the game industry, regarding the design of accessible games, interfaces that can adapt to a range of disabilities, using transmodality, AI, player modeling, and haptic communication. Furthermore, topics related to education for game accessibility are important, as well as implementing accessibility in games and removing barriers for implementation.

What have been the recent developments in game accessibility, interactivity and game creation? What are the biggest challenges that this area is currently facing? 

Since the update of the CVAA in 2015, there has been a surge of interest in game accessibility from the game industry, e.g. at the Game Developers Conference but also from academia e.g. at CSUN. The IGDA Game Accessibility SIG also had our first special conference about game accessibility in San Francisco 2017. There have also been significant efforts of making plugins to game engines for accessibility, and improving platform accessibility and build accessibility solutions into operative systems of consoles to ease implementations.

One of the big challenges ahead is the next follow-up of CVAA which will require legislation for not only the platforms but also the games. The technology updates on platforms is an important prerequisite but the next step is definitely design as well as awareness and education about game accessibility. The ArtsIT conference is a great venue to further this development.

What are your expectations for ArtsIT 2017?

My expectations are that people within academia and the game industry with different focus and backgrounds can come together and contribute with new ideas or concepts to create an improved foundation for game accessibility. Especially, I hope that people with disabilities who are interested in the field of computer games attend and publish their work at the conference.

ArtsIT 2017 is accepting papers until 23 June.