A history of game accessibility guidelines
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This article is a follow up to a recent twitter chat, sharing a timeline of the development of accessibility resources.
This timeline is non-exhaustive, there will no doubt be things that I’ve missed or am not aware of, and there are a few internal sets of guidelines that can’t be shared publicly too.
But hopefully it will be an interesting read, and give a sense of where we have come from, how knowledge and resources have grown, evolved, built upon one another, and how many passionate people from all across the industry have helped to push the field forward.
Media LT, January 2004
Guidelines on design for people with multiple learning disabilities, primarily for entertainment software but intended to be applicable across software development in general.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, October 2004
The SIG’s first initiative, a white paper covering a range of information about accessibility, including a proposed set of guidelines which were also split out into a stand-alone web resource. This appears to be the first attempt at a comprehensive set of guidance across impairment types.
Barrie Ellis/Retro Remakes, April 2005
Top ten collection of accessibility fundamentals.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, September 2005
Top ten ways to improve game accessibility.
BBC, June 2006
A presentation given in support of mandatory accessibility requirements (reqs doc itself no longer available) across BBC educational game output.
Roland Ossmann & Klaus Miesenberger, July 2006
Attempts to define games accessibility guidelines helping game developers to design their products in a way that assistive technologies can interact with the game interface and that the parameters of usage can be adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Builds upon both IGDA-GASIG white paper and MediaLT guidelines.
Brannon Zahand (Microsoft), August 2006
For game content developers and producers who want to reach this market by adding basic accessibility features to help people with disabilities or impairments.
Dimitris Grammenos (UA-games), April 2007
Guidelines produced as part of the Game Over! accessibility teaching tool.
Eelke Folmer, May 2007
A collection of accessibility interaction design patterns.
IGDA-GASIG, game-accessibility.com and UA-Games, November 2007
Collaborative effort to produce a guidelines poster for display at the Future Play conference in 2007, but also used at GDC and made publicly available through the SIG website.
Barrie Ellis, 2008
Collection of articles detailing guidelines for eyegaze, single switch, head tracking, and subtitling.
BBC, August 2008
First iteration of mandatory accessibility standards across all of the BBC’s first and third party games.
7-128 & AbleGamers, 2010
Paper addressing changing U.S. demographics and their effect on accessibility issues in computer gaming, including a set of recommended considerations.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, 2010
Rework of the guidelines from the 2004 white paper, revisiting which items are included, and providing application / description / accomplishment / test for each item.
Dark/7-128, January 2011
A checklist for developers who want to make their Windows games blind-accessible
SpecialEffect, May 2011
Wish list for accessible game design features. There are 20 wishes spread evenly across four different categories of accessibility.
SpecialEffect, September 2011
Top five accessibility tips to consider adding to your game.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, September 2011
A new list to better address the needs of gamers while making the features clear to understand to developers, produced as a foundation for Film Victoria’s game funding accessibility criteria.
CEAPAT, April 2012
An extensive 250 page collection of accessibility experiences and studies from Spain, including guidelines on a range of topics..
Collaboration, September 2012 (ongoing)
A collaborative effort between a group of studios, specialists and academics, to produce a straightforward developer friendly reference for ways to avoid unnecessarily excluding players, and ensure that games are just as fun for as wide a range of people as possible.
The launch of both this resource and Includification later in the same month marked the beginning of guidelines seeing broad uptake by developers
AbleGamers, September 2012
An easy-read guide to the most important accessibility options that can be included in a video game and what each one of them means to the end user.
BBC, December 2012
A refreshed set of guidelines for inclusive BBC gaming content.
Tania Di Mascio et al, February 2013
Guidelines with accompanying usage examples, compiled from a review of Deaf literature.
Franco Eusébio Garcia and Vânia Paula de Almeida Neris, 2013
Guidelines to help designers use audio to create more accessible audio games, especially for visually impaired players. They were proposed by the systematization of features, problems and solutions discussed on literature’s papers and accessibility guidelines, a case study and a user observation.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG and Film Victoria, July 2015
Refreshed guidance for Film Victoria funding applicants, covering background information and specific guidance for each feature.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, July 2015
Expanding the updated guidance for Film Victoria funding applicants out into a full refreshed top ten list.
Ian Hamilton, July 2015
Top 3 basic fundamentals and top 10 general good practices, well established principles both from within gaming and from other related industries.
Requirements and recommendations, tested at every stage of development.
Microsoft, February 2017
An overview of game accessibility guidelines derived from various organizations, introducing the inclusive game design principle for creating more accessible games.
IDGA Game Accessibility SIG, March 2017
Guidance on how and why gaming hardware and operating systems can enable access for gamers with disabilities.
SpecialEffect, February 2018
Make a start with designing your games for accessibility! To include even just one item from each list would be a wonderful start.
BBC, July 2018
Guidelines refresh, detailing how the BBC uses accessibility thinking to design experiences that everyone can use.
Ruthie Edwards, January 2019
Comprehensive guidelines that feature classic design principles combined with modern accessibility standards.
Ian Hamilton, January 2019
Guidance on CVAA legislation, including suggestions on feature implementation.
AbleGamers, February 2019
22 design patterns aimed at enabling studios to think holistically about disability and the barriers that prevent some players from participating.
Can I Play That?, July 2019
A selection of guides covering a wide range of accessibility topics.
Xbox, October 2019
A set of best practices that have been developed in partnership with industry experts and members of the gaming and disability community. They are intended for designers to generate ideas, for developers as guardrails when developing their game and as a checklist for validating the accessibility of their title.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, May 2020
A set of posters for use in studios centred around design challenges, backed up by gamer quotes, high level guidance, and data. Inspired by great work by the UK Home Office and Amazon, amongst others.
Xbox, February 2021
Major update with improved language, clear goals, improved overview, scoping questions, key areas to target, background and foundational info, and implementation examples.
IGDA Game Accessibility SIG, May 2021
Expanding upon the 2020 posters work to form a new questions-focussed list, covering ten areas of consideration that all make a significant difference to the experience of disabled players.
Quite a journey! I hope that this serves as a useful historical record in days to come. A record of just one small aspect of the decades long push for accessibility, and a bit of sense of how broad the swathe of people who have played a part in moving us forwards really is. And with each passing day the number of people contributing only grows larger, helping to take the industry to an ever better place.
Thank you to Barrie Ellis of Oneswitch for his help putting this together!