Games for human beings – Why game accessibility is important
Author: Danne Borell
Accessibility specialist and UX designer
Published 23 May 2023
Reading time 3 minutes
Why do we make games? Because we want people to play them.
That’s the basic reason, isn’t it? Sure, it’s a job that we get paid for because we need money to live (and buy games), but the basic reason is that we really like games, and we want to make games that people can enjoy.
So why then are we making games that many can’t play?
A low estimate gives that 16% of our planet’s population has some form of disability. Here in Sweden where I live that would be around 1.6 million people, though the real figure is likely higher. This covers all forms of disability, and in many cases, it affects the ability to play games.
Disability and health fact sheet from WHO
It could be limited movement in the hands, limited sight or hearing, colour blindness, attention difficulties just to name a few. Whatever it is, it stops many from being able to play the games that they want to play. Only, it doesn’t have to…
During the past decade or so game accessibility has moved forward, first with uncertain steps, but now with leaps and bounds. Both triple-A titles and indie games have pioneered, redefined and reused ways of making games work well for more people. Some have added a few of the more common features, such as captions or controller remapping, while others have gone all in, raising the bar for game accessibility for everyone. But still, there’s a lot left to be done.
For me accessibility is a very simple thing, it’s designing for human beings. Whatever we make, a game, a house, or a website, we make it for people to use. But if we make design decisions that make it harder for some to use what we made, or prevents them outright, then we’ve failed with the basic premise, to make something that works for human beings.
What accessibility adds is a broader understanding of how humans work, and how to meet those needs. It can be very easy to focus on making something that works for yourself when you’re making a game, but stopping there will mean that it’s not going to work for people differently abled than you.
Gamers come in all shapes and sizes, and with all levels of ability. To not exclude people takes knowledge and effort, but it’s worth doing.
So, you need to learn about game accessibility to make games for human beings. The good news is, that’s a lot easier than it used to be!
There are several guidelines on game accessibility, there are excellent articles, videos and talks on the subject just a click away. And if you need a bit more support there are accessibility experts like me who love nothing more than talking about how to make games work for everyone.
And to provide some inspiration, here’s a link to a video that shows how much difference being able to play games in spite of a disability can make: