Podcast Episode 14 - New Award Recognizing Accessible Computer Games

This week on the IAP, we discuss a new award from the Game Developers Association of Australia which recognizes accessibility.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Mike Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Mike Guill and Mark Miller.

Mark Miller: Hey welcome to the IAP thanks for keeping it accessible. I am Mark Miller and I’m here with accessibility specialists Mike Guill and this is your accessibility podcasts. Do us a favor, if you're enjoying the IAP share it, tell someone about it, hey even link to it from your accessible website. Mike…

Mike Guill: Mark…

Mark: I feel I'm kinda responsible for another topic that we're talking about here.

Mike: You are squarely responsible for this one.

Mark: I’m taking your job over. So, on our, um, on our website we have a news feed section where we post news on accessibility on a daily basis and… it's pretty much done on a daily basis - because I’m the one that does it - and I found this cool news article, which is really interesting, called the New Award – the title of it is -, “A new Award for Making Accessible Computer Games.” I think I' may have titled it something else, but I’m looking at the origin of the article right now and… then I tweeted it. But, we can’t not bring Twitter into this. And, you found it on Twitter and said, “hey let's talk about this on the IAP.”

Mike: oh no, no, no. I did not find it on Titter. I found it on our website. I actually…

Mark: Oh, you found on our website? I thought you saw my tweet.


Mike: No.


Mark: Oh, look at that I learned something new.

Mike: Yeah.

Mark: You’re actually monitoring our website…

Mike: …so this is an article that was found for the podcast without using Twitter.

Mark: Ah, amazing… amazing! Yeah, I found it not using Twitter.

Mike: Wow!

Mark: So, I'm so… yeah and if you're a…, which is a good thing for our listeners to know, that we do this daily news on the Interactive Accessibility website which is interactiveaccessibility.com. So, please check that out along with our blog and you can also sign up for our newsletter… we handpick some articles and pump them out in that newsletters as well. And, of course, it brings you right back to the site. But, this was an interesting one and it really it caught me as well as… and obviously it caught you because it's just askew enough… it’s in just a different enough space than we're used to talking about. Because, when we think about digital accessibility we think about the web. We think about documents on all those sorts of things. But this gaming world is another world… and one of the things I like about it is that when we talk about accessible gaming, we really are talking about… we're talking about responsible development, I think, but you’re also talking about ROI - that if you can make games accessible to everyone, then it increases your market for the games.

Mike: Right.

Mark: I'm kinda weird. I like to see people do things for business reasons. And, I think there is some strong business reasons around accessibility… that get pushed to the side some times. So, it's exciting to me when I see people looking at those. You know?

Mike: I do. So, computer games, obviously, a lot of people think of them as very visual or very motor skill oriented. You know you have buttons to push or levers or joysticks or things like that. Plus, it’s very - in most cases - fast-paced. So, a lot of the accessibility best practices get, you know, thrown right out the window off the bat. How can you make something that - what you would think - is very visually oriented into non-visual? That's the first thing you think of. The other thing is how would you make controls accessible for people who have more still disabilities…?

Mark: Right.

Mike: …or cognitive issues? How do you make… a how do you keep the spirit of a time sensitive game feature while allowing somebody the ability to pause or slow down, you know?

Mark: Well, those are all great points and to meet that sort of fun challenge in all this, right...?

Mike: …oh, it's a big challenge.

Mark: …those… but they’re the fun problems to solve and I don't know if you've ever seen… I've seen in Kathy Wahlbin’s presentations or accessibility classes that she gives, she shows a video of a child who's a paraplegic he has… the only real motor skill that he has present is an one thumb, I believe – I’d have to look at the video again to be sure in specifics - but he's… like, they've created all these assistive technologies for him to be able to play Call of Duty, I think it is…

Mike: Yeah.

Mark: …and he's like a legend on Call of Duty because of how good he is. And we're not talking about, like, just navigating and shooting and all that, he's chatting with people in real time, as well, while he does it… and its all from the movement of his thumb and the varying pressures and all that kinda stuff. So, the problems can be solved. They really can be.

Mike: Yeah, they can.

Mark: it's amazing. But, this article right here is interesting because this group: International Game Developers Association IGDA had this accessibility specials interest-group who had lobbied for 8 year's to have an accessibility award included and on the Game Developers Association of Australia they have an accessibility awards… I don’t know what you call it…

Mike: they have a game developer award… every year. This is the first year that they have an accessibility award. So, normally they have the… well it’s like any other awards show that they have a… they have something of the year, like a game of the year, then they have some other prizes for excellence in design, or something innovation…

Mark: …excellence in design, excellence in audio…

Mike: yes

Mark: studio of the year, Innovation Award, and technical excellence; and now…

Mike: The accessibility award, yeah! So it's a pretty big deal. You know, give an award to somebody who can rise up to meet a challenge, you know, given technical constraints and given business restraints or constraints and, you know, see what happens. I'm thrilled about this kinda thing.

Mark: It's so cool. It really is.

Mike: you know, years ago, there was a game developer who created… I think it was… I'm pretty sure that it was, like, a role playing scenario game… and the developer… this kind of a famous video game in accessibility circles - the developer did not use any color graphics at all it was entirely text and audio based because… the reason for it was that the developer wasn’t very comfortable with doing graphics and so he thought, well, I’ll just do it all and text. You can use your imagination.

Mark: but that started… I don’t know if you remember… are you much of a gamer Mike?

Mike: Yeah, it little bit.

Mark: A little bit? So, when I was younger I used to be a gamer… when I was very young we started off on PC and it was back when PCs where the keyboard and the screen was all one, and most the programs… you actually got a book with a basic program written in it and you keyed the whole program in yourself, you know…, never mind the floppy disk, right? If you're lucky you had one of those. It was you keying stuff in. But anyways, the big game was is called Adventure and it was a text based RPG, basically. A very simple one. It's actually credited with having the first bot out there. It had a random number generator that would happen in each screen you entered. It could be right when you turn the game on, it could be like towards the end of the game but every time you made a move this random number generator would go, and if it had a certain number it would pop up a dwarf, I think it was, and then another random number generator would go and, depending on what it hit you either get… he would always throw an axe at you. But, the axe would ether kill your or it wouldn’t based on the second random number. So, that was the first like artificial intelligence bot. It's credited as being like the grandfather of all these… even like the internet crawl bots and stuff like that. It was one of the first instance of that. But, it was all text based. That's how we started… they didn't have didn't have graphics back then. They were, you know people are making now pictures out of the text… back then.

Mike: Right, but in the case for this one I'm talking about it was very… it was pretty recent – so, the video games of this era, you know, pretty…

Mark: Oh, no, it’s all about the graphics…

Mike: … and, in a lot of cases there, you know, ridiculously graphics heavy to the point where me - you know I’m older now I can handle had 48 buttons on the controller, you know - I'd like to see the, you know, the old two button, you know, one movement paddle thing back.

Mark: Do you mean the Atari thin with a joystick and one button in the upper-left corner?

Mike: Maybe not that bad. But, yeah, the point was that this developer made something that was completely accessible and didn’t even mean to.

Mark: Yeah.

Mike: You know? So, allowing developers to have the recognition for making something accessible, I think is a good thing. Like, in the case of this award, they're gonna get some recognition for it. We've seen another accessibility conferences and stuff, there are ways for development teams to get recognition for making something really accessible. A lot of times, in those cases, they're not… they’re not to high profile because the only people who end up hearing about them are other people in accessibility…in this space. In a case of this game award, this is gonna be a lot more high-profile because it's for all… it is for all game developers. It's not just for a specific subset.

Mark: Well, you know, as we're sitting here and talking about this, questions pop into my head and, you know, one would be like, how do you make Call of Duty, for example - cuz that was a big game – accessible? And, nothing pops into my mind. I have no answer for it, right? If you turn it on to speech or text, how does that work? You know, my mind runs down these avenues and always, always stops. But, if you have a carrot at the end of it… a sort of a positive carrot at the end if it, there is some developer out there is going to take something like that as a challenge and achieve it.

Mike: Umhu

Mark: Because, I of - maybe not this award - but because if things like this award. So this is a great little precedent, I think, to set out there and it's going to be amazing whenever you constrain people, I think innovation really, really starts to happen. So, if these kind of awards continuing, it becomes a little prestigious to develop this way, then I think we’re going to see some amazing innovations, you know? Then the flip side two is, if you think about it now – what’s the rock star game the just came out that’s making all sorts money? Do you remember the… do you know talking about about?

Mike: No.

Mark: I can remember the name of the company who does it, but I’m losing the name of the game and everybody who listens to this podcasts is probably screaming at me right now. But, they're essentially like choose-your-own-adventure kinda games. Obviously much more complicated… Grand Theft Auto… Grand Theft Auto

Mike: Oh yeah…

Mark: And I can't… I don’t know what the numbers that came out now, but it made a million-dollars it… it broke its break-even point… it went way past it in pre-sales. It's the highest grossing game ever now -beyond Call of Duty and everything. But, something like that you could really see, if so we put in the time, they could make that accessible because it's not, you know, Call of Duty style put your crosshairs on something moving and shoot it. It's more of a contextual, like an RPG… Not exactly like you and I think RPG's this more similar to that. But it just needs to be done, you know.

Mike: I do.

Mark: Yeah, so I think this is really interesting space and, you know, kudos to the Game Developers Association of Australia for picking up on this now. But the tenacity of the accessibility SIG for lobbying the Game Developers Conference for eighty years until they accepted this I mean is the Grail

Mike: Talk about persistent, right?

Mark: Yeah that's real persistence. But again, I think that time the timing's right, right now. Accessibility is something people are really thinking about in multiple ways. These kinda things are going to continue to happen.

Mike: Yeah, let's hope so.

Mark: Yeah, so… Well alright, very cool, Mike thanks for noticing my news post and bring it up for an IAP topic. I appreciate it.

Mike: I appreciate you posting it.

Mark: You're welcome. We can pat each other on the back after the show.

Mike: You do you read your own post though, right?

Mark: I do, yeah, but I was in my posting mind, not my at IAP mind.

Mike: Gotcha.

Mark: That's why I need you over my shoulder helping out.

Mike: I see.

Mark: Well this is Mark Miller

Mike:and this is Mike Guill


Mark: reminding you to keep it accessible.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


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