While I can't believe how many issues of Audyssey pile up in an inbox over
just a few days, I have caught some of the conversation about
accessibility and mainstream companies.
You may not know, but for three years I worked for one of the major
publishers, THQ, and I'm still friends with quite a number of people in
the industry, mostly PR, but a few game devs such as 5th Cell (who created
Scribblenauts) and BlueTongue (who are working on de Blob 2).
Getting accessibility features into a game is not as simple as banging on
a door and saying 'Hey, what about this?' In fact, usually, by the time
you've heard about a game being in development, the features list has
already been 80% established, and that includes the major gameplay
elements. The addition of a character because of so-called player support
is often fictional. They would have already assessed whether or not it was
viable to put the character into the game and potentially done concept and
model development. Trust me: you can't just plug a character into a
game--especially a fighting game--as you have to make sure it's 100 per
cent balanced against every other character. Anyone who's big into Street
Fighter IV would be aware of that.
Accessibility is something that has to be considered right at the
beginning of a game's development in order for it to be fully implemented.
And, yes, you're right sometimes it comes down to money. Sometimes it's
about resources. How much time do you work on accessibility features
before you realise that you've just burned up a huge number of dev hours
that really needed to be spent on ensuring the game controlled properly.
Independent development is definitely the best and most direct way to
ensure there are accessible games. Working with game dev studios to
produce quality games is another. (And I don't mean to try starting with
Valve or Sony's internal studio, I mean find a smaller developer who
doesn't mind doing the occassional experimental game.) Education is
important, too. Sometimes there are a few small things developers can do
that dramatically improve accessibility. I discovered that with
interactive fiction. Just removing the status bar and recoding the command
prompt made games 50 per cent more enjoyable straight away.
Lastly, there are other means. One idea I had while I was researching was
to create a not-for-profit organisation that could take donations. Those
donations would pay authors and programmers to create games for the blind
and VI community. There's some strong evidence to suggest that it would
contribute positively. I even spoke to a few people who ran similar
Anyway, my point is: you're not alone. No gamer off the street will ever
make a change by banging on the front door. Trust me when I say that game
companies have to deal with a lot of scary fanboys and fangirls. They keep
those doors closed for a reason. But that doesn't mean giving up. Get
smart. Have a clear idea of what you'd like to see changed, and think
about the best way you can make that happen. If it's a good idea, with
considerable appeal, most people will sit up and listen. Just think about
it from the company and dev's point of view first.
Hope that helps.
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