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Making games more accessible to people with disabilities is an idea that is gaining more popularity, both with players and developers. And a lot of the credit for that needs to go to the hard work of the people at AbleGamers, which is a charity dedicated to ensuring that everyone can game. And to enact that change, AbleGamers is taking on the responsibility of educating developers itself with its Accessible Player Experiences (APX) course.
I spoke with AbleGamers vice president Chris Power and chief operational officer Steven Spohn about APX for our How Games Make Money podcast. The pair argue that developers are leaving billions of dollars in revenue on the table by excluding players with disabilities. And the idea is that by appealing to the wallets of publishers and developers while simultaneously providing the knowledge required to overcome the design obstacles, AbleGamers can create a more inclusive medium.
APX is a certification program that devs can take to learn best practices and common mistakes to avoid. This is something that AbleGamers put together with Power, who designed a class and deck of flash cards to break down common accessibility problems into easy-to-understand scenarios. And this is something that developers are more open to than ever.
“I think on the dev side were seeing a real big change over the last couple of years,” said Power. “If you had asked me this question five years ago, I would’ve been, ‘Yeah, I got to go convince some people to do this.’ Now we’re finding that a lot of devs know about accessibility and want to do it. But the question is: How do I do it?”
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AbleGamers’ Spohn illustrated just how often devs are overlooking accessibility options.
“A few years ago, we were hanging out at a panel that we had done, and there were some Blizzard devs talking to us,” said Spohn. “And I’m like, ‘Great — so one of the things that confuses me is why do you have the minimap where it’s only green and red? Why don’t you have options for it to be different colors?’ And he stops and goes, ‘Ha, you think I would’ve noticed that because I’m colorblind, and I can’t really see red.’ And my head kind of dropped on him.”
Spohn then explained to the developers that if a colorblind developer was overlooking colorblind options, then just imagine who else the game was leaving out. And that exclusion is the primary concern of AbleGamers. The organization wants to bring attention to the perils of social isolation, which is something games — when accessible — are particularly wonderful at countering.
“And when you look at our data and when we’ve talked to our players, it’s not competition, and it’s not achievement, and it’s not exploration that they’re worried about,” said Power. “It’s not all these things that we kind of talked about in game communities. It’s the connection with people. And 9-times-out-of-10, that’s what our players are seeking out of games.”
And while that social connection is powerful in a connected multiplayer experience, Power and Spohn were clear that swapping stories about single-player games is just as important.
That’s where AbleGamers is hoping that APX can ensure a brighter future for inclusion.
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