Module 8: Critical Play and Crip Game Design
8.6 Analyzing Accessibility in Games
When we think about critical play and inclusive game design, asking how games are accessible is crucial. Designing for accessibility is utilizing a critical play design method. It is important that when designing, playing, or even thinking about games, we are asking ourselves who they are designed for, and who is/isn’t able to play them.
Another way to think about these ideas and accessibility is to consider what Jerreat-Poole (2018) writes,
“While charities like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect provide customized gaming setups for disabled players, this neoliberal model places the onus on an individual to seek accommodation rather than making gaming more accessible in the first place.”
For this module’s assigned readings, you were asked to take a look at either the AbleGamers (https://ablegamers.org/) or SpecialEffect (https://www.specialeffect.org.uk/) sites to give you an idea of how players are making games more accessible when they are not designed with critical play, diversity, or accessibility in mind. Think about how these modifications and adaptive controllers challenge traditional game design, and “instill the ability to think critically during and after play” (Flanagan, 2009, p. 261). Also consider how it falls to players to make these modifications so they can play these games, and how rarely games are designed with considering their accessibility.
Visit Can I Play That? (https://caniplaythat.com/) and read at least three accessibility reviews.
- Try to find one review for a game that is not accessible, one that is partially accessible, and a positive review for a game’s accessibility.
- As you read the reviews, think about what the reviews are discussing, as well as what they are reviewing positively/negatively about accessibility in games.
- Based on the positive review, ask yourself how could the other two games have been made more accessible – are there any tools/settings that could be implemented?
- Think about who is in/excluded from playing these games, and what design choices lead to this in/exclusion.
After reading three reviews, visit Game Accessibility Guidelines (https://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/full-list/). This site provides game designers with a checklist and guidelines about what to include to make a game more accessible. This list is quite comprehensive, so feel free to browse for as long as you want to get an idea about what accessible game design elements look like.
Now go back to the same list of points/ideas you made for the Analyzing a Game Critically activity about a game you have recently played. Instead of looking at only the narrative of the game, ask:
- How is the game accessible?
- Can you only play it in one way that is inaccessible?
- Are there accessibility options?
- Does the way you have to play the game seem inaccessible?
- In what ways could the game be made more accessible?
- Is there anything players could do to reskin/rewrite it and make it more accessible?
- Using the game accessibility guidelines list any ideas you may have from reading accessibility reviews.
- Choose a few design elements that could make the game you chose for the last activity more accessible.
- How could they have been implemented in the game?
Before moving on, consider how critical play opens spaces for more inclusive play by allowing disabled game creators, creators of colour, and LGBTQIA+ and two-spirit creators to create games for change, opening up ways for people to engage with unexpected topics and material. Consider how it also opens spaces for inclusive play by allowing players to break – to unplay, reskin, and rewrite – games and game spaces that don’t engage with this critical material. What choices can game designers make to not only create spaces for critical play, but to encourage and promote these forms of critical play which opens and diversifies gameplay?