Accessibility Criteria for Video Games – Introducing the DVCM.

Version 0.0.0.1

The idea behind this document is to get a wider conversation happening about what we consider to be accessibility friendly or not in terms of video game accessibility. At time of writing, there is no guideline or regulatory body that says what a game should be labeled to inform buyers it is for a certain level of accessibility. This document is in an effort to make a dent into that space with people from all levels of accessibility and experiences coming together to organize the accessibility space better within gaming. 

Supporting its petition and sharing it around your network means that we can begin to sow the seeds of something bigger than ourselves in gaming. I believe that there should be a recognizable accessibility standard that developers should be adhering to and I want to be part of the discussion to make that possible. 

If you would like to have a chat with me about it you’ll find me in the comments and @ThisIsSpecious on Twitter.

This project is currently named DVCM.

D.V.C.M is named after the four main criteria of an accessibility review

D for Deaf & Hard of Hearing

V for Vision & Blindness and Hard of Sight

C for Cognition

M for Mobility.

The scoring system will be on a DVCM 0 – 5. 0 being the worst score and 5 being the highest. 

In order for a game to get a DVCM score, it must be able to have 1 point in each of the four categories. Ideally, these would be tiered to make a certain amount of logical sense. For example,  the next tier for subtitles [0] would be for the look and size to be changed [1]. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing

  • Audio Descriptions / Closed Captioning [0]
  • Subtitles [0]
    • Speaker labels for subtitles [1]
      • Changing look and size of subtitles [2]
  • Enemy location / proximity. [0]
    • Controller Vibration indicators [1]
  • Stealth/Hidden/Other indicators [0]
    • Controller Vibration indicators [1]

Vision, Blindness & Hard of Sight

  • Increase subtitle size
  • Increase UI size
    • Increase UI contrast
  • Colour blindness settings
  • Add screen readers
  • Add descriptions to your cutscences
  • Toggle visual effects on or off
  • Add options for adding additional contrast

Cognition

  • Highlighted words
  • Repeatable Tutorials
  • Clear Navigation markers
  • Toggling off/on motion blur
  • Allow for people to read at their own pace
  • Independent sliders for music, sound, dialogue

Mobility

  • Key remapping
    • Full key and button remapping for keyboard, mouse and gamepad
  • Toggle switch support
    • Toggles for all actions
  • Alternatives for QTEs
  • Difficulty modes
  • Inverting axis
  • Left handed option
  • No hardcoded keys
  • Sensitivity settings for all the controls and devices, be it mouse or gamepad
  • Allow both gamepad and mouse cursor controlled menus 
  • Adjustable hold times for actions
    • Or change to a single tap
  • Autorun function with toggle / hold options

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Game Accessibility Standard – A Review Visual

Example of visual checklist for accessibility reviews

As per my last post, I wanted to upload an example image of how reviewers can cover key points within a game that doesn’t necessarily require experience with the disabilities in question.

Try to remember that all of this is to aid the reader to see if there is even the first instance of accessibility tools being present in a game to begin with.

As you’re review or first preview might be the first window that a player has into seeing if the tool they require to play the game is present. These information drops will never be substitute for if these tools are any “good” but it is a way forward for us to normalise the process of this information being available.

There will always be space, scope, and voices for the people who will experience these features on the day to day and should then talk about it. Indeed, these people should be given priority. However, this is an exercise in knowledge transfer and normalisation. That doesn’t need to be any specific voice or a format.

We need to start trying to go with the purpose of getting the information out there rather than focusing on it being 100% right. Because by in large your audiences are gonna help you to dictate what information is important for them to have. Some may prefer long form round ups like Courtney Craven’s over at VG247, or a slightly more streamlined approach such as OllyWrites (tba! You’ll see soon).

It’s not going to be down to any one person to make this happen, but it is going to be down to every single person to normalise the information being shared.

https://www.change.org/p/commitment-from-gaming-journalism-outlets-to-cover-accessibility-in-games

https://myspecious.com/2020/03/29/accessibility-criteria-for-video-games-introducing-the-dvcm/

A Review Accessibility Checklist/Guide

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This is meant to be a short guide on how to look for and present information for accessibility reviews. While covering for accessibility can seem vast and incomprehensible at first to wrap your head around. (given the fact that everyone experiences their disability differently) You will find that there are common threads to look for in order to look for in order to cover the crucial information required to help people with accessibility concerns make a choice about video game.

Accessibility concerns are most commonly categorised as follows (though this is not an extensive list):

  • Deaf & Hard of Hearing
  • Vision/Blind & Hard of Sight
  • Cognition
  • Mobility/Motion
  • Colour Blindness

Each of these have their own concerns with their criteria, but all of these have ways of easily finding key information for those who don’t suffer from said disability. While this is no substitute for peoples experiences; this is meant to be an easy way to illustrate accessibility points in standard reviews.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing

  • Audio Descriptions or Closed Captioning for events and sounds that are in game. For example; *tromp* *tromp* *tromp*
Example of Audio Description
  • Subtitles – this is the ability to see the games dialogue on screen. Subtitles can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Vision/Blind & Hard of Sight

  • Increase Subtitle Size – this is the ability for the player to be able to increase the subtitles size to a point where it is comfortable to read.
Example of Large Font options, Color Blind Modes, High Contrast UI and Menu Narration
  • High Contrast UI – this gives the player the option to change the way a menu is presented to them which can give them the ability to see menu options clearer.
Example of a before and after of applying a high contrast option for the menu’s UI

Cognition

  • Highlighted Words – this gives players the visual cue to take note of important concepts or actions
  • Clear Navigation Markers – using clear and visually distinct markers to highlight different and important aspects that the player needs to be aware of.
Example of clear visual navigation markers. The red dots illustrating enemies, the stairs icon for a stairs, blue dots for objects and green x’s for tiles.
  • Toggling On/Off of Visual Effects & Motion Blur – players who suffer from triggering of visual effects (like flashing lights for epilepsy) or motion blur that could trigger motion sickness would need the ability to switch these modes on or off.
Example of a motion blur effect from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which at launch was not to switch on or off.
  • Tutorials – players with cognition issues may need to repeat tutorials or review specific elements of gameplay.

Mobility Options

  • Key remapping – the ability to remap any action key to a preferred key defined by the player
  • No Quick Time Events / Button Mashing / Option to help with QTE – For players with limited movement Quick Time Events can be nearly impossible to complete, having the option to skip or bypass them can be very beneficial.
Example from Spider Man of an Auto Complete Mode for Quick Time Events
  • Difficulty Modes – Having different difficulties level can make levels or battles that would take a considerable amount of physical effort for that barrier, that would be reduced.
  • Options to invert axis or have left handed modes – for those who are left handed or for those who have specific controller set ups that require the inversion.

Colour Blindness

  • Colour Blindness Options – this allows the player to change colour options to a way that makes them easier to see.

While these lists could go on and on (and this guide is not meant to be extensive) – it’s important to realise that a lot of these things reviewers would come across as they are reviewing a game. They’re in things you would interact with or come across as you progress, meaning all you would have to consider in terms of time is just keeping an eye out for these options and including them where possible.

If reviewers and critics find this helpful, please feel free to share this with your editor in order to incorporate these into your style guides.

Game Accessibility Standard

Commitment from Gaming Journalism Outlets to cover Accessibility in Games.

As we move towards a world that becomes more increasingly aware of the trials and tribulations of people with accessibility needs. Publications need to move forward in terms of their review criteria for gamers with different needs and requirements. The normalization of accessibility discussion is the key indicator to promote and encouraging change within our industry. It’s through the voices of other people’s experiences that we’ll hear of stories that would otherwise go adrift. 

I’ve heard stories of people with accessibility needs who do not know if a game will work for them on launch day because the reviewers from major outlets do not provide a review of any sort as to the ability to remap keys or increase the text size. 

We all have a passion for this industry, and could you imagine if your favorite franchise came out with a new entry into the series and they left you until months down the line for any coverage whether spend your hard-earned cash on something you don’t know if you’d even be able to play?

This is why it is imperative for major publications who are doing a public service by reviewing and critiquing games to incorporate the needs of other players into their review criteria.

https://www.change.org/p/commitment-from-gaming-journalism-outlets-to-cover-accessibility-in-games

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If you like my content, please consider donating a euro to help this blog stay active.

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