Allied Podcast: Accessible Gaming and Immersive Experiences with Belén Agulló García

May 21, 2021


Welcome to 3Play Media’s Allied Podcast, a show on all things accessibility. This month’s episode features Belén Agulló García and is about the importance of making video games and immersive experiences accessible.

Belén always felt passionate about video games and learning languages. She also knew she wanted to do something in the gaming industry.

She entered the language industry as soon as she graduated from college and started to work in a game localization company as a linguist and project manager. But that wasn’t enough, so she decided to obtain an MA in Audiovisual Translation. But that chapter of her life came to an end when she decided to quit to pursue a new and more motivating challenge: get a Ph.D. in multimedia accessibility.

So she moved from Madrid to Barcelona and developed her thesis on subtitling in virtual reality that she obtained with distinctions. This experience was life-changing, and she could finally understand the importance of accessibility and found a new motivation in life: fight to make fun accessible for everybody. Games were so important for her development as a human being, and why shouldn’t games be accessible for everybody?

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Episode transcript

ELISA LEWIS: Welcome back to Allied, the podcast for everything you need to know about web and video accessibility. I’m your host, Elisa Lewis, and, on today’s episode, we’re joined by Belén Agulló García to chat about accessible gaming and immersive experiences. Belén has always felt passionate about video games. She spent many hours playing with her Game Boy and Nintendo 64 when she was a child and always knew that she wanted to do something in the gaming industry.

She also felt passionate about learning languages. And soon, it dawned on her that she would work as a translator for the gaming industry. Belén entered the language industry as soon as she graduated from college, and her dream came true. She started to work in a game localization company as a linguist and project manager.

But that wasn’t enough for this lifelong learner, so she decided to obtain an MA in audio visual translation while working. In the meantime, she was promoted to a leadership position such as translation manager and quality and innovation manager. That chapter of her life came to an end when she decided to quit to pursue a new and more motivating challenge– get a PhD in multimedia accessibility.

Belén moved from Madrid to Barcelona and developed her thesis on subtitling in virtual reality that she obtained with distinctions. This experience was life changing, and she could finally understand the importance of accessibility and found a new motivation in life– fight to make fun accessible for everybody. Games were so important for her development as a human being, and why shouldn’t games be accessible to everyone?

Nowadays, she’s a passionate consultant, specialized in multimedia, and game localization, and accessibility for video games, and a seasoned trainer with wide experience teaching in several universities and organizations around the world. Apart from studying and working, Belén loves and watching a good show with good company and cares about the environment and animal welfare. We’re so excited to have Belén on the podcast today to share her passion and knowledge, so, with that, let’s just jump right in.

Thank you so much, Belén, for joining us on the podcast today. We’re super excited to have you here. To start off, I’d love to learn a little bit more about your love for video games. So I know that you’ve been a gamer and a huge fan of video games since you were a child. How did your passion for gaming lead you into the accessibility world, working as a consultant in multimedia and game localization?

BELÉN AGULLÓ GARCÍA: Hi, Elisa. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m super excited.

And yes, well, I’ve always been kind of a nerd when I was a child. I always like video games like manga, anime, and all that, the whole nerd package. And I think my passion for video games started with my cousins because they used to have– well, they bought all the consoles.

I remember the first ones were Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive. So I remember spending so many hours playing with my cousins to Mario Kart, Tiny Toon Adventures games, and it was so much fun. And then my parents gave me a Game Boy Pocket. I remember it was still black and white back then. Yes, I’m a bit old. And later on, I also had the Nintendo 64.

So yeah, I really love spending hours playing video games. I then remember, when Playstation came, that I loved to watch my cousin playing horror games because I was too scared to play. But I loved watching it.

And I remember playing the Resident Evil One with my cousin, and it had English audio. But it didn’t even have translation into Spanish, so I don’t even know how we really got what was going on. But it was pretty straightforward, right?

So you just had to go out of the mansion, keep killing the zombies, and then you’ll be fine. But I remember we were enjoying that game, and we didn’t even know what was saying in the menus and everything because it was not localized. It was not translated into Spanish.

But then, yeah, then the new games are starting to have subtitles in Spanish, and that really caught my attention. So yeah, I decided that I wanted to study languages because I loved languages when I was young, and then I also knew that I wanted to do something in the games industry because I really loved that. So I decided to study translation and interpreting when I was very young at 16 years old.

And during the last year in college, I remember that I attended this talk by Professor Kahraman Girona about game localization. And I was like, wow, so I can do something in languages and in game that makes sense. And it’s in industry, and I can do something there. So I knew that I wanted to work in that industry, for sure.

And then I was so lucky to meet– back then, I met my bosses-to-be in a conference. I talk to them. And after I graduated from translation and interpreting, I could start my internship in a game localization agency in Madrid. And that’s how I started my career in game localization.

So then I had different roles in different positions in this industry. And after that, I decided to start a PhD in accessibility, actually. So that’s how I got into the localization industry, translation industry. But then I realized that accessibility was something very important thanks to my PhD.

And then, yeah, I was lucky enough that, during my PhD, I could start working as a consultant specialized in game and multimedia localization for the Seattle-based company [INAUDIBLE], where I basically do research about, yeah, about anything that has to do with multimedia and game localization as well as media accessibility because they are very related, right?

I think, in the states, it’s very differentiated, like you are an accessibility provider and then translation provider. But in Europe, it’s very related because, for us, subtitles come from translation. In Europe, we translate content that comes from the United States created in English into different languages. And the linguistic accessibility is very important.

So for us, accessibility is very related to languages as well. And actually, in translation programs in Europe, we also learn how to create subtitles, how to create audio description in different languages. So that’s how they are very interrelated for us.

ELISA LEWIS: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing. And that’s a really interesting perspective, I think, for our American listeners to realize that why kind of there’s that intertwined between accessibility and translation. It makes a lot of sense and definitely something that is kind of different from how we think about it in the US.

It’s also super exciting. I am so impressed that you even knew that this work was available at such a young age and that you pursued your interests and really made it into a career. That’s pretty awesome. I’m curious, how has accessibility in gaming changed over the years? And have you noticed any significant changes as our world becomes more globalized and reliant on digital technologies?

BELÉN AGULLÓ GARCÍA: Yes, that’s a very good question, and I’m very excited about it because I think, a couple of decades ago, no one was talking about game accessibility. Or the conversations were in very specialized groups. And now, fortunately, I think in the last, maybe, five years, game accessibility– I wouldn’t say it became mainstream, but it’s getting there.

You have a lot of information on the website, and many people are talking about this. So I don’t know. For example, 20 years ago, you couldn’t imagine a blind gamer, or a gamer with low vision, or with hearing loss, or with reduced mobility, that they would be able to play a game and enjoy it without barriers. But now, it’s a reality, and I think that’s super exciting, really. It’s amazing.

Of course, not for all games for now, but for some, and more and more games are including this accessibility features. And I think– I need to call out a bunch of people because I really think this is thanks to the advocacy of gaming accessibility champions that are out there in the industry, fighting for this to be a reality, such as Ian Hamilton, for example, or Karen Stevens, the director of accessibility at Electronic Arts, Terry Thompson, accessibility consultant at Ubisoft, Courtney Craven, the founder of Can I Play That?, which is a blog where they do accessibility reviews for games.

So if you’re a gamer with disabilities, you can go there to Can I Play That? blog and read if the game is accessible before purchasing that game because maybe you can find out that you cannot play the game. So I think that’s pretty cool. And Courtney Craven is one of the founders. And they also worked as a community and marketing content captioner and [INAUDIBLE] at Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite.

We also have Steve Saylor. He’s a YouTuber. He has a channel called Blind Gamer, where he does reviews for games in that are accessible for blind or low-vision gamers. Or Steven Spohn, the founder of AbleGamers, Brandon Cole, Jerome Dupire, and many, many more.

But I think it’s super important because I think these people created what is becoming an industry now, game accessibility. And Thanks to that, thanks to having accessibility champions in big studios, in big gaming studios, now we’re seeing the results of years of advocating for these and raising awareness. And basically that’s super important. And game designers are more and more aware that they need to include accessibility in their design from the very beginning rather than do it afterwards.

So I think some gaming companies are leading the way in games accessibility, for example, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, or Sony. I really like the what Microsoft did– well, apart from publishing some game accessibility guidelines that they have by Microsoft, they created this Xbox adaptive controller basically it’s a controller that you can use and you can plug different joysticks, buttons– anything you want, you can plug into this adaptive controller. And then someone with reduced mobility or they need a special setup to play games, they can use that and they can access games. And I think that’s amazing.

If you go to the website and you watch this video that they have there with the kids, like they are lacking an arm or things like that and they are actually playing games, it’s super emotive, I think. It’s amazing that they are doing this.

Then, for example, Sony, they have a studio called Naughty Dog. And they published this game, I think it was last year, called The Last of Us Part 2. And it really went viral, or at least in the game accessibility community. But also in the mainstream media it went viral, because it included so many accessibility features that even gamers who are completely blind could play this game.

And I think that’s pretty amazing. Because some people might think, OK, blind people, they don’t want to play games because it’s impossible. No, it’s possible. And it’s quite amazing that Naughty Dog was able to create a game that was completely accessible for blind people, also for deaf people. And you can check the complete accessibility review of this game in the Blind Gamer YouTube channel or Can I Play That? blog in order to know exactly what they do. But it’s pretty awesome all the improvement that has been done in the past years.

But even small gestures such as including captions in games that are actually readable make a huge difference for the user experience. Because many games include these super-tiny little subtitles that are super long and super difficult for people to read.

And I can tell by experience because I’m a caption user. I always use captions also with movies and TV shows, because they really is my cognitive load when accessing content in English. I basically consume content in English, but I’m not a native speaker, as you can tell. So it’s very important for me to have subtitles. Because otherwise I’m super tired or having to pay all the time attention. There are some words that I don’t know. So captions are really important for me as a non-native speaker.

And it’s very frustrating when you’re playing a game and the is are super tiny, and especially in games because you have to interact. It’s not like watching a movie or a TV show, that you can sit and pay attention more or less, have your divided attention. But when you’re playing games, you are actually interacting. You have to do stuff. You have to watch. So many inputs, right? So you really want to have good subtitles.

And if you’re a deaf gamer or a gamer with hearing loss, of course, that’s even more crucial. So this is something that has been improving as well, the inclusion of good-quality subtitles. Because one thing is to include captions, and then to include good-quality captions in games. That’s been improving.

And also not only the plaintext, as you know, because we all know about accessibility, but also the character identification, so who’s speaking. That can be identified by colors or name tags. Or even visual cues to indicate where the sound is coming from. Because that’s really important for video games to know where the sound is coming from. Because maybe you are being attacked by an enemy and you want to really know where the enemy is so you can interact and move around. There are some games that are including these features, visual cues, such as Fortnite for example, but many, many more.

So I think there’s a lot that’s been done recently and a lot that’s been improved. And in general, you can see more and more positions, for example, in gaming studios such as director of accessibility or accessibility consultant or accessibility lead. And I think that’s a very good sign that we are at the beginning of the creation of an industry that I think will change the way that we conceive game development and how we play games.

Because at the end of the day– and we all know that, but I think it’s worth repeating– accessibility is for everybody, not just for people with disabilities. And I saw a tweet post the other day– a tweet, sorry, the other day– by, I don’t remember, I think it was Steve Saylor and Naughty Dog, this studio that created this very accessible game, revealed that 9.5 million players use an accessibility option in Uncharted 4, which is another game.

But 9.5 million players. That’s a lot. And I’m sure not everybody in this figure has a disability or as we understand it, a disability. So definitely so many things that we’re improving and so many things that are changing in the last few years.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I think that’s a really powerful statistic and definitely something that, at 3Play, we really try to drive home that, like you said, accessibility is for everyone. You know, we’ve seen it with captions, particularly in education, where so many students are using captioning and transcription for education, whether it be, like you mentioned, as non-native speakers or some people just learn differently, prefer reading rather than hearing and listening. So it’s totally true that accessibility is for everyone in the gaming context as well.

And I really appreciate you sharing the examples of some of the ways that these games have become accessible, from whether it be mobility– I did see that console and control that you were talking about. And it’s really incredible. And I think a lot of people don’t think about individuals who have disabilities being able to or being interested in and gaming. So yeah, those were great examples. And thank you for sharing.

So you also have a ton of experience on immersive media, including virtual reality and 360 video. This is something that’s kind of been becoming more popular. And I know that you wrote your PhD dissertation on the topic. How do you make these immersive experiences accessible and user-friendly for people with disabilities? And what have you uncovered from your particular research?

BELÉN AGULLÓ GARCÍA: Yes, that’s a very nice question. I love this topic. And yeah, definitely, I wrote my PhD on accessible subtitles for immersive content at the TransMedia Catalonia Research Group, at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. And my PhD was actually developed in the framework of a European-funded project, called IMAC, which is short for Immersive Accessibility, and not the Apple thing. I hope we’re not infringing any copyright here. But it was called immersive accessibility.

So yeah, the goal of this project was basically to bring accessibility to immersive content, including captions, audio description, and sign language interpretation as well. So we needed to define how this access services would look like in immersive content. Because there was no standards or anything like between other media. We needed to create that 360-degree video player with accessibility capabilities and also tools for creating those access services for 360-degree videos because you cannot use any caption editor to create captions for 360 degree videos, for example. It was a quite exciting and comprehensive project.

And to be honest, at the beginning we were kind of lost. Like we asked that question ourselves– how do you make these immersive experiences accessible? And we were a bit lost because there was basically nothing written or done in terms of accessibility for immersive content.

Actually, a few months after we started the project, the BBC released a report on captions for 360-degree videos as well. So there started to be some research around this, which was great because we could compare and also see that what we were doing and what we were designing was in line with what the BBC was also doing. So we were going somewhere.

So basically, since this topic was super new, we decided to take a user-centered approach. So instead of coming up with our own solutions– OK, we should do this like this or like that– that didn’t make sense at that time. So we wanted to hear feedback directly from end users, both viewers and professional captioners as well. So we decided to organize focus groups with people with different hearing loss levels and also blind and partially sighted.

Because I had a colleague, my Polish colleague Anita Fidyka, she developed her PhD on how to deliver audio description in immersive environments, which was also kind of challenging. And basically this first step with the focus groups was very enlightening because participants raised issues that we didn’t even think about. So for example, for us, it was really important how to present the subtitles in a 360-degree video. So we were, OK, how do we put the subtitles in some video that you are moving around? What’s the best way?

But then participants who were completely deaf found also very important to know where the source of the sound was coming from in the 360-degree sphere, because they needed to know where to look for people who are speaking in the videos or to look for the source of sound. So that’s why I believe that user centered design is so important for accessibility in general, not only for video games or immersive content, but accessibility in general. Because it’s very important to hear the feedback of the end users. And it’s very important to do this at the very beginning of the development, because otherwise it’s really difficult to rework everything once you’ve done that.

So we started doing that. And it was very enlightening. Then the second step in the study to find out how to implement accessibility in this new medium was to see what was out there. So we found out that The New York Times and the BBC had their own VR apps. And they were already creating videos with captions. It was not captions for– like actual captions, but sometimes they used captions to translate some of the stuff because the speakers were speaking in a different language other than English. So that also gave us some indicators of how the user experience could look like in this type of videos.

And then, once we had all this information gathered, we actually went into testing and we designed different ways to show subtitles and with different positions, different indicators of the source of the sound, and so on and so forth. So we wanted to know which was the preferred option and also which was the most immersive option. And we did some pilot tests with hard-of-hearing users and also hearing users to compare if there was any difference, also to have a control group.

So we found out that the main challenge in creating access services in this medium is that the control of the camera goes to the user rather than the content creator. So when you are watching a movie, it’s the director or the editor that points your attention to specific things in the video. But in immersive media, that’s completely free for the user to look around and do whatever they want. So that entails different challenges from a caption point of view.

The first challenge was where to place the subtitles. So should we put the subtitles in a fixed position in different places in the 360 sphere? Or should we just put the subtitles in front of the viewers all the time, like you got them sticked to your vision and the subtitles follow you if you move? So that was the first thing we wanted to find out, what was best.

Because during the focus groups it was interesting, when we asked people, OK, how would you envision or how would you like to receive subtitles in 360-degree videos or immersive content, and everybody said, like on the TV. Right, it was, OK, but what– like on the TV. But yeah, they made the point. Because on the TV, you have them at the bottom of the field of view or the screen. And they are always fixed in front of you. So you don’t need to look for them.

So we created subtitles in different ways. And also we gather some different solutions on how to indicate the source of sound. So we use, for example, arrows, because that was one of the suggestions by the users, but also a reader. So they could orient themselves with a reader and move around, more like a video game sort of orientation tool.

And what we found out is that people prefer to have subtitles that are always in front of them. Because then they have the freedom to move around. And they don’t need to look for the subtitle in a specific place or to be reading the subtitle in a specific place in the video if they want to look around. So they wanted to have the freedom to move around. So that’s why they prefer this type of subtitles.

And then, as for the directions, they prefer the arrows. Because it was really straightforward. The reader was kind of distracting for some people. And some people didn’t know how to really use it. Maybe, of course, we could improve the user experience and the design of the reader. But still the conclusion was that something that was really easy and straightforward was something that really worked. So yeah, we did different tests. And that’s what we found out, for example.

And then, for the audio description, although I didn’t lead that research, we also tested different options on how to create dynamic audio description for 360-degree videos. So for example, we did dynamic audio description. So some parts of the preview were audio-described so that audio description was kind of attached to a specific object in the 360-degree sphere.

So if the user moved around and was looking at that specific point, they would receive an audio cue. In this case, it was like a bell sound. So they would know that there’s something going on there. And they could click on the controller. And then the video would stop and the audio description would play. And they could have a more immersive experience.

So yeah, that’s basically what we found out, is that people with different disabilities really liked immersive content. And they were super excited because it was something mind-blowing for most of them because they never did experience this in their lives. So we were really happy to find out that they were interested and that we could bring this whole experience to them thanks to the Accessibility Services that we were developing during the process. So yeah, that’s basically what we found out.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you. And thanks for sharing some of the background on user-centered design. I think it’s so critical, particularly in the accessibility field, to really understand and talk to the end users and find out what works best for them and what they prefer.

And it does sound like you learned some really interesting things about preferences in this new space where there’s a lot more to consider than just a static video. So that’s really cool. And thanks for walking us through that.

So I understand that you’re participating as an expert witness in a legal process in which a deaf gamer, Dylan Panarra, sued HTC, a large consumer electronics company, for not providing captions in their virtual reality games. From an accessibility standpoint, what have you learned from being a part of this case? And do you have any advice that you would give to developers who want to create tech products, specifically video games, that are accessible?

BELÉN AGULLÓ GARCÍA: Yeah, sure. Well, this is a very exciting question, and specifically about this legal process. Because I think, even if I can’t really discuss the details of the case, because it’s still ongoing and we cannot disclose so much, but it was really exciting for me to receive this invitation to participate in this process. Because I really realized that all the work that I did in the academic space and everything that we did in the research side of things really had an impact on society and it was actually useful.

So that really struck me. And I think that’s the best reward that you can have as a researcher, that what you did actually has an impact in society. And I’m really happy that this research will help game developers and everybody creating immersive content to make their products more accessible. So that was the first thing that it was really important for me.

And the second thing about this legal process is that I kind of really admire American society for actually lobbying against big companies to include accessibility features. I think that’s really common. We have the cases of the National Association of the Deaf also going against Netflix, for example, to make them include captions. And they succeeded. And thanks to them, I can also have access to captions that I need to ease my cognitive load. So I really admire the US society for that.

And it’s something that’s quite different, unfortunately, in Europe sometimes. Because we don’t have this litigation mindset. It’s like everything is so difficult, the bureaucracy, hiring a lawyer, and so on and so forth. The regulations are not so strong. So yeah, I think the US is more user-centric in that sense. And they really care about the customer experience. But it’s not the same here in Europe.

However, a couple of years ago, I think it was in 2019, the European Union issued this directive that will come into effect in 2025. And this is great because it will make compulsory to improve accessibility in all online products and services in order to be marketable. I think that will make a huge difference. Because it’s a specified that after the 20th of June of 2025– and I would like to quote specifically what it says in the directive is that, after this date, country members are expected to enforce these regulations using legal mechanisms and by imposing penalties.

That’s something completely new. Because until now, there were not– or the penalties were so small that companies don’t care. It’s like, OK, I will pay the fine. But now, with this directive, the European countries will have mechanisms in order to actually sue companies that are not providing accessibility. And I think that’s a huge step towards a more inclusive society. Because this directive will have effect on every online product and service.

And nowadays, everything is an online product and a service basically, unless you go to a brick-and-mortar shop or anything. Netflix is an online product. Video games are an online product because you don’t own them. So everything is an online product. So this will have a huge impact. And it specifies, this directive, that the companies will need to include subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, audio descriptions, spoken subtitles, and sign language interpretation.

And it actually says, “with adequate quality.” So that’s also a big deal. Because one thing is, OK, I will put captions, but they are really bad. And people are going to still be having issues to access the information. But now we are using the word, quality. I know quality is a very ambiguous and vague word. But still this can be used during legal processes as well in Europe. So luckily we will be able to see more accessibility after 2025 here in Europe as well, as we are seeing more and more in the United States thanks to these litigation processes, so like the whole nerd package.

And I think my passion for video games started with my cousins. Because they used to have– well, they bought all the consoles. I remember the first ones were Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive. So I remember spending so many hours playing with my cousins to Mario Kart, Tiny Toon Adventures games. And it was so much fun.

And then my parents gave me a Gameboy Pocket. I remember it was still black and white then. Yes, I’m a bit old. And later on, I also had a Nintendo 64.

So yeah, I really love spending hours playing video games. I then remember, when Playstation came, that I love to watch my cousin playing horror games. Because I was too scared to play, but I loved watching it. And I remember playing Resident Evil 1 with my cousin. And it had English audio, but it didn’t even have translation into Spanish. So I don’t even know how we really got what was going on.

But it was pretty straightforward. So you just had to go out to the mansion, keep killing the zombies, and then you’ll be fine. But I remember we were enjoying that game. And we didn’t even know what was saying in the menus and everything because it was not localized. It was not translated into Spanish.

But then the new games started to have subtitles in Spanish. And that really caught my attention. So yeah, I decided that I wanted to study languages because I loved languages when I was young. And then I also knew that I wanted to do something in the games industry because I really loved that. So I decided to study translation and interpreting when I was very young, at 16 years old.

And during the last year in college, I remember that I attended this talk by Professor Carmen [INAUDIBLE] about game localization. And I was like, wow, so I can do something in languages and in games that makes sense. And it’s an industry. And I can do something there. So I knew that I wanted to work in that industry for sure.

Then I was so lucky to meet– back then, I met my bosses-to-be in a conference. I talked to them. And after I graduated from translation and interpretation, I could start my internship in a game localization agency in Madrid. And that’s how I started my career in game localization.

So then I had different roles in different positions in this industry. And after that, I decided to start a PhD in Accessibility, actually. So that’s how I got into the localization industry, translation industry. But then I realized that accessibility was something very important thanks to my PhD.

And then I was lucky enough that, during my PhD, I could start working as a consultant specialized in game and multimedia localization for the Seattle-based company Nimdzi Insights, where I basically do research about anything that has to do with multimedia and game localization as well as media accessibility. Because they are very related. I think, in the States it’s very differentiated You are an accessibility provider and then a translation provider. But in Europe, it’s very related. Because for us, subtitles come from translation. In Europe, we translate content that comes from the United States, created in English, into different languages. And the linguistic accessibility is very important.

So for us, accessibility is very related to languages as well. And actually, in translation programs, in Europe, we also learn how to create subtitles, how to create audio description in different languages. So that’s how they are very interrelated for us.

ELISA LEWIS: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing. And that’s a really interesting perspective, I think, for our American listeners to realize why there’s that intertwined– between accessibility and translation. It makes a lot of sense. And definitely something that is kind of different from how we think about it in the US.

It’s also super exciting– I am so impressed that you even knew that this work was available at such a young age and that you pursued your interests and really made it into a career. That’s pretty awesome.

I’m curious, how has accessibility in gaming changed over the years? And have you noticed any significant changes as our world becomes more globalized and reliant on digital technologies?

BELÉN AGULLÓ GARCÍA: Yes, that’s a very good question. And I’m very excited about it. Because I think, a couple of decades ago, no one was talking about game accessibility or the conversations. Where now, over the last maybe five years, game accessibility, I wouldn’t say it became mainstream, but it’s getting there. You have a lot of information on the website and many people talking about this.

So I don’t know, for example, 20 years ago, you couldn’t imagine a blind gamer or a gamer with no vision or with hearing loss or with reduced mobility, that they would be able to play a game and enjoy it without barriers. But now it’s a reality. And I think that’s super exciting really. It’s amazing. Of course not for all games for now, but for some. And more and more games are including these accessibility features.

And I think I need to call out a bunch of people. Because I really think this is thanks to the advocacy of gaming accessibility champions that are out there in the industry, fighting for this to be a reality, such as Ian Hamilton, for example, or Karen Stevens, the director of accessibility at Electronic Arts, Terry Thompson, accessibility consultant at Ubisoft, Courtney Craven, the founder of Can I Play That? which is a blog where they do accessibility reviews for games.

So if you’re gaming with disabilities, you can go there to Can I Play That? blog and read if the game is accessible before purchasing that game. Because maybe you can find out that you cannot play the game. So I think that’s pretty cool. And Courtney Craven is one of the founders. They also worked as a community and marketing content captioner and copy editor at Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite.

We also have Steve Saylor. He’s a YouTuber. He has a channel called Blind Gamer, where he does reviews for games that are accessible for blind or low-vision gamers. Or Steven Spohn, the founder of AbleGamers, Brandon Cole, Jerome Dupire, and many, many more.

But I think it’s super important. Because I think these people created this [INAUDIBLE] now, game accessibility. And thanks to that, Thanks to having accessibility champions in big studios, in big gaming studios, now we are seeing the results of years of advocating for this and raising awareness.

And basically that’s super important. And game designers are more and more aware that they need to include accessibility in their design from the very beginning rather than do it afterwards.

So I think some gaming companies are leading the way in– example, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, or Sony. I really like the what Microsoft did– well, apart from publishing some game Accessibility Guidelines that they have by Microsoft, they created this Xbox Adaptive Controller. Basically it’s a controller that you can use and you can plug different joysticks, buttons– anything you want, you can plug into this adaptive controller. And then someone with reduced mobility or that they need a special setup to play games, they can use that and they can [INAUDIBLE]. And I think that’s amazing.

And if you go to the website and you watch this video that they have there with the kids, like they are lacking an arm or things like– [INAUDIBLE] playing games, it’s super emotive, I think. It’s amazing that they are doing this.

Then, for example, Sony, they have a studio called Naughty Dog. And they published this game, I think it was last year, called The Last of Us Part 2. And it really went viral– or at least in the game accessibility. Community. But also in the mainstream media it went viral. Because it included so many accessibility features that even gamers who are completely blind could play this game.

And I think that’s pretty amazing. Because some people might think, OK, blind people, they don’t want to play games because it’s impossible. No, it’s possible. And it’s quite amazing that Naughty Dog was able to create a game that was completely accessible for blind people, also for deaf people. And you can check the complete accessibility review of this game in the Blind Gamer YouTube channel or Can I Play That? blog in order to know exactly what they do. But it’s [INAUDIBLE] the improvement that has been done in the past years. But even small gestures–

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ELISA LEWIS: Thanks for listening to Allied. If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave us a rating and review. To catch all the latest on accessibility, visit www.3playmedia.com/alliedpodcast. Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time.

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