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Unified Design of Universally Accessible Games (Say What?)

December 7, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

To provide an illustrative example, when making a chess game accessible, the possible adaptations can only affect how the board and pieces are rendered and the way the player can select and move the pieces. The type or number of the pieces, the rules they follow for moving, or what a player has to do to win can not be changed (since this would be a different game).

On the contrary, when creating an accessible version of Space Invaders, beyond changing how the player’s spaceship is controlled and presented, it is possible to completely revamp the characteristics of the attacking alien ships (e.g., number, speed, firepower, size) and even the rules of the game (e.g., allow the player to destroy any alien, but only a specific alien to destroy the player, change the initial number of the player’s “lives”).

Thus, a key difference in relation to the aforementioned design example of the chess game is that, at the stage of identifying accessibility barriers related to the game’s interface, barriers that stem from the game’s content and rules should also be identified, as well as possible design strategies for overcoming them. In this respect, the abstract task decomposition of a Space Invaders type of game is illustrated in Figure 8. This time, tasks are divided in three – instead of two – categories:

  • game-play tasks, comprising user actions directly related to the game content;
  • game-control tasks, which include “peripheral” user actions that affect the game state and the way that player-game interaction is performed;
  • game-logic tasks, which are performed by the system in order to create and control the various active game elements.

Figure 8 : Abstract task decomposition of a “Space Invaders” type of game


The design of UA-Games is an inherently demanding and challenging task, requiring the management of a very large design space which, even when the game design as such is mostly completed, may still grow dynamically as new diverse user groups or varying environments of use are accommodated in the design process. Additionally, it entails the mapping and transformation of design parameters to coherent, highly usable and accessible interaction designs.

So, it is quite probable that – if you managed to read all the way to this point – you may feel a little overwhelmed by the formality of both the design process presented above and the language used to describe it.

But, if you have the courage to briefly review one more time the overall process, conceptualising in your mind each step by using a specific game as a concrete example, then (hopefully!) you will realise that it is not as complex, or tough as it seems on the first sight. Take our word for it, we already did it twice!


Grammenos, D., Savidis, A., Stephanidis C. (2005). UA-Chess: A Universally Accessible Board Game. In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. G. Salvendy (ed.). Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, July 2005. Lawrence Erlbaum

Nielsen, J. 1993. Usability Engineering. Academic Press Inc.

Savidis, A., & Stephanidis, C. 2004. Unified User Interface Design: Designing Universally Accessible Interactions. International Journal of Interacting with Computers, Elsevier, Issue 16, 243-270

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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