What separates games from other forms of entertainment is that they
provide interaction, however providing interaction it in the wrong way
e.g. different from how the player would expect it or how the player
requires it, means that people get frustrated playing your game --or
worse-- cannot play your game at all.
More and more people are interested in playing games who do not fit
the profile of the “20 year old male” that the game industry
predominately seems to target. Playing a first person shooter on a
console requires you to master two analog thumbsticks, four buttons and
a number of triggers and or combinations of these. Not everyone is
capable of doing this easily, such as the elderly, while those who have
never played games before, such as people with disabilities, all face
an increasingly complicated game interaction that withholds or
restricts them from playing games in the first place.
Games are different from traditional software systems in the sense
that most software systems are designed with the purpose to either
completely automate a user’s task (such as ATM software) making the
user obsolete, or to support a user in performing a task, such as a
word processor helping someone write a letter. Games are different in
that respect as they are solely developed for entertainment or
Interaction design affects two game qualities:
- Usability: if a player cannot figure out how to play
the game, if the player has to wait, if it is difficult to learn to
play the game or if game objects are awkward to use.
if a player cannot understand what is said in cut scenes or cannot hear
the footsteps of someone sneaking up behind him or her, because the
player suffers from an auditory disability or if the game does not
support the use of specific input devices such as one handed
controllers or sip and puff joysticks that allow severely physical
disabled players to play the game.
Usability and accessibility are two different but strongly related
qualities. Accessibility problems can be considered to be usability
problems for particular group of players e.g. those with disabilities.
Unable to understand what is said in audio only cut scenes is an
accessibility problem for someone unable to hear, but it is a usability
problem for someone playing a handheld in a noisy environment without
This paper will argue that many usability-improving solutions in
games can be beneficial for players with disabilities and the other way
around. Game accessibility & usability should not be confused with
gameplay. Gameplay focuses on providing interaction in such a way that
it is fun. For example, moving a paddle to reflect the ball in Pong.
Usability and accessibility however, deals with providing this
interaction in such a way as the player would expect it, e.g. go up
with the joystick to make the paddle go up rather than some exotic
combination of joysticks movements.