Game accessibility at GDC 2019

Yet another record breaking year for the number of accessibility sessions and events that are taking place over the course of GDC week this year, both at the conference itself and at other fringe events.

A printed version of this list will be available at GAConf and from the GDC IGDA booth.

Monday March 18th, 9am – 6pm, Children’s Creativity Museum


( not part of GDC )

A day of talks and networking exploring accessibility for gamers with disabilities

Monday March 18th, 6pm – 10pm, Children’s Creativity Museum

Microsoft Gaming & Disability Community Reception

( not part of GDC )

Connect & network with other game creators, developers, writers, artists, and more who are striving to make gaming a more accessible medium

Monday March 18, 4:40pm – 5:10pm, Room 2001 West Hall

Keith Knight (Accessibility Advocate, Independent)

Keith Knight shares his 25 years of gaming with a physical disability. His story begins with his journey to discover a way to play games, which traverses 9 assistive devices. Keith explores ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’, ‘Destiny 2’, ‘Overwatch’, and ‘League of Legends’ to break down what they get right and wrong with accessibility. Keith closes with his hopes for the future of accessible gaming and how the industry can level-up accessibility.

Tuesday March 19, 11:20am – 12:20pm, Room 210 South Hall

Doug North Cook (Asst. Professor of Immersive Media, Chatham University)

Robin Hunicke (CEO, Funomena)

Cy Wise (Co-founder and Live Raccoon, [unnamed next venture])

Kat Harris (Designer and Developer, Microsoft)

In October 2018 a group of VR designers, researchers, and creators met to try and answer the question “How do we make VR for everyone?”. The group spent four days in the woods together focusing on a variety of issues including: accessibility, representation, and diverse content and voices. This panel explores the outcomes of those conversations for the participants, their companies, and the industry.

Tuesday March 19, 3:00pm – 3:30pm, Room 210 South Hall

David Putrino (Assistant Professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

This presentation will detail some of the ways that virtual reality environments are being developed and validated as therapies for chronic pain rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, diabetes and HIV.

Tuesday March 19, 5:30pm – 6:00pm, Room 3016 West Hall

Cherry Thompson (Game Accessibility and Inclusion Consultant, Independent)

As the industry moves towards a more inclusive and diverse future, disability representation still has a long way to go. With a passion for diversity and experience in accessibility and inclusion, Cherry explores why representation is so powerful, why the industry keeps getting it so wrong and how game designers might be able to do better in the future.

Wednesday March 20, 10:30am – 11:00am, Room 202 South Hall

Karen Stevens (Accessibility Lead, EA Sports)

As a deaf game developer and the EA Sports Accessibility Lead, Karen Stevens will give a practical presentation to demonstrate best practices in creating games that the deaf and hard-of-hearing can still play fully. Some of the topics covered (with concrete examples and suggestions for best practice) will include captioning and subtitles (and the difference between the two), alternate cues, audio channels, and more.

Wednesday March 20, 11:30am – 12:00pm, Room 2014 West Hall

Ian Hamilton (Accessibility Specialist, Independent)

This talk will give a clear picture of the current state of the industry with examples of current efforts and a clear set of good practice guidelines. It will demonstrate not just how to keep pace with current advances, but how to surpass them and give a great experience to as many players as possible.

Wednesday March 20, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, Room 203 South Hall

Brandon Huffman (Attorney, Odin Law and Media)

The future is always uncertain. In this roundtable, come join the IGDA Business and Legal SIG to talk about some issues facing the video games industry in the coming year. The RT will focus discussion on a few key issues including new and historical consoles, diffusion of distribution channels and consolidation of developers, consumer privacy, expiration of the FCC Accessibility waiver for video games, and the increasing difficulty of controlling a message

Wednesday March 20, 3:30pm – 4:30pm, Room 203 South Hall

Chad Philip Johnson (Engineer, Anacronist Software)

The pace of change in the field of game accessibility continues to accelerate, posing an ever greater challenge to game developers to keep up. Join this roundtable (hosted by the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG) for an open discussion of recent advances and topical issues from CVAA legislation to the Xbox adaptive controller, and what challenges and opportunities there are both now and in the future. A chance to both talk through your own experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

Wednesday March 20, 5:00pm – 6:00pm, Room 202 South Hall

Christopher Power (Vice President and Associate Professor, The AbleGamers Charity/The University of York)

Mark Barlet (Founder / Executive Director, The AbleGamers Charity)

With data from hundreds of players with disabilities, we will show attendees what technology players with disabilities use, the options they prefer and show you the surprising results about the overlaps of technology use between groups of players with disabilities. We will close by introducing attendees to a new design thinking tool derived from this player data, the Accessible Player Experience (APX) design patterns.

Thursday March 21, 10:00am – 11:00am, Room 210 South Hall

Douglas Pennant (Associate Development Manager, Creative Assembly)

Drawing from his own experiences as a color-blind gamer and developer, Creative Assembly’s Douglas Pennant will give a practical talk about how the color blind see the world, and how this can make some video games very difficult to play. This talk will expose attendees to best practices and solutions that can help make their games more accessible to the color blind.

Thursday March 21, 2:00pm – 2:30pm, Room 2009 West Hall

Evelyn Thomas (Sr. Program Manager, Team Xbox, Microsoft)

Bryce Johnson (Inclusive Lead, Microsoft Devices, Microsoft)

Xbox has added new options to ensure that accessible technology – software and hardware interfaces that help people adapt to their digital world – can go with them wherever they create, work, and play.

Part 1 of this talk dives deeper into the Xbox Adaptive Controller and how Xbox Mouse & Keyboard support is enabling gamers and game developers with the ultimate flexibility to make gaming fun for everyone. Stay around for Part 2 that reintroduces speech as an accessible input.

Thursday March 21, 3:00pm – 3:30pm, Room 2009 West Hall

Christopher Palmer (Sr. Program Manager, PlayFab, Microsoft)

Evelyn Thomas (Sr. Program Manager, Team Xbox, Microsoft)

Thursday March 21, 5:30pm – 6:30pm, Room 2001 West Hall

Bryce Johnson (Inclusive Lead, Microsoft Devices)

Erin Muston-Firsch (Occupational Therapist, Craig Hospital)

The Xbox Adaptive Controller required a new development approach that was drastically different from how the Microsoft Devices team typically runs a program. To intentionally bring more people with limited mobility into gaming, the team needed to challenge their biases and assumptions, rethink how they designed and engineered controllers, and move the goalposts on how they measure a program’s success. This session will share their experiences and give you tips on how you can design better control schemes or input for people with limited mobility in your hardware or games

Thursday March 21, 5:30pm – 6:30pm, Room 210 South Hall

Devin Reimer (CEO (Chief Executive Owl), Owlchemy Labs)

Andrew Eiche (CTO (Chief Technology Owl) and Cable Slinger, Owlchemy Labs)

Hear from Owlchemy Labs as they share stories of success, failure, and lessons learned developing their latest original virtual reality game ‘Vacation Simulator’. Hear from the team as they cover several topics, including advanced interaction with objects and characters, zone-based teleportation, accessible design, and more, that anyone doing VR development can apply to their current and future projects.




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