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Game accessibility at GDC 2021

There are a number of accessibility related sessions taking place over the course of GDC this year, both at the main conference itself and at the summits. Here’s a handy list! I’ll update it with details of timings (and any additional sessions) once those are published.


UX Summit
Monday July 19, 8:30am – 9:30am, Channel 19

Celia Hodent (Game UX Consultant, Independent)
Anouk Ben-Tchavtchavadze (Consultant, Independent)

This session is about celebrating the progress made (such as regarding accessibility or acceptance of UX as a whole) and acknowledging our current challenges. Session participants will be encouraged to discuss how we can efficiently overcome our current challenges (e.g. inclusion or ethics). The session will end with an introduction to the GDC UX Summit talks of the day, and with a Q&A.


UX Summit
Monday July 19, 9:40am – 10:40am, Channel 4

Expanding the Dreamiverse: Making Dreams an Experience for Everyone

Joe Florey (User Researcher, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe)
Alexandra Perry (Producer, Media Molecule)

This talk will summarise how extensive user research and feedback informed design decisions to make Dreams the game it is today, From UI and control settings to tutorials and on-boarding, this talk gives a complete picture of the development of accessible UGC tools with insight from both the user research team and the studio. Practical advice for testing UGC driven games and testing for accessibility will also be included throughout.


Community Management Summit
Monday July 19, 9:40am – 10:40am, Channel 7

Courtney Craven (EIC & Founder, Can I Play That?)
Stacey Jenkins (Games Accessbility Specialist , Freelance)

In this talk, you will learn from Stacey Jenkins and Courtney Craven how to ensure your social media content is accessible to and inclusive of all members of your community. Attendees will learn user-friendly methods of accessible content creation and best practices for accessibility and inclusion, along with some tips and tricks on how to implement best accessibility practices.


UX Summit
Monday July 19, 2:00pm – 2:30pm, Channel 4

Approaching Accessibility in Production: A Practical Mindset for Developers

Morgan Baker (Accessibility Specialist, The Odd Gentlemen)

In this session, we will discuss a helpful mindset to assist developers as we approach accessibility and continue to advocate for gamers with disabilities. This session will equip industry members with language that will elevate internal discussions and drive actionable, accessible solutions. We will define a “Fundamental Alteration” and show how we can use this language to promote accessibility in a healthy, streamlined way.


Independent Games Summit
Tuesday July 20, 10:50am – 11:20am, Channel 12

Ian Hamilton (Accessibility Specialist, indepedent)

This talk will give you practical tips and examples of techniques you can use to ensure as many people as possible are able to have the kind of experience you imagined, without breaking the bank. And sometimes even for free.


AI Summit
Tuesday July 20, 1:20pm – 1:50pm, Channel 2

Batu Aytemiz (PhD Student, University of California Santa Cruz)

In this talk Batu shares how gameplaying AI systems can be used to make games more inclusive and support players engage with our games. He introduces a design exercise to help developers come up with assistance methods that can use preexisting AI systems and showcases several assistance methods that use a reinforcement learning-based navigation system.


Round Tables
Wednesday July 21, 8:30am – 9:30am, Zoom 2

Cherry Thompson (Accessibility Specialist, Independent)
Raffael Boccamazzo (Clinical Director, Take This)

This session is a much needed space for games workers with disabilities, inclusive of physical disability, neurodiversity, mental health, chronic illness, pain, and injury to come together and discuss the unique challenges we’re facing.


Main Conference
Wednesday July 21, 3:40pm – 4:10pm, Channel 1

Karen Stevens (Director of Accessibility, Electronic Arts)

This session uses concrete game examples to explain how to best support those with interactive differences, including topics such as supporting accessibility-specific devices, recommended in-game assists, simplified controls, and more.


Round Tables
Thursday July 22, 8:30am – 9:30am, Zoom 5

Améliane Chiasson (Accessibility Lead & Volunteer, SquareEnix West & IGDA Game Accessibility SIG)

Join us for a frank and open conversation about the current state of the industry, and how we might all be able help push the bar further.


Round Tables
Thursday July 22, 9:40am – 10:40am, Zoom 2

Cherry Thompson (Accessibility Specialist, Independent)
Emily Grace Buck (Narrative Director, Designer & Writer, Freelance)

After laying the groundwork for acceptance and support on day one, this follow up session will build on the community’s collective knowledge and experience to enable us to build strategies for acceptance, accommodation, and accessibility of the workplace and tools.


Main conference
Thursday July 22, 4:20pm – 4:50pm, Channel 1

Kathryn Hymes (Studio Co-Founder & Game Designer, Thorny Games)

In this talk, we explore the potential for games as a community-driven, cost-effective, and radically-accessible form of care. We detail this through the lens of a case study in designing therapeutic games for and with people with aphasia, the 2+ million Americans who experience language loss due to brain injury.

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