Accessibility in jams #1: accessibility themed jams and competitions

Taking disabled gamers into account in the context of a contest or a 24/48 hour game jam or hack event can be a daunting prospect, with many different angles that can be taken. I have recently used a common set of starting points as the basis for a few accessibility related events, so I’m sharing it here in case it’s useful for anyone else who is taking on something similar.

There’s a separate post for if your event isn’t accessibility themed but you’re still interested in giving some basic accessibility guidance.

The following are four distinct approaches that are possible to investigate in a short amount of time, each exploring a different but equally important take on how disability relates to games.

They are all equally applicable to any kind of impairment – hearing, vision, motor, or cognitive.

Maximum inclusion

Subtitles, colourblind friendly visuals and simple controls in Super Space Snakes In Space

If thought about early enough, a great deal can be done very quickly and easily. Develop a game that is enjoyable by as many different audience types as possible, by using a combination of several simple design decisions and features, such as colorblind friendliness, simple controls, and timer-free text.

Example: Super Space Snakes in Space
Simple straightforward accessibility features: Game Accessibility Guidelines – Basic

Pushing the envelope

Planning moves while paused in Mighty Tactical Fighter

Existing mechanics are often easier to adapt than they first appear. Start with a well-known conventional mechanic and adapt it to a completely different audience – such as a platform game that is blind-accessible, a fighting game that only requires two buttons, or a shooter that requires no precise timing.

Example: Mighty Tactical Fighter
Example: Divekick
Advanced accessibility features for niche audiences: Game Accessibility Guidelines – Advanced


Audio game with no visuals

Tackling a different kind of problem can be inspirational, giving you ideas that you would not otherwise have had. Use a specific profound impairment as a starting point for a game mechanic, such as not being able to see, or not being able to operate a controller.

Example: Nightjar
Advanced accessibility features for niche audiences: Game Accessibility Guidelines – Advanced

Universally accessible game design

Configurable speed, game length and target size in Tiny Tumble Bubble Art

‘Universally accessible game design’ is a principle based on exposing as many existing variables as possible, to allow gamers to finely tailor the experience according to their needs. Develop a game that allows players to customise variables such as size, speed, and colours, allowing a wide a range of people as possible to play.

Example: Tiny Tumble Bubble Art
Universally accessible game design: UA-Games

If you’d like to chat any more about accessibility in jams, feel free to drop me a line.


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