Game on: The most accessible games of 2013

The winners of AbleGamers’ annual awards provide lessons about the value of making technology accessible to the disabled

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A Stinkyboard, a game controller for your feet

Stinkyboard, a game controller for your feet

Image credit: Stinkyboard

Last month AbleGamers, an organization devoted to making gaming accessible to people with disabilities, announced the winners of their annual accessible gaming awards. The purpose is to recognize those organizations and individuals who achieved high levels of accessibility in their games or made noted advancements in gaming accessibility. AbleGamers honored the following winners for accessibility achievements in gaming in 2013.

Paradox Interactive, a Swedish game developer, won the Includification Award for publishing strategy games that "demonstrate crucial accessibility standards."

Paul Nyhart of  HDFilms won the Media Hero of the Year Award for his advocacy work to "to advance the awareness of gamers with disabilities."

SpecialEffect won the Best Innovator award for its work helping disabled gamers in the UK and was recognized as  "important resource for European gamers with disabilities."

Stinkyboard, a foot-based gaming controller, won for the Best New Device or Peripheral, for giving "an amazing amount of flexibility to those with physical impairments such as the loss of the use of one arm or limited upper body movement."

Galactic Café's The Stanley Parable was named the Best Indie Accessible Game of the Year for exemplifying "the extreme accessibility indie developers can display while leaving the exciting gameplay of traditional video games completely intact."

Finally, Square Enix's FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn won the Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year for getting nearly perfect scores in accessibility reviews and fulfilling "almost all of the requirements to be fully accessible to gamers with disabilities."

I reached out to a couple of the other winners to get their thoughts on creating accessible games. 

Davey Wreden of Galactic Café told me that the high level of accessibility wasn't a specific goal during the development of the game, but rather the product of their general approach of creating something that everyone could relate to. His advice for other who want to create accessible games? "I'd suggest asking yourself what about your game could speak to anyone. ...consider what's universal about this experience and how best to convey that."

Paradox Interactive interface designer Daniel Moregård told me that they recognize the benefit of making games more accessible. "We love our games and by making them more accessible we can reach a wider audience and give more players the chance to experience how fun they are." 

He also said that making a game accessible doesn't have to mean that a game is any less fun. "I know accessibility might sound like a dirty word to some, but truth to be told, you don´t have to dumb down the game to make it more accessible for a larger number of gamers." 

For those interested in making their games more accessible, Moregård said the keys are time and testing. "It is mostly about really taking the time to do iterations and play testing. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is an accessible interface for complex games. "

It's great that companies are recognizing the potential benefits of creating accessible games, both to their business and to consumers in general. I think that's something that anybody creating technology these days, any kind of software or hardware, should really keep in mind. 

Congratulations to all of this year's AbleGamers award winners! I look forward to seeing what advancements in accessible gaming 2014 brings.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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