Games have been a source of leisure for anyone regardless of age, race, or ability. However, the industry as a whole has only recently made strides to incentivize accessibility in games. In 2018, Microsoft created the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which is a set of devices that players can customize to create a comfortable play experience. In 2020, the Game Awards created a new award for Innovation in Accessibility and AbleGamers held its inaugural Video Game Accessibility Awards in partnership with Twitch.
For Microsoft, the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines, originally launched in January of 2020, was a labor of love. The purpose of the guidelines is to act as a self-check on a developer's game to ensure it meets certain accessibility recommendations. These recommendations were based on input from industry experts and the Gaming & Disability community. Now that the guidelines have been public for a year, developers have spent enough time with the guidelines to also provide feedback. On February 16, 2021, Microsoft updated the guidelines to:
- Simplify overly technical language;
- Include images and videos of the guidelines in action;
- Provide goal statements for each guideline;
- Provide scoping questions to help developers determine where and how to begin integrating specific guidelines; and
- Supply background and foundational introductory information for complex guidelines.
The guidelines not only exist to help the developer validate their game, they exist to teach the developer about the importance of accessibility and their impact on players' lives.
Microsoft also went above and beyond by establishing the first platform-based testing program specifically geared to game accessibility. Developers can send their game to Microsoft to be tested and validated against the guidelines and, more importantly, played by members of the Gaming & Disability community. After testing, developers will receive feedback from the Gaming & Disability community as well as Microsoft.
It is clear that all players and developers will benefit from the updated guidelines and new testing program.
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