"We initially had the idea to build the website after developers at PAX 2011 stopped asking us WHY accessibility mattered, but how to accomplish it." Steve Spohn, Editor-in-Chief of the AbleGamers website and Director of Community Outreach of The AbleGamers Foundation, explained in a recent interview.
Founded in 2004, AbleGamers Foundation has been actively evangelizing the importance of accessibility in games for almost a decade now. Widely recognized as the largest community for disabled gamers on the Internet, the volunteer-driven, non-profit society is aiming to make every game as accessible as possible to as wide a variety of disabled gamers as they humanly can.
As such, Includification feels very much like the next natural step in their efforts. A 46-page, fully-illustrated how-to guide for developers and publishers roadmapping the exact solutions needed to design an accessible game, Includification is the result of hundreds of hours of work and is a collaborative effort between Spohn, CEO and co-founder Mark Barlet, several professional editors and more.
"We even had 5 AAA studios review the document and made changes based on their feedback." Spohn noted. "I can't specify which ones, but I think you'll see which ones come out in support of our guidelines or, at least, start agreeing to keep them in mind during the development process."
Steve continued, "The goal of the accessibility guide is to get it on the desk of every publisher, resource area of every library and in the boardroom of every publisher as a reference not only about how important accessibility is, but a road map for the easy-to-implement, cost-effective and market-boosting steps they can take to enable gamers with disabilities."
In addition to the aptly named Includification manual, AbleGamers has also created a companion website by the same name. "The purpose of Includification.com is to have an online resource that works as a companion to the document. The PDF is an amazing overview of accessibility filled with beautiful pictures and explanations, dev exercises and examples, etc but what if someone needs a quick and dirty answer to 'Why do you want to make a colorblind option?' That's where Includification.com comes in.” Spohn explained.
“We’ve actually had gameaccessibility.org up for a while with a very very light weight version of the new website. We felt like some people would rather have the knowledge searchable on the website as opposed to reading and searching through a document. Others would rather read about accessibility in depth on their iPad. We are covering both bases.”
That said, it's hard to imagine why anyone would prefer anything but the publication itself. Includification feels less like an instruction guide and more of a revelation. Instead of simply delivering a checklist, the people behind AbleGamers have come up with in-depth examples, guidelines and anecdotes to help developers understand what their efforts accomplish.
For example, in a sub-section entitled 'Difficult Settings and Fail Safes: Not Just a Mobility Issue', Includification tells readers to imagine a teenager suffering from ADHD and learning difficulties stemming from cognitive disabilities that do not affect motor functions.
"He is having trouble completing the steps necessary to advance in his favorite action game. In the game's ONE difficulty setting, the player must manage: ducking behind cover, jumping over obstacles and aiming and shooting successful headshots. This complexity is just too hard, so he gives up and turns to another game."
Spohn promised that none of the suggestions listed within Includification would be detrimental towards the overall game. “None of the suggestions we make in these guidelines, and none of the options we have ever suggested, alter gameplay in any way. We want developers to include options, so that those with disabilities who need the options have them available to be used when necessary. We even have a FAQ right in the front of the document to ease any fears developers or gamers might have about these accessibility options changing their games. We have a specific section on how to handle achievements and rewards if these options are used. To boil it down in short, gamers with disabilities are first and foremost gamers who just want to play the game and need a little bit of help to do so.
“We don't want any advantage over the competition, we just want to play. There should be no barriers to fun.” Spohn enthused.