Kira Foglesong

Kira Foglesong is a graduate student at Clemson University’s satellite campus in Charleston, SC, where she is pursuing an M.F.A. in Digital Production Arts. She received two Bachelor degrees from High Point University in Computer Science and Game & Interactive Media Design in May 2017. With an artistic eye, a technical mind, and a heart full of fantasy, she is pursuing an industry career in rigging and animation with an ultimate career goal of project management and direction.

Talk Description:

Designing Video Games with Accessibility in Mind

Other Panelist:
William Bennett
Taylor Anderson-Barkley
Dan St. Germain 

LEVY is a fully audio described mystery/puzzle game made in the Unity Engine over the course of three months by a team of 5 students. The goal was to design and develop a video game that would be playable to vision-impaired players without compromising the overall enjoyment and engagement of the game.

Video games as a medium suffer from unique problems with regards to accessibility. Modern games especially tend to utilize both visual stimulus and audio cues in tandem, in order to convey the most information. In addition, any game with an artificial intelligence system becomes exponentially more difficult to audio describe. For hearing-impaired players, games that relay information through sound become tricky to translate into closed captions. Games requiring quick reflexes or complex inputs inhibit physically limited players.

Starting from the outset, the goal was to create a game that was capable of being audio described and thus blind-accessible without trading interesting gameplay for any audience. This was done by implementing audio description for all available information and reading lines of dialogue. The dominant UI element was also made with visuals and audio in mind. By the end of development time, the game was made accessible to blind, sighted, deaf, hearing; and players with limited mobility.
Games, as a real-time and fluid media experience have unique and inherent difficulties to surpass in regards to accessibility. These issues are solvable when designed for from the outset. Attempting to retrofit most games with accessibility parameters in mind becomes an expensive endeavor.

This talk aims to discuss some of the innate difficulties and problems of designing accessible games, as well as the possible solutions. As well as looking at LEVY as a case study for how to address these issues and how designing for accessibility influences the game development pipeline. Talking points from other conferences on research, as well as a conference on accessibility in media as a larger whole will be used in order to convey not only the importance of accessible games, but also the impact of such experiences on different audiences.

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