Our research team has a newly published book chapter on accessibility and inclusive design. The chapter is in the book Game Theory – From Idea to Practice. This publication is open-source and can be read in full here.
Over the last 30 years, the Learning Games Lab team has been working to create effective educational media capable of educating and transforming learners. To foster this learning transformation our media needs to not only be engaging but accessible and representative to learners. Practical and applied research has been informing and refining our design process towards inclusive design.
Based on our research findings we articulated two practical frameworks in an open source publication. By articulating frameworks our team has a vocabulary to discuss, a structure to reflect and easy steps to identify procedures to make our design process more inclusive. These practical frameworks have the potential to benefit and support game developers and teams in developing more accessible and representative media.
Framework for Designing Games for Accessibility
Accessibility is about users' needs. By considering users' needs, developers design a set of features into their product to provide users access. Our framework for accessibility in games is grounded by two main ideas.
First, there is no average player; all players fall on a spectrum of need, which can be permanent, temporary or situational. To better understand those needs, we consider four main categories: visual, hearing, motor and cognitive.
Second, accessibility lives in the product and not in the user. It means that the disability is a mismatch between the design and the person’s needs. Thus, a good game design that matches users’ needs enables players, and a bad game design that does not match users’ needs disables players.
Framework for Designing Games for Diversity
Diversity in games is observable in how diverse a development team is and how this design team portrays game worlds, environments, storylines, and characters in their games to promote identification, acceptance, and counteract stereotypes. Our framework for diversity cover four main areas:
Team Building: covering the team and its culture of inclusion.
Intent & Inspiration: covering ideas, biases and culturally informed decisions
World Building: covering who is represented in the game environment, and how.
Access & Support: covering who will have access to the game, and how.
Process for Designing Inclusive Games
Our team uses the framework to understand the key components of inclusion and work through specific steps in our design process to address users' needs in every product created. This includes five specific processes:
Engage the entire team in working toward inclusivity.
Create a list of guidelines for inclusivity best practices.
Implement best practices for inclusion in design of individual games.
Test games with multiple types of users and get expert review.
Review & Reflect on your team’s approach to inclusion.
Developing accessible and diverse media can be challenging in many ways, which may keep teams from engaging in the design of inclusive media. Practical frameworks can help teams familiarize themselves with the key issues, build their vocabulary around inclusion, and identify easy steps they can take to address parts of each problem. Our team has accessibility and diversity as part of our core values, which keep the team in a constant and iterative effort to improve our processes and products toward inclusive design. Every project we move forward allows us to meaningfully engage a wide range of users who can learn from our educational media.
Cezarotto, M., Martinez, P., & Chamberlin, B. (2022). Developing Inclusive Games: Design Frameworks for Accessibility and Diversity. In (Ed.), Game Theory – From Idea to Practice. IntechOpen. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.108456
Written by Matheus Cezarotto, visiting assistant professor, Department of Innovative Media, Research and Extension.
To learn more about our products and design process contact:
Barbara Chamberlin, PhD
Interim Department Head
Extension Educational Media Specialist
Department of Innovative Media, Research and Extension