The curb cut effect and the four main features we need in our games.
Everyone should care about accessibility features. And here’s a potential “Aha!” moment to back that statement up.
You’re already using accessibility features every day without thinking about them as such. Even if you don’t have a disability, they make your life easier and hobbies more enjoyable.
You may play games and watch movies with closed captions. You switch to Dark Mode when it's available. You go for the curb ramp when walking the stroller or pulling heavy luggage. The later example has given a phenomenon its name – the curb cut effect (a term we’ve only recently learned ourselves, as part of our discussions with AbleGamers). It’s when a feature, designed for individuals with disabilities, gets used and appreciated by a larger group than originally intended.
And just like that, over time, the feature becomes universal and part of the “normal.”
We know that one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some sort of disability. We also know that people with disabilities run a heightened risk of social isolation. And when it comes to our favourite thing in the world – yep, that’s gaming! – we know that it represents so much more than entertainment to us. Like friendship and a sense of community.
When thinking about it this way, it’s easier to understand the real, profound impact of accessibility features in gaming. And, in the end, they’re improving everyone’s experience. Your own included.
So, where do we start, as game developers, to make our games enjoyable to as many as possible? We’ve have established four main accessibility features that we’re aiming to implement in Kinda Brave’s upcoming games:
1. All controls in the game can be remapped and reconfigured
Having a few predefined controller profiles in your game is useful, but they cannot cover all needs. Adding an option that allows for real customization is the goal here. Now, it’s worth noting that consoles offer controller remapping at a system level. But nothing beats fully customizable in-game remapping.
2. Font size and text are easily readable or adjustable
Tiny, hard-to-read text is a very common complaint amongst players with vision impairments. A good first step is setting a larger default size and ensuring it scales correctly with different screen resolutions. The ideal situation? Allowing the player to resize the text themselves.
3. Don’t convey important information only by using a fixed color
Wherever possible, color should just be used as a back-up to other means of communicating information – like text, symbols, shapes or patterns. That, or provide settings for colorblindness.
4. Subtitles and captions must be present and in a clear, easy to read way
If the game includes VO and audio, subtitles and captions must be provided and on by default. The text needs to be big enough, presented against a solid or semi-opaque background (letterboxing) and not consist of more than 40 characters per line.
Easy enough, right? Well, actually… it might not be! Even though the features are fairly straight-forward, they still require development. Too many times, we’ve seen accessibility features being deprioritized and put in an already full backlog, eventually leading to them being rushed towards the end or even cut.
That’s why we’re looking to give our developers the extra time needed to implement these features. Not as an afterthought, but as an integral part of the development process. And as we grow as a publisher and as developers, so will our efforts within accessibility.