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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blocked from Access

Did you know that 8.7% of the male population is affected by some level of colour blindness? I didn't, until I read Brannon Zahand's thought-provoking insight detailing the accessibility features (or, lack of) offered to today's gamers. This statistic is evidence alone to support the existence of a significant market proportion, alienated by the lack of tailored functionality to meet their needs. Imagine being unable to distinguish between the colours yellow and green... now imagine trying to play Tetris with this disability - where did the fun go? I originally intended my last sentence's example to be Bejewelled, but after looking at a screenshot I found that a simple and effective evolution occurred during a decade of puzzle gaming - Bejewelled features gems shaped according to colour, meaning that the colourblind can play by observing an alternative attribute. Bejewelled highlights the ease in which an oversight can be repaired, conferring financial advantages to the developer and accessibility to the gamer.

Zahand illustrates how the question is often asked 'How do we get little Sally or Grandpa to play our games?', surely including the unwilling into our gaming fraternity should become a long term goal to be pursued after the willing but unable have had their problems addressed?

If we are to truly believe that gaming is able to unlock a new, higher level of human consciousness, as I adamantly profess, then inclusion of the willing should become the gaming industry's primary goal.

Just a short anecdote before I sign off. I played Planetside using Teamspeak for the best part of two years, during this time my outfit (guild/group) insisted that all members join the voice communications server so that they could partake in the audio chatter and instruction that would be issued by a human voice rather than via text. A few months after this policy began, outfit command noticed one of our crew who was never on Teamspeak and rarely followed orders... a conversation over private messages ensued. The commanders were ashamed to learn that their disgruntlement was directed at a deaf man. His impairment had led to the anger of his peers and his own lack of integration with the outfit. Understanding and compassion went a long way to heal the rift but unfortunately, in this instance, my outfit's reliance on audio communication led to our deaf soldier moving on to keyboarded pastures, green with a capital 3.

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