With more than three billion people playing games, gaming has the power to bring people around the world together in different geographies, cultures and demographics. Gaming for all is our commitment to making Xbox a place where everyone can have fun, including the more than 400 million players with disabilities. This means that we consciously focus on accessibility and including people with disabilities as part of our creation process.
Games are the medium of choice for the younger generation, 70% of people under 25 would rather play a game than use any other form of media, including social media. Therefore, it is imperative that the creators and communities that build games are representative of the full breadth of experiences, disabilities, cultures and people on this earth. It’s one of the reasons I was so excited to share the launch of BuildAbility in Minecraft: Education Edition, a new accessibility-themed world created in collaboration with the Peel District School Board in Ontario, Canada. Students explore barriers that people with disabilities experience by meeting a series of characters who reflect our real world and learn how to identify and eliminate accessibility barriers in their school and community. Check out the full details on the new Minecraft: Education Edition world.
This week at the Microsoft Ability Summit, I had the opportunity to share why accessibility is so important in gaming and how empowering everyone to be a creator can help build a more inclusive world. You can watch that talk and other great content at
aka.ms/abilitysummit† To continue the discussion, I’d like to highlight the resources we’ve shared that can increase your understanding of game accessibility, show you how you can partner with the disability community to get feedback and make your game more discoverable to make. We look forward to making more accessible games with all of you, because when everyone plays, we all win.
Working with the disabled community
Being involved in the disabled community is critical to understanding experiences and how disabilities can affect gameplay experiences. We encourage you to collaborate only with the community or by using the following accessibility resources made possible through collaboration with the disabled community:
Xbox Accessibility Insiders League †XAIL) is a community of over 158,000 players with disabilities who identify themselves and/or community allies who want to provide feedback on the latest accessibility features. XAIL is open to content developers and provides an easy way to share your content with the community through the Xbox Insider program. Please contact your account team for more information.
Microsoft Gaming Accessibility Testing Service (MGATS) is an optional program that allows developers and publishers of Xbox and PC games to submit their products for secure, confidential accessibility testing conducted by accessibility experts and players with disabilities. Testing against theXbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs) with the final report including accessibility highlights, feedback from players with disabilities, concerns, and alignment with accessibility feature tags.
Reach more players with your game
We all make games to play and want as many people as possible to experience the worlds you build. This can only happen if players can discover your game and are confident that they can play it. One of the most frequently asked questions from the Gaming Accessibility team is “Which game can I play?”. It can be incredibly frustrating to buy a game only to find out that you can’t play it for a few minutes because it’s missing an essential piece of functionality or 99% of the time only to find out that a new mechanism has been introduced. It’s like finding out that batteries aren’t included in your kid’s birthday gift; they were excited to play and now they can’t.
Players want to know the accessibility details in your game before they start, and we recommend using the tactics below to reach more players.
Accessibility Feature Tagswere developed specifically for this reason, making it easier for players to find games that have one or more of the 20 accessibility features, such as custom volume controls, no quick time events, or subtitle options. Each was defined with specific criteria vetted through user research and in collaboration with the disability community to make it easy for developers to understand and meet the requirements. Developers can identify accessibility features in their games by tagging the features using the accessibility feature in the Gaming Metadata module, making it easier for players to discover their game. And a new feature, based on community feedback that we continue to use, now allows players to search for tags and then filter them, making it easier than ever for them to find a game they like.
- Accessibility support pages provide a single, searchable location that describes all accessibility features in your game. Providing this information at launch and updating with each release will allow players with disabilities to play your game the way they want.
- When sharing your game, also consider making sure that the content and how it is shared is accessible. Take advantage of platforms such as the recently announced All-American Sign Language (ASL) Xbox Twitch Channel on /XboxASL, where the Xbox Plays team goes live every day on the Xbox Twitch Channel and showcases the latest and greatest titles from the world of Xbox plays.
Expand your understanding of game accessibility
Building accessibility from the start will help more people enjoy your game, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or where to go to get more information. In response to feedback and in collaboration with the community, we want to make it easy to create accessible gaming experiences by providing resources that are game-specific, easy to find, and can be applied directly to your project. Here are a few to check out:
- The new
Accessibility Resources for Game Developers provides a single place for developers to start their accessibility journey, with a wealth of resources including testing tools, developer resources, conference calls, and guidelines.
Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs) Launched in 2019 as a free resource for game makers and serving as a set of best practices for validating game accessibility, Xbox continues to iterate based on community feedback. This month, they’re announcing the addition of best practices in mental health, motion sickness, and text size clarity.
- TheGaming Accessibility Fundamentals Learning Pathis a free online course for those who are new to gaming accessibility or want to advance their knowledge. The resource aims to build fundamental knowledge about game accessibility, how to engage with the disabled community and best practices for accessibility of hardware, software and games and assistive technology. After completing the course, share your new knowledge and badge with the community!