Microsoft Game Dev – Creating for everyone: How to make games more accessible



Ability Summit 2022 - Image, construction, inclusion

With more than three billion people playing games, games have the power to unite people from all geographies, cultures, and demographics around the world. Games for Everyone is our commitment to making Xbox a place where everyone has fun, including the more than 400 million gamers with disabilities. This means intentionally focusing on accessibility and including people with disabilities as part of our creation process.

Gaming is the medium of choice for the younger generation, with 70% of people under the age of 25 preferring to play a game than consume any other form of media, including social media. That’s why it’s imperative that the creators and communities that build games are representative of the full range 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 the barriers people with disabilities experience by meeting a variety of characters that reflect our real world and learn how to identify and remove accessibility barriers in their school and community. Check out all the details about the new world of Minecraft: Education Edition.


Various blocky characters stand outside a school entrance in Minecraft

This week at the Microsoft Ability Summit, I had the opportunity to share why accessibility in gaming is so critical, and how by empowering everyone who wants to be a creator, we can help build a more inclusive world. You can watch that talk, as well as other awesome content at
aka.ms/abilitysummit. To continue the discussion, I want to highlight the resources we shared that can increase your understanding of gaming accessibility, demonstrate how you can partner with the disability community for feedback, and help make your game more discoverable. We look forward to creating more accessible games with all of you because when everyone plays, everyone wins.


Partnership with the disabled community

Engaging with the disability community is critical to understanding lived experiences and how disabilities can impact gaming experiences. We encourage you to partner with the community, either on your own or by taking advantage of the following accessibility resources made possible by partnering with the disability community:

    • The
      Xbox Accessibility Experts League (XAIL) is a community of over 158,000 self-identified gamers with disabilities and/or community allies who want to provide feedback on the latest accessibility features. XAIL is open to content developers and offers an easy way to share your content with the community through the Xbox Insider Program. Contact your account team for more details.
    • The

      Microsoft Game Accessibility Test Service (MGATS)
      is an optional program through which Xbox and PC game developers and publishers can submit their products for secure and confidential accessibility testing by accessibility subject matter experts and gamers with disabilities. The tests are carried out against theXbox accessibility guidelines (XAG) with the final report including accessibility highlights, disabled player feedback, concerns, and alignment with accessibility feature tags.




Reach more players with your game

We all make games to play and we 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 common questions the Game Accessibility team gets is “What game can I play?” It can be incredibly frustrating to get hold of a game only to discover minutes where you can’t play it because it’s missing a critical piece of functionality or if you manage to get 99% complete only to discover that a new mechanism has been introduced. It’s like finding out batteries aren’t included in your child’s birthday present; they were excited to get to play and now they can’t.

Players want to know the accessibility details of their game before launching it, and we encourage you to take advantage of the following tactics to help reach more players.




Filterability of accessibility feature labels in the Xbox Store

    • The
      Accessibility feature labelswere developed specifically for this reason, making it easy for gamers 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 by user research and in collaboration with the disability community to make it easier for developers to understand and meet the requirements. Developers can identify accessibility features in their games by tagging them using the Accessibility feature in the Games Metadata module, making it easy for players to discover your game. And a new feature, based on community feedback that we’ll continue to add, now allows players to search and then filter tags, making it easier than ever to find a game they love.
    • The accessibility support pages provide a single, searchable location that describes all of the accessibility features in your game. Providing this information at launch and updating it with each release allows players with disabilities to play your game the way they want.
    • When sharing your game, also consider making sure the content and how it is shared is accessible. Take advantage of platforms like the recently announced Xbox All-American Sign Language (ASL) Twitch channel at /XboxASL, where every day the Xbox Plays team streams live on the Xbox Twitch channel, playing the latest and greatest Xbox world titles.
      https://www.twitch.tv/xboxasl/.


Increase your understanding of gaming accessibility

Incorporating accessibility early on allows more people to enjoy your game, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or where to go for more information. So, in response to feedback and in partnership with the community, we want to make it easier to create accessible gaming experiences by providing resources that are game-specific, easy to find, and can be directly applied to your project. Here are some to see:


Game Developer Accessibility Resource Center Landing Page

    • The new

      Accessibility Resource Center 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 talks, and guidelines.
    • The

      Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAG)
      was released in 2019 as a free resource for game creators that serves as a set of best practices for validating game accessibility, and Xbox continues to iterate on it based on community feedback. This month they are announcing the addition of best practices around mental health, motion sickness, and text size clarity.
    • TheGame Accessibility Basics Learning Pathis a free online course for those who are new to gaming accessibility or want to solidify their understanding. The resource is intended to establish fundamental knowledge about gaming accessibility, partnering with the disability community, and best practices for hardware, software, and gaming accessibility and assistive technology. At the end of the course, share your new knowledge and your badge with the community!


Game Accessibility Basics Course Landing Page

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