Part of the Volume on the Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning
In this chapter I examine the accessibility of today's games, or rather the lack of. Even common medical conditions such as arthritis, repetitive stress injuries, and diminished vision may prevent individuals from playing today's top software titles, not to speak of the barriers that these titles pose to the blind, deaf, and immobile. The clearest and most disheartening manifestation can be found when examining the special-needs sector. There we find children who cannot partake in their most coveted play activities, due to inconsiderate (and therefore inflexible) game design. I chose this sector to both define the problem and explore its solutions. Written from the perspective of a designer, the chapter first describes the lack-of-play and its residual impact as perceived in a school that caters to over 200 children with special needs. In an attempt to create the "ultimate-accessible" game, I demonstrate how games can be designed to be intrinsically accessible while retaining their original playability. Lastly, I show how normalization-of-play may improve upon the social, educational, and therapeutic aspects of the children's daily lives. Tying this fringe-case with the grander ecology of games, I discusses how better accessibility may encourage more people to enjoy games -- be they gamers, students, or patients.