Games and Accessibility

I did two things in the last few days.

  1. Participated in John Slatin AccessU in Austin, TX both as a presenter and as a participant in the some of the excellent classes and sessions offered on accessibility. If you’re self-taught on the topic of accessibility, this event is like getting your Ph.D. in accessibility. I urge you to make an effort to attend some time.
  2. Finished reading Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they Can Change the World. This fascinating book opened my eyes to so many new concepts I could wax on about it for a long time. It has changed the way I look at many things – not just games. Anyone who is interested in modern technology and social change should read this book.

During AccessU, there was no discussion of games. That does not mean that people with disabilities don’t enjoy playing games. Today I opened my Google Reader and saw this article from ATMac: Time-Independent Games. If Jane McGonigal is right about what game design is going to mean to the future of the entire world, then we need to start thinking and talking about how games can be made accessible and compliant with WCAG 2.0. Particularly if a game is meant to have a real effect in the real world, we don’t want to bar the creative thinking that might come from the disabled who might play.

Why, Jane McGonigal, why?

I am just getting into Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they Can Change the World.

Already after just a few pages I found the answer to this problem:

Why do I keep coming back?

I call it the “Why the hell do I keep playing with her?” problem. If I could scroll through my phone for you, you would see screen after screen that looks just like this. Ladybug nearly always beats me. But I keep playing with her.

In reading McGonigal’s book, I discovered a few things about games that explain my willingness to keep losing to Ladybug. She quotes Bernard Suits, who said,

Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.

In McGonigal’s list of how games are a fix for reality, fix #1 is,

Compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.

No surprise then that I’m drawn to word games, and that I’ll play even when I’m sure before I start that at least one opponent – my archenemy Ladybug – is going to beat me.

I’ve been interested in Jane McGonigal’s ideas about how games can improve the world since I heard her keynote at SXSW several years ago. I was similarly interested in Seth Priebatsch at this years SXSW.

Even though I’ve barely begun reading, I’m sure this is an important book. Check it out.