There is no doubt that gaming can be enjoyed by everyone. In more recent times, the spotlight has fallen on accessibility and how can we as a community include the differently-abled into our favorite entertainment medium. This has been reflected in game development as well, with games trying to provide access to everyone whenever possible. In this regard, tech giant Microsoft has been a big advocate of better accessibility. In a new update, the Gaming Accessbility team at Microsoft shared even more about their efforts and the future.
The blog post goes into detail on what drives the Microsoft team. In addition to the groundbreaking Xbox Adaptive Controller that launched in 2018, Microsoft followed up with the genesis of the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs) in 2020. This is a comprehensive set of best practices that is all about enhancing accessibility.
Better than before
Now, Microsoft is updating the XAGs to improve the entire structure. Developers will find them easier to use and understand. The XAG is also now more comprehensive than before. For any team looking to up their accessibility game, the XAGs are a great way to start.
Microsoft narrowed down the additional improvements for the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines to the following:
- Improved language
- Clear “Goal”
- Improved Overview
- Scoping Questions
- Key Areas To Target
- Background and Foundational Info
- Implementation Guideline examples
Leading by example
Microsoft is taking further steps in helping developers figure out how accessibility can be achieved in their games. Together with the Game Reliability Engineering team, the Gaming Accessibility Team has come up with an industry-first, platform-provided game accessibility testing program that can validate games using the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines.
Game developers will be able to get feedback on how to improve their games. This can come in the form of reproduction steps, screenshots, and other information to help the developer understand what aspect of a given experience may be challenging for certain gamers with disabilities. The report will also include links to gaming accessibility and inclusive design documentation, non-profits and industry-recognized subject matter experts, platform-specific technical documentation, and more.
To ensure the validity of the program, gamers with disabilities are included in the testing program. Every game tested against the XAGs will be experienced by the Gaming & Disability Community. Their feedback and insights will be invaluable as well.
It is clear that Microsoft takes accessibility very seriously. As an industry, this is nothing but a great step forward. Hopefully, the other big players in the industry follow suit in due time.