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Accessibility within the video game industry: A Developers Perspective

26 Feb 2021

Accessibility within the video game industry: A Developers Perspective

 

 

Leon Field

@OneManHorde

 

 

 

A little context, I fell ill and became disabled after university while looking for jobs as a graduate and eventually I had to take a teaching position and came into the industry a couple years ago now.

 

 

How did you find work within the industry?  

Finding work was quite difficult in the industry, I remember having a few interviews with smaller places that seemed positive up until my illness was mentioned. Nowadays with lockdown a mass move to work from home maybe this part of getting work will become easier but I found a lot of my early interviews discouraging. It was only later when I got an opportunity through networking that I was able to get my foot in the door.

 

Have you experienced difficulties in regard to being disabled within the industry?

It's hard to understand these kinds of conditions and their impact when someone does not have them themselves.

 

It's important to make sure the impact of your health on your ability to work is fully understood. Avoid using terms like "managed" or "handled" as it's easy for those not familiar with these conditions to draw conclusions from these terms that mean your accessibility needs may not be accounted for or understood.

 

What accessibility provision do you wish studios actively would put in place?

Flexi Time and Work from Home are the two things that would make working in the Games Industry more accessible, it's a secretive and protective industry at times but the last year has proven we can do it without problems like leaks and I hope the industry is going to continue to move in this direction.

 

Do you think that WFH works?

Working from Home over lockdown has been a huge quality of life improvement for me; I genuinely think it's a big help for people with my conditions or without removing the commute from my day leaves me with more energy but also more time to rest making it easier to do my best for the next day.

 

What do you think about overtime?

Overtime which I have only done on two occasions is hard especially when suffering with chronic fatigue and other issues, without the time being given back in some form I would struggle to do it and I think the industry needs to do a lot of work in this area still.

 

Do you that you are fairly represented within the video games industry, especially when it comes to Inclusivity?

In terms of games content, I feel we have a lot of work to do as an industry.

I want more games where being disabled doesn't mean a character is going to be a villain, a burden, or hates their own existence. We are still at a point where a disability means a de-buff in games design, something I think is totally unnecessary see @mustangarts combat wheelchair for Dungeons and Dragons as an example of what we could be doing in video games. If tabletop RPGs can do it, it can be done way more.

 

As the range of disabilities and their specific gaming needs are fairly broad. What forms of accessibility do you feel are served the least currently?

Audio sensitivity is an area that I feel could certainly improve for games and is quite underrepresented in games accessibility atm. I also think there's still some hang ups around provided options for those with accessibility needs around processing information or reflexes. Unfortunately, this gets tied up in discussions and controversy around difficulty a lot of the time this enters the public eye; Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is a particularly painful game for me to discuss because of it.

 

And finally, what advice would you give to someone in a similar position? Maybe someone who may be looking to start or is just starting out in the industry?  

Don't let your disability discourage you; a solid portfolio and good interview can get you through the door. Make sure you're doing all you can to help yourself for your condition and be prepared to advocate for yourself as you will be most knowledgeable on your condition if it hasn't been encountered before. Asking for your employer to use an occupational health therapist is a good idea for finding ways to best support you in the workplace.

 

In addition, the most helpful thing I have found is seeking out other disabled developers to be able to talk about your experiences with. One of my difficulties has been advocating for myself, with any employer not just with games. No matter how open to supporting you an employer is, it can be hard to advocate for yourself when dealing with something as personal as an accessibility issue in the workplace. Having people to talk about similar issues with is important even if you can't have someone advocate for you in person.

 


Keep Calm and waka waka...