The Human Controller: Usability and Accessibility in Video Game Interfaces

A MIT Computer Science Masters Thesis
by Eitan Glinert

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Despite the advances in user interfaces and the new gaming genres, not all people can play all games – disabled people are frequently excluded from game play experiences. On the one hand this adds to the list of discriminations disabled people face in our society, while on the other hand actively including them potentially results in games that are better for everyone. The largest hurdle to involvement is the user interface, or how a player interacts with the game. Analyzing usability and adhering to accessibility design principles makes it both possible and practical to develop fun and engaging game user interfaces that a broader range of the population can play. To demonstrate these principles we created AudiOdyssey, a PC rhythm game that is accessible to both sighted and non-sighted audiences. By following accessibility guidelines we incorporated a novel combination of features resulting in a similar play experience for both groups. Testing AudiOdyssey yielded useful insights into which interface elements work and which don’t work for all users. Finally a case is made for considering accessibility when designing future versions of gaming user interfaces, and speculative scenarios are presented for what such interfaces might look like.