The latest craze among developers is talking about accessibility. As a poor gamer I take great interest in this field as a developer and I’m getting a bit flustered about the complete lack of knowledge about this important paradigm shift in game development.
Most arguments against accessibly designed games are based on the assumption that the games will in some way have to be dumbed down. This is just not true. Anyone claiming this as an argument against accessibility or casual design simply has no clue what the hell accessibility is.
Let me illustrate what it is with a simple example: Paperboy.
The classic game paperboy is hard as hell and was a hardcore crowd pleaser on the original gameboy and earlier devices. Very few people would argue that paperboy is a dumbed down game. But Paperboy is accessible as hell.
The game starts quickly, has basically no learning curve, and is easily recognizable for anyone. The game is still hard as hell. But it is fast and simple to jump into and out of. It also takes no effort at all to start playing.
Compare this to Halo: is it quick to start? No, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes of badly made science fiction story, loading times and menus. This is discouraging to say the least.
Does the game have a required learning curve? Well lets see, after moving around corridors for about a minute, during which you learn to steer and look around, you are pitted against enemies. Easy enemies but they’ll still kill you if you don’t know what to do. Oh, and thematically the enemies, surroundings and weapons are weird as hell. A lot of people would never pick up the controller again after this short opening sequence.
Is the gameplay easily recognizable? Not even remotely. The controlling mechanism requires a high degree of spatial awareness only trained in 3D virtual spaces. So if your not a gamer you wont be able to walk around.
The basic gameplay mechanic is action packed and punishes players (kills them) for doing things wrong. Well if you don’t even know what to do this punishment probably wont be much fun will it?
Oh, and let’s remember that the graphics are stylized to be recognizable only for sci-fi freaks and gamers, so people without previous experience of these kind of worlds will probably not recognize anything.
See my point?
No, I’m not urging all developers to stop making hardcore games. But making games that are easier to recognize and to pick up wont require breaking most of them. On the contrary it will only make them easier and quicker to enjoy for us gamers.