If there’s one thing you dreamers do well, it’s coming up with cool new ideas. It turns out that a bunch of those ideas are things that are already accessible to a range of disabled and abled people! Think of all the brilliant one-button games that have been made in Dreams, or the jam entries made for our SpecialEffect and Autistica collabs. Good stuff.
We love the thought of there being even more dreams in the Dreamiverse for even more players. So, to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’ll be kicking off an accessibility-focused community jam in Dreams on May 24th with the theme “High Contrast”. High contrast can be a useful visual aid for players, and we’re excited to see your take on it!
Looking for some creative inspiration? Make sure to check out our Awesome Accessibility playlist in-game for some fantastic accessible games in Dreams. Meanwhile, over in DreamShaping, we’ve collated some useful tools made by the Dreams community that can help you achieve your accessibility goals! (This collection’s all about visual aids - perfect for the High Contrast jam.)
But that’s not all. As today’s the big accessible day itself, we thought we’d share some of our top tips and tricks for making your games (and other interactive oddities!) playable for more people.
Accessibility: where do I start?!#
The best place to start is to just take the time to think about what different peoples’ needs or limitations might be. Thinking about how your game is played, and what that might feel or look like to other people, can really open up your mind to improvements in its design. Accessibility is really just Usability for more people, so if you consider the ways you could make your game usable by more people, you’re well on your way to improving the accessibility of your creation!
Designing for visual requirements#
There’s loads you can do to support people with different visual requirements. One useful thing you can do is to make your game higher contrast, or to have a dedicated high contrast mode. At the very least, having important information in higher contrast is helpful. This can help all sorts of people: people with low vision, colour blindness, and even those with executive dysfunction.
On a similar theme, don’t use colour alone to distinguish between things. If a player must choose between a red button and a green button, make sure to either use a pattern as well as the colour (for example, a red zigzagged button versus a green spotty button) or use labels. One thing that will make this easier for creators is to use our snazzy new Colour Blindness Filters to see how your level might look to someone without full-colour vision! This will help you to pick out any bits you might have missed that could cause a colour blind person trouble.
Try to make sure all your text and buttons are nice and big, and clear to read. If you purposely want to include text small for some reason, it’s good practice to have an option to have the text bigger. If you use text set to In Scene, make judicious use of the brand-new Minimum In Scene Size tweak for text gadgets so the text doesn't get too tiny. An additional thing you can do to support players with low vision is to have UI and important information closer to the centre of the screen, or an option to do this.
To really go above and beyond, try experimenting with using audio cues for anything that would be visual information. There are plenty of completely blind videogame fans out there who are able to play games which make clever use of audio to guide players. Maybe you could make an entirely audio-based game?
Designing for audio requirements#
It might go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: make sure you use subtitles! To go beyond the basics for the best level of audio description, try using closed caption guidelines. This includes indicating who is talking, subtitling sounds as well as dialogue, and making sure to match the pace of speech.
Try not to use only audio to indicate something. If you can make sure something that has an audio indicator also has a visual cue, there’s much less chance of it being missed by somebody who can’t hear it clearly.
Designing for motor requirements#
There are lots of things about gaming and using a controller that can be frustrating if you have motor impairments of any kind. This includes more significant disabilities all the way through to hand tremors or arthritis. Some things that can be barriers for these players include having to hold multiple buttons at once, holding buttons down for periods of time, and reacting quickly to cues. If you have gameplay that requires quick reactions, try and think of ways to make it more usable, like having a slower mode or a no-fail mode.
Using the / sticks can also be a barrier for lots of people, so if you have navigation using the sticks, try and include an option to use instead.
Designing for cognitive requirements#
There are other things that can cause barriers for players that we don’t always think about. Here’s a tip: include a way to check important information later than you were first given it in the game, so players don’t have to rely on memory alone. A journal or notes that you can revisit throughout a game are good for this! Similarly, you can include a map, waypoints or “breadcrumb trail” so that players - cognitively impaired or otherwise - don’t get lost and frustrated in your levels.
Try not to rely heavily on “walls of text” to explain anything. Lots of people have trouble reading large amounts of text, including low-vision folks, dyslexics, or people with ADHD. Plus, as any game dev will tell you - lots of players are unlikely to read it, anyway! (Sob.)
Try different things - and if possible, get a range of people of all abilities to give feedback on your games so that you can be sure they’re playable by the widest range of people possible.
We’ve touched on just a few things that might make your games more accessible, but we hope they’ve inspired you to think more deeply about designing for accessibility in Dreams. Why not seek out some of the great disabled gamers and accessibility activists online, who offer even more information about playing and designing accessible games? You can also find more resources at the following sites:
We can’t wait to see people putting some of these tips and tricks into practice in our upcoming High Contrast jam - and beyond!
The Dreams User Guide is a work-in-progress. Keep an eye out for updates as we add more learning resources and articles over time.